The Real Deal New York

The world’s first rooftop vineyard is about to open in Brooklyn

By Business Insider | September 12, 2015 12:00PM

Devin Shomaker came up with the idea of a rooftop vineyard when he was still studying viticulture at Finger Lakes Community College in upstate New York. That was back in the beginning of 2013, and Shomaker has been working on the idea ever since.

Over two years later, it’s become a reality: Rooftop Reds, the world’s first commercially viable rooftop vineyard.

Located in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, Rooftop Reds is set to open to the public in mid- to late-September. We took a trip to the rooftop to get the full preview.

(Photo by Sarah Jacobs / Business Insider)

Shomaker founded Rooftop Reds with Chris Papalia (pictured here), and his brother Thomas Shomaker who serves as the team’s videographer. Papalia graduated with Shomaker from FLCC’s two year viticulture and wine technology program at only 20 years old, making him the youngest winemaker in the Finger Lakes region.

Having lived in Brooklyn for years before attending wine school, Shomaker knew he wanted to live in the city. This desire coupled with the skills he had learned in wine school spurred Shomaker’s idea of a rooftop vineyard.

(Photo by Sarah Jacobs / Business Insider)



In order to test his idea, Shomaker used the roof of his brother’s apartment in Windsor Terrace as the location for a pilot project. The test vines survived two incredibly harsh winters, giving Shomaker the confidence that his idea could work.

(Photo by Sarah Jacobs / Business Insider)

After the success of the pilot project, Shomaker got in touch with Red Hook Winery and Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm and major player in the urban agricultural industry. These two businesses introduced him to the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a potential location for Rooftop Reds.

Brooklyn Grange had already established a location in the navy yard back in 2012, giving Shomaker the confidence that the idea of Rooftop Reds would be well-received there, and it was. “We’re agricultural manufacturing, and this is a manufacturing zone, one of the last — if not the last — manufacturing zones in New York City. So artisanal craft businesses like Rooftop Reds which are reviving manufacturing are completely checking off their boxes,” Shomaker said.

(Photo by Sarah Jacobs / Business Insider)

Since the rooftop is white and not black tar, Shomaker said that it’s better-suited to promote photosynthetic activity, which is crucial to the growth of the vines. A black tar rooftop would have produced temperatures that were too hot for the vines.

(Photo by Sarah Jacobs / Business Insider)

Shomaker and his team also designed the urban planter system that’s being used on the rooftop. Each planter box contains 1.33 cubic yards of soil, which is large enough to allow the plants to go into hibernation once winter comes along.

(Photo by Sarah Jacobs / Business Insider)

Having just signed the official lease for the rooftop space and finished the planting of the vines, Shomaker hopes to open Rooftop Reds by mid to late September.