Rooftop Reds Visits Woodpecker Hall in Sea Cliff!
We sat down & spoke with Devin Shomaker – the Founder & Managing Partner at Rooftop Reds – to discuss his company as they prepare for their free November 14, 2020 wine-tasting event at Woodpecker Hall in Sea Cliff, NY. To register for the free 11/14 wine tasting, click on this link. Please note, all health precautions will be taken & CDC safety guidelines will be followed.
Tom Kaufman: Devin, thanks for sitting down with us today to discuss your November 14th event at Woodpecker Hall. Before we discuss the details of the event, introduce the North Shore of Long Island to Rooftop Reds. You launched Rooftop Reds at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the Spring of 2016. How did you get to that point? What inspired you to open in 2016?
Devin Shomaker: Launching in 2016 was determined by the fact that it was our third growing season, and we had located to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During our first two growing seasons (2014 & 2015) our vines were in a nursery “potted” system, and in 2016 I acquired funding and was able to manufacture my planter box design, which gave the grapevines the soil space to become fully mature.
Also, instead of launching the rooftop vineyard with baby vines, we were fortunate to have the backing to wait until the 3rd growing season and show the public more mature/established vines. Vineyards are a time/money investment, the public was spared that wait by launching the business in the third growing season.
John Russo: Tell us about Brooklyn’s response to Rooftop Reds. What do people love about Rooftop Reds?
Devin Shomaker: The response to our space and model has been profound, and we are so excited to bring a taste of it to Sea Cliff! We are the world’s 1st rooftop vineyard system and are also accessible – customers only have to swipe their MetroCard to get to us via bus or subway.
Customers appreciate that we offer a “destination” spot within easy access, and our location in the Brooklyn Navy Yard is both historically and geographically significant. Our casual, non-stuffy approach to wines is refreshing in an often inaccessible or elitist industry; we are hospitality-driven from top to bottom, and we train our staff specifically to offer an experience that separates us from other wine establishments in NYC.
Tom Kaufman: You say that Rooftop Reds is “spearheading innovation in the New York State wine market.” Tell us how you’re “planting the seeds for a new generation of viticulture enthusiasts.”
Devin Shomaker: Rooftop Reds has brought viticulture to the city in a completely new way. Any time a new form of agriculture can be brought to an urban environment, a barrier between rural and urban is broken, and possibilities and inspiration are given a space to grow. Not only do we do weekly Tours & Tastings at the rooftop vineyard space but we also offer monthly, high-level viticulture programming. This monthly urban viticulture program is the first of its kind and allows enthusiasts the ability to dip their toe into a collegiate level course in a way that is fiscally and geographically accessible; we want to create excitement about the entire industry of wine from a unique perspective.
John Russo: What attracted you to the North Shore of Long Island as an area to grow your business?
Devin Shomaker: Two words: history and community. I am fascinated with the history of the North Shore and the escapist mentality that New Yorkers have had for multiple generations to find peace outside the city. Honestly, my girlfriend (a librarian and hospitality professional herself) stopped in Sea Cliff last year following a history conference, and she sang the town’s unique praises since then.
On our day off last month, we took a day trip to visit and literally walked the streets and experienced the architectural, bohemian energy of the town. I instantly was drawn to the community, the people, and the culture that Sea Cliff offers; no one was too busy to talk to us, everyone had a recommendation, and the love for the town was so visible in its enthusiastic inhabitants. Running a small team means being inherently community-oriented, and I’ve been striving to find an environment that works well as an additional site for our small, eclectic business model. I also realized, once in Sea Cliff, that while there are restaurants and bars that serve beverages, a fun tasting room focused on NY State wines might be a perfect business for this closely knit, walking, friendly, and active community. Celebrating NY State wines sounds like something that Sea Cliff wants to do!
Tom Kaufman: What’s your relationship with Cornell University? How did Cornell contribute to the development of your business?
Devin Shomaker: I attended the viticulture program at Finger Lakes Community College, which was taught at the Cornell Tech Farm in Geneva, NY. My education was heavily influenced by Cornell facilities, research libraries, guest lecturers, and general course study. It was a very intense program and of the 26 students who started the program with me in 2012, only 9 graduated in 2014. I am passionate about expanding the connection between downstate and upstate education as well as agriculture.
John Russo: Tell us about your wine! What are you serving at your free November 14th event at Woodpecker Hall in Sea Cliff?
Devin Shomaker: I probably don’t have enough pages to describe the totality of our wine portfolio and how it has evolved since our first vintage under the Rooftop Reds label launched in 2014.
That being said, the tasting at Woodpecker Hall on November 14th will be geared toward wines that pair exceptionally well with Thanksgiving food items. The wines we will pour consist of two whites, one rose, and two reds. Our staff is passionate about discussing what makes Finger Lakes wines unique and what the region excels at, and the vintages we will be bringing are exemplary of the region’s strengths. This tasting would generally be a $40 offering on the Rooftop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and we are so excited to offer this tasting for free and introduce our brand to the community at Sea Cliff. We will be highlighting: Gruner Vietliner, Gewurztraminer, Dry Rose, Pinot Noir, & Blaufrancish.
Tom Kaufman: How does your company work with so many concerns about the Covid-19 virus? What precautions do you take to ensure a healthy experience for your customers & fans?
Devin Shomaker: Prior to reopening following Covid hitting NYC, we revamped our procedures from the ground up. We had previously operated as a walk-up bar, and while we have 15,000sq feet of rooftop space, we wanted to change our model to be the safest we can be for our staff and guests.
Tom Kaufman: That’s great, Devin. Thanks so much for spending some time with us today. We can’t wait to see you at Woodpecker Hall on November 14th!
John Russo: Yes! Thanks, Devin, for bringing this exciting event to Sea Cliff!
Devin Shomaker: It’s my pleasure, Tom & John! I’m excited to meet more people in Sea Cliff and to share our love of wine with this community!