While it has become a trend—and a happy one at that—for entrepreneurs to grow food and plants on Brooklyn rooftops, one product this effort has not (until now!) produced is wine. Devin Shomaker founded the world’s first commercially viable rooftop winery in 2014, Rooftop Reds, and it happens to be located right here in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This year, 42 planters of Bordeaux Red varietals will start making dozens of cases of the world’s first rooftop wine.
Three years after starting your business, and being that much closer to producing wine from the grapes that you’ve grown, has your vision and project turned out as you hoped it might? How wine-ready are your grapes now?
Rooftop Reds vines have been growing for three years on rooftops in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The growth and health of our vines has been extremely exciting and rewarding. So far, we have experienced minimal fungal and pest pressure as a result of our unique environment and vineyard system. The success of our grow operation and the reaction of the public has been beyond all my expectations. The 2017 growing season will be the first year that Rooftop Reds will harvest a crop for wine production and we could not be more excited!
In the past decade in Brooklyn—and in New York City generally—it’s been a trend for entrepreneurs to start farms/gardens/grow produce of some sort on Brooklyn rooftops. There are some obvious benefits to doing this (making the most efficient use out of our minimal geography and resources) but for what reason are you most proud to have produced the world’s first winery on a rooftop in Brooklyn? Why do you think it is important?
Yes, rooftop farms and urban agriculture is trendy but Rooftop Reds is one of a kind. That’s what I am most proud of: the fact that we are part of a larger movement but in our own particular way. We are pushing two industries together—wine and urban agriculture—in an extremely unique part of Brooklyn with its own distinct history.
What has been your greatest challenge in establishing this business?
Waiting for the vines to mature.
Is there something that you wish would change, or were different, in the wine industry in general?
I wish the wine industry was a bit more open to local wine production, similar to people’s interest for farm-to-table.
What do you find to be most fulfilling about your work?
My office is my tasting room and I get to be outside everyday.
What is your hope for the future of your business, and for your very first vintage? (And when will we get to taste the first sips of you Brooklyn-grown and produced wine)?
My hope is to open new Rooftop Reds locations over the next two years. By 2019 we’d like to have not only a Brooklyn vintage for market but also production space and multiple rooftop vineyards in NYC.
How much wine will you produce with your first vintage, and where do you hope to sell it?
Our first vintage will be sold exclusively at Rooftop Reds through our tasting room. Rooftop Reds’s wine club will receive a dedicated amount of this special production. The production goal for our current rooftop is 30-40 cases.
Who would you nominate for this list?
Sean Petterson, CEO of StrongArm.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.