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Life throws you Concord grapes? Make wine!

 Astoria resident Giuseppe Ruggiro shows off the white wine grapes that are his pride and joy.

Courtesy Paul M. Murdock

Astoria resident Giuseppe Ruggiro shows off the white wine grapes that are his pride and joy.

Brooklyn boasts microbreweries. Manhattan masters the $ 25 cocktail. But in Queens, the borough’s alcoholic tradition has long been defined by a dry white wine born of Astoria grapes, processed in a Rubbermaid bucket and aged to perfection in a 29th St. basement.

“From the day I was here I make wine. I’ve never bought a bottle of wine in a store,” said 63-year-old Giuseppe Ruggiro, who moved to Queens from Salerno, Italy in 1976.

Ruggiro is one of many — the number remains elusive — old timers in vine-covered Astoria that are turning the neighborhood’s omnipresent grapes into something more interesting than juice.

For Ruggiro, it’s a labor of love that connects him to the grandfather who taught him the techniques. Today, he uses a plastic bucket to crush the Concord grapes he planted in 1976, then judges when it’s time to press by putting his arm in the crush bucket. When it feels hot — anywhere from 85-90 degrees according to his forearm — it’s time.

His wine-making nerve center is his “cellar” — an eight-foot-by-eight-foot outdoor closet under his porch — that holds 30 to 40 1.5 liter bottles of red and white wine and six damigianas, large glass containers where the fermented juice becomes wine.

“I don’t have a huge space, but I make a lot of wine,” said Ruggiro, who makes 150-200 gallons a year.

He also grows Concord grapes.

Courtesy Paul M. Murdock

He also grows Concord grapes.

His latest white, a blend of Muscato and Sercial, is light and crisp with notes of lychee and white peach.

“Not too dry, a little sweet. Too dry makes me crazy,” said Ruggiro, who makes wine with his fellow Astorian, Mario Taibi.

RELATED: KING SOUVLAKI OF ASTORIA TO VIE FOR VENDY CUP

Alas, seniors die or move away, taking their wine-making traditions with them. Fortunately, some newcomers are carrying on the tradition.

Peter Aggelatos, who moved to Astoria five years ago, is trying to make wine in the backyard of Milkflower, the wood-fired pizzeria on 31st Ave. he owns with his brother, Danny.

The brothers’ first effort consisted of grapes harvested from vines in the backyard that were turned into five gallons of vino.

Ruggiro ferments his grapes under his stairs.

Courtesy Paul M. Murdock

Ruggiro ferments his grapes under his stairs.

“It really didn’t come out the way we wanted it,” said Aggelatos, whose interest in wine can be traced to his grandfather back in Greece.

But he continues the delightful experiment.

Meanwhile, the Queens County Farm in Glen Oaks is helping fledgling Ernest and Julio Gallos by planting two varieties of grapes on its one-and-a-half acres and inviting anyone to ask questions of its resident viticulturist.

So far, the farm has produced and sold a Chardonnay, a Merlot and an Adriance — the only commercially available Queens wines.

Plenty of 2007 and 2008 vino — dubbed “the rascal of the vineyard” by wine lovers — is still available, and more vintages are being planned.

The bottom line is, it won’t be long until you can walk into any restaurant in town and say, “Waiter! Your finest Queens wine, please!”


Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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