'Many chateaus in France, just one in Manhattan' - Manhattan's only vineyard grows up an UES home
Chateau Latif's owner, Latif Jiji, has been producing wine for 35 years.
Roselle Chen reports.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VINTNER, LATIF JIJI, SAYING: "I am Latif Jiji.
I am the owner of Chateau Latif, which I started in 1977.
It's the only winery in Manhattan." Latif Jiji is a 91-year-old retired engineering professor and vintner.
His wife came up with the clever name -- a play on Chateau Lafite, a famous Rothschild winery in France.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VINTNER, LATIF JIJI, SAYING: "People go to France, there are many chateaus, they come to Manhattan, there's only one." What makes the winery even more exclusive is that Jiji doesn't sell his bottles of Chateau Latif, but gives it away to friends and family.
The family-run winery has its annual harvest in late August or early September, and yields on average 100 to 125 bottles of white wine.
And the taste?
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VINTNER, LATIF JIJI, SAYING: "Fruity, that's how I describe it, and not very sweet." In 1977, Jiji planted a Niagara grapevine bought from his local nursery.
In 1984, the family had its first harvest, which yielded about nine bottles of wine.
The grapevine, which spans a total of over 100 feet, grew from the middle of Jiji's backyard, up his four-story brownstone and across his rooftop.
How does he maintain it all?
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VINTNER, LATIF JIJI, SAYING: "It's not hard work.
It's just watching something grow.
It doesn't get more beautiful than that." Jiji, an Iraqi Jew, got the idea to make wine from his father, who also made wine back when he was a boy in Basra, Iraq.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VINTNER, LATIF JIJI, SAYING: "It's really, one of the wines that I enjoyed, and I still, can taste it." In about three weeks, about 25 of Jiji's family and friends will come over to harvest the grapes and help with the wine making process, all in one day, and are rewarded with wine from previous years and a warm meal.
The experience is something that his loved ones can count on year after year, in a bustling city that changes, seemingly, in the blink of an eye.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VINTNER, LATIF JIJI, SAYING: "When I first started this trellis here, there weren't many tall buildings.
Look at that, that was new.
And this is the latest one.
And it's not finished yet.
Every year, there is a new building rising up." (Production: Andrew Hofstetter, Roselle Chen)