Retail Analysis – Astor Wine & Spirits

Tucked away snugly in a brick building on Lafayette and 4th is the one and only Astor Wine & Spirits. When you walk in, looking down from the top of the stairs, you get this grand yet humble welcome from the store. A sea of wooden shelves featuring over 3,000 wines and 2,000 spirits from all over the world spreads though the whole floor, with signs above labeling the country of origin or style of making. Whatever you are going in to purchase; they probably have it.

The layout of the store is organized by sections. The most popular wines, red and white, from French, Italian, Spain, or Old World wines, are mostly in the front. Following towards the back are the rarer ones, such as Hungarian and Armenian wines. The shelves behind that are from Australia, New Zealand, California, New World. Against the back wall is all the spirits, rum, brandy and darker liquors. To the left side there is a temperature humidity-controlled room. Contrary to popular belief, the controlled room isn’t only for expensive wines; regular table wines can be found there too!

Almost every bottle there is small notecard underneath it with a description. Signs with green leaves indicate that it’s a organic or biodynamic wine. It’s become a more common sight of these orange wines, where they take fruit peels and incorporate them into the winemaking process. These have been on the soar lately. What’s trending now is being healthy, sustainable food/drinks, and nonconventional ways to do things- and these orange and “natural” wines are the new hype.

Bambi, one of the sales managers, was kind enough to give me a walk around the premises and insight on the business and winemaking in general. She has been in the wine industry for quite some time now; she enjoys educating people on it and helping them find the right bottle to take home. One of the first things you see when you walk in is the register to the left; and towards the middle of the whole floor is a tasting area. Every week they hold tastings to feature staff picks or a new style. It’s important that wine sellers don’t just sell wine; but also, to introduce and expand the palates of those who purchase and drink. They hold classes upstairs from time to time, hiring industry professionals to come in and share their knowledge, or just studying a specific area or wine style. In this way, they are more interactive with their customers, potential clients, and overall in the industry itself.



Red Hook Winery – Winery/Vineyard Assignment

When someone is thinking about a winery, usually there’s an image of a vineyard accompanying the thought. Rows of vines, sprawled across the field with hills overlooking the horizon. Red Hook Winery, located in Brooklyn, New York, tells a different story. They are the only winery in the metropolitan area. As a result, they acquire their ingredients from outside sources due to the inability to grow their own.

Red Hook Winery was founded in 2008 by Mark Snyder, with the goal of using and highlighting quality vineyards of New York, running from North Fork Long Island all the way upstate to the Finger Lakes. Everyone knows about Californian wines, Napa and Sonoma Valley- but New York? Sure, there are a few AVAs out there, but there isn’t a solid reputation or style of wine when asked about New York wines. Through different acquisitions and innovative processes, Red Hook Winery is changing that.

Red Hook Winery is considered a négociant; all of the grapes they use are obtained from grape growers around the state. Trips are made as often as needed, or they have it shipped to them. The grapes are stored on premise, or at the warehouse in New Jersey. Viticultural and vinification practices aren’t a concern; they want to showcase each vineyard’s attributes. Grape varieties are abundant, since they are sourced from many places. Many bottles are made from Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and so on. Pinot Noir is a tricky one; because of the humidity in Long Island, it’s very hard to grow. It’s not as difficult in the Finger Lakes, however, because of the sparsity, seldom do they sell that variety when they have it.

with winemaker Christopher Nicolson

There are three winemakers at Red Hook; Christopher Nicolson, Abraham “Abe” Schoener, and Robert “Bob” Foley. Each winemaker has their own unique history in the industry and cultivates their own styles in their wines. Chris focuses a lot on the process of making wine, to bring out the characteristics of the grapes relative to the time and place it’s from. Abe and Bob have a more philosophical approach to their work: low intervention, no new wood, minimal sulfite addition. It’s amazing how they can all use the same grape variety from the same source yet produce such different styles of wine.

winery room with the barrel room peeking from behind the window

When first entering the winery, you see a shelf featuring staff picks of the week and one with bottles for purchasing. Towards the left side is a cozy seating area for those who want to sit and enjoy. On the right is the bar that stretches on the side all the way to the back. Against the back wall you can see the barrel room, and a door leading to the winery. The back room is where all the magic happens; destemming, pressing, fermenting, and bottling. Most of their equipment are mobile, due to the amount of space they have. Planted against the wall are stainless steel tanks; these are used when they want a more pure and clean wine. The other space in the back is the barrel room; all the wines are stored here. The barrels are reused as often possible, and most of them are French neutral medium toast, helping in the malolactic fermentation for a more rounded, elegant and natural finish.

barrel room stainless steel tankone of the 2 bottling equipments

The winery room itself is nothing special. If I may say, it looks a little underwhelming. However, the production from that room is something else. When I did the tastings, each winemaker’s wine was so different; it’s hard to say that a Sauvignon Blanc from Chris is similar to Abe’s or Bob’s. What this place is doing is distinct; localizing ingredients, showcasing terroirs from different areas in New York in their works. Their wines are less costly than others, but with the quality you’d get from other regions. Soon, New York wines will be recognized at a different, more elevated level, and Red Hook Winery is one of the firsts to help achieve that mission.

white wine tasting



– Our Story. (n.d.). Retrieved from
– Punch. (n.d.). Christopher Nicolson: Resident Winemaker, Red Hook Winery. Retrieved from