A One Man Micro-Winery in Brooklyn
Inside the Goblet winery in Brooklyn. Courtesy of Goblet
Yanky Drew is the Chassidic winemaker behind Goblet Wine
Yanky Drew is the Chassidic winemaker behind Goblet Wine
As odd as it may sound, there are some fabulous kosher California wines being made these days at a tiny commercial winery just outside of Borough Park in Brooklyn. The winery’s name is Goblet Wine, and the winemaker, Yanky Drew, is a Chassidic Jew with close to 10 years and 20 harvests professionally under his belt. Besides being a mencsh, he is a very talented young winemaker.
Drew has been making wine at his Brooklyn winery since he established it in 2013, all the while continuing with his ‘day job’ at the City Winery in Manhattan—an urban winery, restaurant, music venue, and private event space. He’s been on the winemaking team there since 2009, and oversees their limited kosher wine portfolio.
“As a kid, I always tried to turn table grapes into wine,” he recalled. “I started out as a typical home winemaker; I always enjoyed chemistry, and was fascinated with the process of winemaking, and, of course, I like drinking wine.”
For a few years, roughly equivalent to high school, Drew studied at the Gateshead Yeshivah in England. While there, he heard that the Rosh Yeshiva of the nearby Sunderland Yeshiva made his own wine and was seeking assistance from some of the students. He eagerly volunteered.
A few years later, after he married and moved to Israel to continue his yeshiva studies, Drew frequently visited wineries in the Golan. “I always had a dream of someday being up there making wine,” he notes, “I never even dreamt that an urban winery was even a possibility. Until City Winery, I just didn’t know such a thing was possible.”
In 2002, he returned to the United States with his wife and children. At this stage he was still learning in a kollel, working a little on the side doing website development for a company, but “the desire to make wine was always at the forefront of his mind.” He eventually decided to “take it to the next level” and interned at two different vineyards in Long Island, NY.
At the North Fork-based Palmer Vineyards Drew learned a little more about the winemaking process and in return was given a quarter ton of merlot grapes to play with. He made his first 70 gallon batch of wine there in 2004. Continuing his wine hobby, he began buying wine barrels to maintain his amateur production.
Unsure of how to make used wine barrels kosher, he took to the internet and found a tweet from Ilan Tokayer on the topic—Ilan was then the mashgiach and kosher winemaker for City Winery [he later tragically passed away in 2011 at age 25 while still pursuing his graduate study in wine through UC Davis]. Drew immediately connected with Tokayer. “It turns out it is pretty simple to kasher a wine barrel,” notes Drew, “you have to fill it up with water, and leave it soaking full of water for 24 hours, and then repeat that three times.” Through Tokayer, Drew began working at City Winery starting with the 2008 vintage in early 2009 and he’s been there ever since as an assistant winemaker.
The City Winery’s winemaker, David Lecomte, first trained Drew to be their lab technician. “I became very proficient at this,” and this despite no formal secular educational degrees. Drew wryly notes, “there I was, no college degree, not even a high school degree, yet, university students came to City Winery to learn from me in the [wine] lab, and they’d earn college credits.”
Drew “learned a ton about wine making early on at City Winery,” he says, “from growing to bottling, and everything in between…even just starting with the idea of making excellent wine in an urban setting, far removed from where the fruit is grown; and the process of learning about wine is never ending.” Each year is also really a double harvest, as he works not only domestic North American fruit, but “also the harvests in the Southern Hemisphere [which starts just after Pesach]—so effectively 20 harvests.” That’s a lot of experience.
The Goblet Winery, his pride and joy, is “a micro, micro winery; really, really small,” he says. “But,” he adds, “I put in there every single piece of necessary equipment to make superior wine—I’m using the smallest high-end professional equipment you can get.”
He has to, of course, to keep his winery fully functional as an essentially one-man operation. “I’m in a very tight, small spot. I set up my winery so that everything is movable—everything is on pallets and I have a pallet-jack and a pallet-hoist.” So whenever he needs to re-arrange the winery, which is more often than one might think, he can do so entirely on his own. “Most of my day-to-day work is re-organizing my space,” he said.
Goblet produces just 12-15 barrels of wine each year, and so Drew has around 40 barrels filled at any given moment. That’s it. “It’s practically home-wine making volumes,” he jokes, “but professionally made.” The price of his wines is accordingly fairly high.
“My price—well, my quantities aren’t that big, and I have to cover my overall overhead,” explains Drew, “and I buy the most expensive and the best fruit I can get my hands on.”
So while he acknowledges that his wines “aren’t cheap,” he says that “I basically just break even…I’m not making any 'real' or 'easy' money on this, but I have a following.” Indeed, he adds, “what keeps me going is that I get so much and such positive feedback, and that people are really loving the concept and the quality of what I’m doing. There’s just no way I’m giving this up—even if I’m not making real money.”
For Yanky Drew, the “satisfaction” of being able to produce wines he’s “really proud of, and that makes people happy is really what keeps me going.” He ultimately wants to expand just enough to make it really profitable—around 400 barrels, a ten-fold increase—but not so large as to potentially lose the quality control he’s comfortable with.
Available directly from the winery, and with assorted bottles also available at Kosher Wine, here are four Goblet wines to seek out and try.
Goblet, Riesling, Seneca Lake, New York, 2017 ($37.99): Full and vivacious with clean, ripe citrusy aromas and flavors (key lime?), along with passion fruit and apple skins. Great balancing acidity; refreshing and tasty. Very easy to quaff but rewards contemplative concentration too. More “nearly dry,” or even “mostly dry,” than the more traditional “off dry” offerings for the general Finger Lakes region, but the beautiful kiss of sweetness is significant enough to prevent this being fully dry. Very yummy. More please.
Goblet, Pinot Noir (Mendocino County, CA) 2015 ($69): Medium bodied, yet rounded and fairly rich, with very ripe plum and assorted cherries (especially black cherry), along with some lovely earthy notes, and definite hints of violet. Well-structured and very appealing, very New World and ripe, but with an underlying elegance; this is initially assertive, but nicely layered and complex at the back end. Very enjoyable.
Goblet, Malbec, (Mendocino County, CA) 2014 ($69): This is medium-to-full bodied, with notes of plump, alluring, dark fruits, an inviting whiff of espresso, and a little smoke. More dry than jammy. Give it time to breath, and then feed it with grilled or roasted flesh. This is CA malbec done right.
Goblet, Syrah, (Mendocino County, CA) 2014 ($69): Intriguing nose and flavors of dark fruits, smoked meats, spice, and a touch of something like eucalyptus in the background. Palate is medium-bodied, sensuous; savory, dry, rich, and complex. Finish is long and utterly absorbing. More, please.