Devin Shomaker, founder and managing partner of Rooftop Reds, has launched the first commercially viable rooftop vineyard as part of an effort to make wine more accessible.
“The wine industry is geared to those with means but we’re bringing vineyards to the masses, demystifying wine, and making our city more sustainable,” says Shomaker.
Spread across 14,800 square feet on a roof in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Rooftop Reds grows grapes using an urban planter system that was developed by Shomaker, who established the business while a viticulture student, and his co-founder Chris Papalia.
To keep his wine affordable, Shomaker does the crushing and fermentation in an 8,000-square-foot facility on Keuka Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes wine region almost 300 miles away. Having that same space in New York City would cost about $20,000 monthly in rent, while the 10-acre site was purchased for around $11,000 an acre.
For visitors to Rooftop Reds, perhaps the biggest selling point is the pricing, Shomaker admits. On average, a glass of wine in a local bar or restaurant will cost $10 to $12, but Rooftop’s most expensive wine is served for $9.80 a glass.
The venue—which holds wine and cheese pairings, and more social programming—also serves wine made by Shomaker’s investor and a professor from wine school.
“It’s important to keep relationships with producers, farmers, and someone who taught me how to succeed in this industry,” he says. “It’s grounding and staying humble is part of the deal.”—Rayna Katz
Rayna Katz is a freelancer specializing in food and business.