This Earth Day, I’m bottling wine.
Not just any wine. But wine from the grapes I grow on my terrace garden at Ground Zero in Manhattan. Buffeted by wind, scorched by Gotham dog days, this is a small, sad terroir.
For this reason, I call my vineyard Château Nul.
How small and sad are we talking? In France, the word “nul” literally means zero. But figuratively “nul” is used to describe someone who is, well, a loser. So, I suppose I try to underwhelm with my marketing. Our terroir is literally zero — Ground Zero. My capacity is pathetic. Nearly nul. If I’m lucky, I get a three-pound harvest of grapes every year. It’s fermented by a winemaker friend and turned into exactly 750 ml of wine. I comfort myself about this small production with the firm belief that I am the only wine producer on the island of Manhattan. Reader, please correct me if I’ve got this wrong.
This year, after a torrential downpour, the sun came out and I hopped on a Citi Bike to ride down to the winery. I would tell you which one, but keeping it a secret is more fun (and probably the smarter legal decision).
My winemaker is a cross between a gnarled sailor, a tender sommelier, and a crass stand-up comedian. He greeted me outside and immediately began a random rant about the origins of Napolitano cuisine with an accompanying array of Italian accents and hand gestures. Inside, Metallica played overhead while he located a dusty jug from the depths of the fermentation tank room.
A blend of Frontenac and Concord varietals, the wine is both naturally fermented and unfiltered. The bottling process is swift and straightforward. Because the sediments have settled to the bottom, we carefully siphon the liquid off the top and fill the new bottle nearly to the brim. We share a toast of the remaining dregs, giving new meaning to the quote from the Odyssey, “drink life to the lees.”
“That’s a totally sound wine,” my winemaker says (somewhat) convincingly, before spitting it out on the floor. This is apparently common practice; he assures me he never drinks on the job. He’s right, though, the wine is entirely drinkable. Which, considering the circumstances, is a screaming success.