Six years ago, Long Island wineries were in a very different place – at least, commercially. Vineyards from the North and South Fork had few opportunities to share the wines they were making in the tradition of the old world (but with the local terroir) beyond their own tasting rooms. Many of them were run by newer generations to the winemaking business, and had yet to find their place in the crowded wine lists that accompanied the finest European-fangled fare of the city’s high-end restaurants. Then came the locavore movement. And then, Brian Halweil, publisher of Edible East End, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn, decided to showcase them at a Brooklyn-based tasting event at BAM.
Thus was born Brooklyn Uncorked, which will celebrate its sixth annual event on May 9 at Skylight 1 Hanson Place. Tickets are $45 for the all-inclusive feast of food and drink, and are on sale now. As a tasting event of both wines and food pairings, Brooklyn Uncorked has always been a gluttonfest for the foodie who can’t afford to sample the fare from one of the good restaurants on its roster along with wines, let alone the dozens of the eateries that come to serve at the event. Best of all, you’ll be served your wine and food from the actual winemakers and chefs of each business themselves. That’s right, I’ve been served the only food I’ve ever eaten from Gramercy Tavern at this event by none other than its chef Michael Anthony, who always manages to do so with a smile as if he remembers my pig-noshing from the year before.
Moreover, you can chat with the winemakers and chefs at Brooklyn Uncorked in an environment quite unlike anywhere else, that’s all about sharing and learning from one other. It’s not a contest, but a local fair of the best sorts. Brooklyn Uncorked had since spawned sister local-booze events hosted by Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn: Good Beer at BAM, and Good Spirits at 82 Mercer. This year, Uncorked has grown so popular that it must move from its previous home at the Brooklyn Academy of Music across the street to 1 Hanson Place. The kitsch and wares of the Brooklyn Flea will make way for more wines and more food at this year’s fest. Many of the restaurants will be returning for its sixth year of participating in the event, such as Palo Santo, Rose Water and Back Forty West, while new additions to the event include Allswell, Northeast Kingdom and Watty & Meg. The Long Island wines are really the raison d’etre of the event, though, and they, too have grown in both number at the fest and in operating capacity over the six years.
“There are nearly double the wineries as there were six years ago; production at the wineries has grown across the board and variety and quality have also grown,” said Halweil of this year’s Brooklyn Uncorked. “The event has become very popular and so we need more room for wineries, eateries, and the attendees who line up for them. But the notion of drinking Long Island wine, and New York wine in general, has also spread dramatically.”
One of those wineries to have eclipsed its six-year-ago former self is Wölffer Estates. The Sagaponack winery now bottles 10,000 of its dry rose annually, and its principal Peggy Lauber or her daughter Kate are on hand at Brooklyn Uncorked to pour the samples. Channing Daughters Winery will produce eight rosés this year, and will pour some of them paired with other Long Island-centric fare such as oysters at the event.
The pairing possibilities are infinite at an event such as Brooklyn Uncorked, so attendees should be armed with an open gut. That, and lots of water if you plan to taste more wines than food. As a free for all, the event can get a little fuzzy for even the most avid eaters. As you make your way home from the Atlantic Pacific terminal, hopefully going the right way on your train, you can be assured that your indulgence has gone to a good, local cause.