Brooklyn Winery's team crafts small-batch, artisanal wines in Williamsburg?and if winemaking in an urban environment sounds odd to customers, they can always find out how it works during Tuesday winery tours. The tour guides walk groups through their entire process, from the moment the grapes arrive at the facility to when the cork goes in the final wine bottle, trapping the wine genie inside for good. Of course, the process varies from wine to wine. The team ages some vintages in stainless-steel containers, while the barrel-fermented riesling is aged, predictably, in oak barrels, an old-school technique that originated in prerefrigeration Germany. The result? A quirky riesling with hints of soapstone, mushroom, and honey.
The team doesn't just reclaim old German traditions, though. For their unpretentious 1,200-square-foot wine bar, they also reclaimed most of the building materials. In the cozy, unpretentious bar, visitors sip vintages pulled from wine racks that were once World War II ammo boxes; the walls, meanwhile, were barn wood in a past life, and the bar itself is made from old church pews, completing the aura of modernity rooted in history.
John Gizzi and Diann Greco, the American Wine Society?certified wine judges at Make Wine With Us, teach wine aficionados to create their own wines using grapes harvested in Californian and Chilean vineyards. At the start of the nine-month process (California grapes in the fall, Chile grapes in the spring), winemakers-to-be assemble with fellow enthusiasts to learn the intricacies of the trade. Patrons learn to crush and destem grapes in a machine called a crusher-destemmer, named after the device's favorite Germanic metal band. Following the crushing process, a hydraulic press forces juice into barrels, where it shall remain until the conclusion of its sweet, sweet metamorphosis.
At the end of the nine-month period, newly minted winemakers lean on family and friends to fill, cork, and custom-label the finished product. Budding vintners then tote home their vintages to share with family, friends, and robot butlers with built-in carafes.
Mead may be the ancestor of all fermented drink, but it's still new to many people. That's why Melovino Meadery wants to make the honey-based wine more accessible to the masses. The family-run company plans on doing just that by producing its mead with all-natural ingredients (think True Source Certified?honey) and by continuing to develop new styles, even though their repertoire will stand at more than a dozen by the end of 2014. During tours, visitors get to sample up to six different types of the centuries-old drink that Shakespeare liked to indulge in before writing about knife fights.
At Staten Island Winery, wine enthusiasts transform into bona fide winemakers. They do so under the guidance of Bob Rando, who holds rank as the winery's owner and as an accredited winemaster. Bob and his team walk aspiring vintners through the process, starting with the crushing of grapes and ending with the bottling of finished products. Participants can even choose what kind of wine they make, either by selecting from the facility's list or coming up with their own blend.
Jaye, the Dallas-born connoisseur behind Proud Wineaux, can tell whether a wine originated on the right bank or left bank of the city of Bordeaux simply by tasting it. This isn't just a party trick or a way to navigate France while blindfolded; it's evidence of more than a decade spent up front and behind the scenes at renowned restaurants such as Jean Georges, Dean Fearing's The Mansion on Turtle Creek, and various New York City hot spots, where she shares her gifts as a wine and beverage consultant.
During one-on-one or group classes, she helps students explore the world of wine in a friendly environment free of pretension. "The moment you begin to release the fear of not knowing, the learning begins," she says on her website. She teaches her students to pair wines with cheeses according to their region or the texture of the cheese.