Patrick Watson on the New Brooklyn Wine Exchange, the Best Wines to Bring to a Party, and Going Biodynamic
Patrick Watson and his wife Michele Pravda have built a mini empire on wine and cheese--they own the cheese shop Stinky Bklyn, the wine bar JakeWalk, and the wine shop Smith and Vine, all within a few blocks of each other on Smith Street in Brooklyn. This week, they opened a second, larger wine shop called Brooklyn Wine Exchange (138 Court Street), which focuses on organic, biodynamic wines, and will have a large New York State wine selection. (The store is not related to the Wine Exchange on Vanderbilt Street in Prospect Heights.) Starting in January, tastings will be scheduled in the shop's "learning center."
We caught up with Watson to talk about the new venture, New York wines, and finally find out exactly what "biodynamic" means.
So since you also own Smith and Vine, are you worried the two stores will compete?
No, we're definitely far enough away. And since eight liquor store groups were bidding on this space anyway, we're glad it's us.
Do the selections at the two stores differ?
We're not big fans of cloning one good idea and putting it somewhere else, so we wanted to make sure the two stores have completely different personalities. In this one [Brooklyn Wine Exchange] we do have a touch more room, so we can do more New York State wines, biodynamic and organic wines, and more New World wines in general. At Smith and Vine we organize the reds on one side of the room and the whites on the other, and here we're lumping them together by country.
The only thing we wanted to be sure we brought with us is the $12 and under table: That'll have 30 whites and 30 reds.
What will the New York selection be like?
We've been following New York state wines closely for years, and just haven't had the space before that we do now. So we're going to have 100 wines from New York, and we're getting there as fast as we can, but we're being very careful--meeting with the winemakers, and tasting so that we can find the top 100 wines in the state.
What are some of the best you've tasted so far?
Definitely Marcari Vineyards Early Wine Chardonnay from 2008, for $18. It's outstanding. They harvest it in the first week of September for the sole purpose of maintaining the grape's natural acidity and freshness.
And then there's the Red Hook Winery--I think we are the first retailer to offer their wines. I have the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, and Cabernet Franc, which range from $23-$45. The fruit is from Jamesport Vineyards on Long Island, and the winemakers are Abe Schoener and Robert Foley, who are stylistically polar opposites but are among the best winemakers in America right now. It's pretty exciting to have them in Red Hook. I mean, Abe's red bottlings can go for upwards of $200. It brings us to a whole new level.
I also like Shinn Estate on the North Fork of Long Island. Upstate, I like Salmon Run Pinot Noir from Seneca Lake for $18. It's just outstanding.
Any favorite budget-friendly choices from New York, say under $12?
That's sort of tricky. There's one $13 bottle called Pump House White, a big white blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. It's aromatic, beautiful, and refreshing.
Why is it harder to find lower-priced wines from New York?
It's just a new industry. If you want to open a winery, say in Napa, you've got to have 20 million in the bank, and the time to wait five years to get the fruit you need to start producing good wine. A new winery is a huge capital investment.
Whereas, in Europe, some of those families have owned the same wineries for generations, and the mortgage is essentially paid off.