In the past couple of weeks, people have been using sweeping hand gestures and saying, “This has been the decade of…[insert emphatic declaration here]”.

For me, the wide arc of my arm expresses a change in the final years of our decade: People are no longer satisfied to eat and drink mindlessly, without any idea of how it was produced.  We want to know the origin and process behind what we consume.

Often the most fun way to learn about the process is to do it ourselves.  In the spirit of the New Year, let me raise my glass high and introduce you to City Winery, the sole operating wine maker in New York City.  This bar, restaurant, and live music venue opened about a year ago in a beautiful and expansive loft in SoHo.  In fact, the space is so expansive, it hardly feels like Manhattan.  We must be at the center of something, however, with the world-traveled wine list and the famous musicians who routinely play their stage.

I was lucky to receive a tour by Josh Dorf, brother of City Winery owner, Michael Dorf.  One of the highlights was learning how patrons can procure their own entire barrel of wine, custom made to their specifications.  In creating the barrel, people select the fruit and type of barrel (there are many variations of oak, for example).  Then they are invited to participate as much or as little as they wish.  The winemaker, David Lecomte, will expertly guide the process that can take anywhere from 8-24 months.  A barrel yields 21 cases of wine, and depending on the package, the prices are in the ballpark of $20-$40/bottle.  That can be the range for an unmemorable bottle bought hurriedly–now imagine bringing our own carefully crafted wine to dinner parties for years to come for the same price.

Then imagine being the most favored guest to all invitations in 2010.  Happy New Year!

Custom barrels of wine--awaiting their time--from City Winery

Custom Barrels of Wine Awaiting Their Time

Customers can produce Kosher wine, too. In the final step here, the Orthodox Union watcher will sign this seal to verify no one else touched it.