The neighborhood of warehouses on the southern end of Bergen Point that once housed 20th Century industrial sites such as Maidenform, which manufactured women’s apparel, and Babcock and Wilcox, which made steam boilers, is now enjoying a makeover. A 12,000-square-foot warehouse called “Filling Station East” was recently outfitted to store and distribute kegged and canned wine. The company is a joint venture between formerly competing premium wine companies – Gotham Wine on the East Coast and Free Flow Wines on the West Coast.
The advantage to kegged and canned wine is shelf-life. Because oxygen permeates cork, bottled wine that’s corked has to be consumed within days of opening. Canned and kegged wine, however, last much longer and allow restaurants and bars to serve individual glasses more easily.
The Gotham Project’s first wine was called “The Finger,” a 2009 Finger Lakes Riesling from Seneca Lake, NY. The company has named its classic wine “the middle finger.”
The building is the site of the former EMD Chemical facility, part of the original Merck Family Holdings. It was also home to a WWII POW camp, which housed thousands of Italian POWs. The Alessi Organization acquired the brownfield site from Rollins Terminal and salvaged it after two decades lying dormant.
Multiple stainless-steel vats of wine sit on the far end of the warehouse, which is kept at a cool 60 degrees all year around, an ideal temperature to store wine. Dozens of pallets of 19.6-liter wine kegs (about six wine bottles) are stacked to the ceiling, wrapped in plastic and labeled for distribution. The company is among the first to keg and can wine, and has sold more than 50,000 cases this year.
“Wine is part of my family. You can’t not like wine where I’m from.” — Second Ward Councilman Sal Gullace.
Wine not Bayonne?
Bayonne is an ideal location for the wine importer due to its proximity to the Port of New York and New Jersey, the leading entry point for imported wines. The Gotham Project imports 45 types of wine from 15 countries and distributes to restaurants in the area, including Porta in Jersey City.
“We get the kegs back from restaurants with chicken and bread crumbs still on them,” said Curt Harris, Director of Operations, while giving a tour to local officials, including council members and the mayor.
“My grandfather used to have a grape vine in Italy,” said Second Ward Councilman Sal Gullace. “So, wine is part of my family. You can’t not like wine where I’m from.”
The warehouse is only a couple of blocks from Mayor James Davis’s home. It’s on Third Street, a road known from Davis’s childhood as “suicide hill” for its steep incline and sharp turn at the end that Davis said was very dangerous to maneuver in makeshift go-carts. The neighborhood has changed a lot, according to Davis, who can recall what the neighboring industrial structures were once used for.
“They all had different uses over the years,” he said. “The fact that Gotham Wine is here in Bayonne shows a trend of having new, trendy, and innovative companies.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.