A group of influential paisans from Staten Island, drunk on the idea of starting the first vineyard in contemporary New York City, have been on a wine-tasting tour of Tuscany, researching vineyards to figure out the best way to bring their brain-child back to their home borough. Yes, you read that correctly – according to today’s Times, you’ll soon be able to step off the Staten Island Ferry and pick up a bottle of Fresh Kills Cabernet. (We’re imagining a brawny bouquet with notes of coffee grinds and banana peels, and a bold, sooty finish.)
Work on the vineyard – which one member of the group wants to name Verrazano Vineyards – will start in the spring on two acres of land at the Staten Island Botanical Garden. Experts in viticulture at Cornell University are helping to determine which Italian grape varieties will be best suited for the area's rather damp climate. Ultimately the vineyard will be used for educational programs conducted with Cornell University's Wine Research Program. That’s right kids, Cornell offers a degree in wine, and yet a baccalaureate in beer bongs is still treated with derision.
Piergiorgio Castellani, a winemaker from the small Tuscan town of Crespina, will come to New York in February to serve as a technical advisor to the project. As a gesture of thanks, Staten Island has accepted the town’s offer to become a “sister city” to Crespina, which makes sense considering that Staten Island has a higher percentage of Italian Americans – 38% – than any other county in America. Of course, Staten Island oenophiles needn’t wait for Verrazano Vineyards to participate in wine-making. The Staten Island Winery School offers various hands-on – or, rather, feet-on – workshops that let participants make their own wine, albeit with lesser California grapes.