Shomaker says the process to turn his grapes into the first bottles of wine for sale takes more than four years. Rooftop Reds will showcase its first in 2019. "I wanted the first-mover advantage. We are the first movers in the rooftop vineyard space, and we are four years ahead of anyone who tries to copycat us," he said.
Because his rooftop vineyard is small compared to most of his peers', Shomaker could not justify the cost of building a production facility in Brooklyn for his harvest. So he plans to take the grapes grown on the Brooklyn rooftop vines to the Point of the Bluff production facilities for aging and bottling. Where wine grapes are grown has a much bigger effect on the wine than where the bottle is produced, he said.
In the meantime, Rooftop Reds is generating revenue through its rooftop tasting room that features wine with grapes sourced from other New York State regions. Three of the wines are from grapes sourced from Point of the Bluff Vineyards.
This past September, Rooftop Reds also launched a wholesale division and in 2018 will be available in select restaurants and retail shops. Shomaker's business also makes money by hosting pop-up dinner parties, wine tours, yoga classes and renting out the rooftop space for private events.
Many New Yorkers have flocked to Rooftop Reds to sip wine overlooking its vineyard, but getting wine enthusiasts to spend $1,000 on a bottle of Brooklyn red will not be easy.
"When you look at a French wine selling for $1,000, there is limited availability, but it also comes from a particular geographic location known for quality wines," said Sam Filler of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. Third-party validation from consumer wine and trade publications will likely be important. "People will look at how many points the wine gets assigned by top wine critics and if it has won any awards. It will have to meet the standard folks are accustomed to with a highly rated wine," Filler said.
Shomaker isn't worried. He is confident wine from his Brooklyn vines will be deserving of a premium cult-level price tag. "This is a collector's item. It will be the first of its kind, and it's extremely limited," he said. Even if spending $1,000 is not for everyone, "it's cool for everyone to come and see," Shomaker said.
— By Rene Brinkley, CNBC
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the Brooklyn Navy Yard is a 300-acre industrial park.