For Kevin Somm
Leighier of the mythical Brooklyn winery Domaine Lees Browknows, making quality
wine in Brooklyn has been an odyssey. First, he had to revive an heirloom
indigenous grape, Palawaka; then he planted the vineyard on the roof of a
brownstone he customized, where he works to create serious natural wines.
Today, we interview the reclusive winemaker.
67Wine: So lets talk about
the vineyard. It’s on top of a brownstone you filled with upstate limestone,
glacial rock and finally, poor topsoil. It must have been a real pain getting
the city to agree, yes?
Kevin Somn Leighier: Wait,
I was supposed to ask? Oh, oh man.
67: Tell us how you age the
KSM: Well, our élevage is a
totally unique program. We age the wines in 40 percent new oak, 40 percent
amphora, and 20 percent in vintage spittoons, which we source from a local wine
shop. Very New York flavors there!
67: What about this grape,
KSL: Oh, it’s very local.
The ancient Indian tribes of New York used to work with it. We had to ask a few
old growers where to find the last few bushes, and then cloned it at first. But
you know, it’s all massal selection on the roof.
67: So, what's the wine
KSM: It has
earthy notes of tilled dirt and a faint hint of gasoline. The Palawaka grape
gives the wine a nice meatiness, reminiscent of a chewy street-vendor hot dog,
and the wine finishes with flavors of tobacco and spice. If you’re one of those
who likes to imagine it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere (we promise we won't tell
anyone), this wine is the perfect accompaniment to your morning bagel. If
you’re more of a traditionalist and only drink wine with dinner, it’s also
excellent with many Lean Cuisine meals or take-out pizzas. Parker has praised
this wine, calling it, “everything but exceptional, but for Brooklyn’s New Age
wine scene, pretty darned good.” He failed to give it a rating, though.