While I have my ear to the ground on Staten Island this bit of news actually came to me from my Italian gallery partner, Stefania Carrozzini, at our ("Carrozzini von Buhler Gallery "in Manhattan). I was telling her how much she would love it here and how so many people speak Italian when she said "Si, I know all about it. I read about it in the New York Times the other day. They are making wine there."
So, I dug around online and found the article. Here it is:
A Toast to Tuscany, With a Staten Island Red
By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
Published: November 13, 2007, The New York Times
"CRESPINA, Italy, Nov. 7 — The visit to this picturesque corner of Tuscany probably will not spawn a best-selling sequel with a title like “Under the Staten Island Sun.” But in the not-too-distant future, Staten Island will bring a little bit of Tuscany to New York, in the form of a vineyard being developed at the Staten Island Botanical Garden.
A group of businessmen from the borough spent a few days this month rambling through lush vineyards, Renaissance villas and an Etruscan tomb, seeking the essence of the Tuscan experience to transplant back home. They hope the vineyard, which they said would be the first large-scale venture of its kind in the city, will entice more visitors to the oft-forgotten borough.
“We were looking for something to draw tourists off the ferry and see what Staten Island has to offer,” said Henry Arlin Salmon, a Staten Island real estate appraiser and one of the members of the Tuscan Gardens Vineyard Founders Group, which is behind the planned winery.
The Tuscan angle seemed natural, considering that nearly 38 percent of Staten Island residents are of Italian ancestry, according to the 2000 Census, more than any other county in the United States, said Joseph J. LiBassi, a promoter of the vineyard project and a member of the botanical garden’s board. “The vineyard encapsulates what Italians brought to Staten Island: agriculture, wine, culture.”
Of course, he added, the vineyard should appeal to non-Italians, too. “There are a lot of wine aficionados,” he said.
Work on the vineyard should start in the spring on about two acres of botanical garden land next to the Tuscan Villa and the Tuscan Garden exhibitions under construction. (The Tuscan Garden is based on the Villa Gamberaia, at Settignano, near Florence.)
Experts in viticulture and enology at Cornell University are helping determine which Italian grape varieties will have the best chance of thriving on Staten Island, “which can get pretty damp,” Mr. Salmon said. Because it is illegal to import vine cuttings into the United States, the plants will most likely come from vineyards in upstate New York or, perhaps, California.
Eventually, the idea is to make red wine — and someday maybe white — from the 2,000 vines that organizers of the vineyard figure will be planted at the botanical garden. It will be years, however, before anyone can get a tasting of Staten Island red.
As for potential names for the winery? Mr. LiBassi proposed “Crespina Staten Wine.”
R. Randy Lee, a real estate developer and the chairman of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation, suggested “Vespucci” or “Verrazano.”
The wine is also expected to incorporate the kind of heritage grape varieties that would have been known in colonial times.
“After all, George Washington wasn’t importing wines from Tuscany,” Mr. Lee said. “I’m not sure how it will taste, but we want to reproduce it.”
The interest in heritage grape varieties is one reason the Staten Island delegation came to this part of Tuscany, to meet with Piergiorgio Castellani, a winemaker trying to save indigenous local grape varieties from extinction.
Mr. Castellani plans to travel to Staten Island in February to provide technical assistance on the vineyard. The borough, he said, “is not the best microclimate in the world; it’s close to a large city, there’s pollution. So they have to find a compromise solution that will mix resistant, adaptable vines with the right Tuscan varieties.”
Mr. Castellani, who escorted the Staten Island group to the University of Pisa to meet with viticulture experts, added: “The principal aim of the project is didactic. We’ve given them a broad basis of knowledge so they can go forward.”
Once the vineyard is up and running, visitors will be able to follow winemaking from the vine to the bottle.
“It’s basically chemistry; you mash grapes, and there’s a chemical reaction,” Mr. Salmon said. “Let’s face it, wine is exciting.”
The visit from the Staten Island delegation caused a major buzz in this small town roughly 21 miles south of Pisa that is known for its hoot owls. Officials in Crespina were thrilled when Staten Island officials accepted their invitation to be a sister city. “For a town of 4,000, it was like entering a skyscraper,” said Thomas D’Addona, Crespina’s mayor.
In addition to a small parade down the town’s main street (serenaded by the Walking Sharks Street Band) and a crossbow demonstration, the town’s celebrations included a photo session with Giancarlo Giannini, an Italian movie star who has a home in the area.
A previous sister city partnership with the French town of Penchard some time ago was kept alive for a few years and then passed into oblivion, local officials said. But the vineyard at the botanical garden, everyone involved agreed, will be one tangible link across the ocean.
“If they want us for the grape harvest, we’ll be ready to go with our boots and tools,” Mr. D’Addona said.