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NY rooftop vineyard readies for first harvest

A vineyard planted on the roof of a building in industrial New York is planning to release its first commercial wine next year.

Credit: Rooftop Reds

Located in Brooklyn Navy Yard – a shipyard and modern industrial district in Brooklyn – Rooftop Reds claims to be the world’s first commercially viable urban rooftop vineyard in New York City.

Devin Shomaker came up with the idea while studying viticulture at Finger Lakes Community College, founding the project in the spring of 2015 with the help of his brother Thomas and winemakers Chris Papalia and Evan Miles following successful crowdfunding campaign. 

The quarter has overcome a lack of soil with the help of Cornel University, commissioning 50 specially designed urban planters to create the rooftop vineyard, which overlooks New York’s iconic skyline.

“The Brooklyn Navy Yard might not be exactly what comes to mind when envisioning a terroir that is suitable for viticulture,” says Shomaker of the project.

“But with the help of Finger Lakes industry leaders and Cornell University, we have developed an urban planter system that is the first of its kind. Rooftop Reds has commissioned 50 of these state-of-the-art planters to fill our 14,800 square-foot rooftop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With these in place, production of a sustainable and completely Brooklyn vintage will be possible.”

The vines are planted in 36 inches of soil, 40% of which is crushed, recycled glass mimicking the presence of sand in the soil and creating what Shomaker has described as a “sustainable light-weight soil” similar to a traditional vineyard.

Rooftop Red’s planters are currently filled with young Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

The team is already producing wine from grapes sourced from Finger Lakes in upstate New York with the first Rooftop Reds harvest set to take place in October 2016. The winery has estimated that its first release – a red blend – will be released in Autumn 2017 with just 300 bottles.

“Our mission is ambitious, going well beyond merely bringing viticulture to the urban agriculture industry,” says Shomaker of the project. “Rooftop Reds will spearhead the New York State innovative wine market and plant the seeds for a new generation of viticulture enthusiasts.”

As its vines mature, the fledgling winery plans to host tastings, events and pop-up dining experiences at their unique venue.

Credit: Rooftop Reds
Credit: Rooftop Reds

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