Why Grow Wine in the City?

Grapes do remarkably well downtown

Paul Greenberg

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Frontenac grapes grown at Ground Zero for my wine, Château Nul (photo by Paul Greenberg)

For the last 16 years I have maintained a garden at New York’s Ground Zero, a stone’s throw from where the World Trade Center once stood. It has been an arduous sometimes amusing, always frustrating process. On this 20th anniversary of 9/11 I’ve written a couple of pieces about it all one for The New York Times, another for The Guardian. The history and reasoning behind the garden are laid out there. But wine is a special case, so to speak. Long ago my uncle Bud started making wine in the basement of his Yonkers house. He called his wine Château de Bud. I was always deeply intrigued that anyone could make wine if they really wanted to. Bud made his wine in a garbage can.

But Bud used store bought grapes. I always felt like to have my own “Château” I would need to grow my own grapes, then make the wine. So around about 2006 I started shopping around for grapes that could withstand container growing and also the deep freeze they’d likely get on a Manhattan terrace. I ended up going with a handful of different varietals from a Finger Lakes nursery. 4 out of 6 of the original varietals didn’t make it. But two did — a Frontenac and a Concord. The original vines are long dead. But fortunately I’ve learned how to make cuttings and root them. I’m now probably on generation 3. They keep growing and they keep producing more grapes and more wine.

Now I have a variety of my own which I call “Château Nul” and as luck would have it my Uncle Bud recently bought his own acreage upstate. This spring I gave him a cutting of “Nul” which he will raise on his own terroir. I am hoping in a few years we can have a head to head competition.

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org