Vineyards in New York City?

Staten Island Botanical Garden Will Have First in the Burrough

by Jane Firstenfeld
Vineyards in New York City?
  Staten Island Botanical Garden
Staten Island, N.Y. -- A 2-acre commercial winegrape vineyard dedicated to Tuscan varieties is being planned at the Staten Island Botanical Garden, under the sponsorship of the Tuscan Gardens Vineyard Founders Group. The not-for-profit organization also will build a winery on the site, adjacent to the existing Tuscan Villa, and Tuscan Gardens, currently under construction.

Vineyards in New York City?
Henry Arlin Salmon
Henry Arlin Salmon, a Staten Island real estate appraiser and member of the four-member founders group, told Wines & Vines, "It's probably one of the most expensive vineyard properties ever in this part of the world. This land would go for about $80-100 per square foot. We don't talk about acres here." The land is owned by the city of New York; the NYC Parks Department is designing the project and will help with planting.

The founders group is consulting with the Cornell University enology and viticulture faculty, and professors at the University of Pisa in Italy, whom they visited on a recent fact-finding jaunt to Tuscany. They are also being advised by Piergiorgio Castellani, a major Tuscan wine producer.

Why choose Tuscan grapes for what would appear to be a cool climate similar to Long Island, best known for Merlot and Cabernet Franc? According to a report in the New York Times, 38% of Staten Island's residents are of Italian ancestry, more than any other U.S. county. And, Salmon said, "I think our location close to the Arthur Kill shipping channel will give us a slightly warmer climate."

Vineyards in New York City?
Tuscan Gardens
The group expects to plant 2,000 grapes on the 2-acre plot, for an expected yield of 2,000-3,000 bottles of wine. A winery will be installed in a new, "aesthetically pleasing" storage building next to the vineyard. "We plan to bring school children and adults to see the whole process," Salmon said. His group will engage in fund-raising to pay viticulture specialists, and hopes to make use of volunteer labor, interns and other resources available to non-profits. Salmon envisions an "adopt-a-vine" sponsorship program, and "Because we're so close to Manhattan, we'll have events. We are also interacting with people upstate, and people on Long Island who are already successful (at grapegrowing)," he said.

Salmon looks forward to hands-on involvement with all stages of the project. A Cornell graduate, though not in viticulture or enology, his wife is a graduate of UC Davis. "I lived in California for three years, and successfully made an '84 Napa Cabernet and an '85 Amador Zinfandel," he said. He's also made wine from Long Island-grown grapes; when he makes his first Staten Island vintage, he may be making history as well.
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