Original Virginia Dare Extract Company invoice for flavorings dated Apr 15, 1936. Brooklyn Public Library--Brooklyn Collection.
One of the more interesting companies to have occupied premises in Bush Terminal is Garrett & Co, makers of Virginia Dare wine and flavoring extracts. Long-time readers of Brooklynology may remember a post called the Grapes of Brooklyn in which I drew attention to early efforts at viticulture and wine-making in Brooklyn. Garrett & Co kept the flag of Kings County oenology flying for 45 years, from its quarters in Building 10 in the Sunset Park industrial complex.
WINE MAKING First stage in the process at Garrett & Co. Inc, 882 3d Ave., showing the grapes receiving an initial crushing before they fall into the fermenting cask Left to right and bottom are Max Loewenstein of 119 W. 106th St., Manhattan; Lawrence Triolo of 102 Harrison Place, Ludwig Schniermacher of 618 Decatur St. and Mario Noto of 23 Moffatt St. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 15, 1950
The firm was founded in 1835 in North Carolina. Around 1920 it moved to Brooklyn and the minute it arrived, New York State went dry and prohibition forced Virginia Dare to reconsider its business model. And they did reconsider, with a vengeance. An Eagle article dated June 26, 1920 describes what it calls one of the "Wonders of Brooklyn," the process by which Garrett & Co, wine makers, managed to survive and even prosper during the prohibition years. The company continued to make wine, but they took out the alcohol and did their best to retain the wine's flavor. The extracted alchohol was used to make pure fruit and vegetable flavors ranging from vanilla to onion. In this way the plant continued to turn out over 15 million quart bottles of Virginia Dare non-alcoholic "wine" a year, as well as 20,000,000 bottles of flavoring extract. So rapidly did the flavoring business grow that Brooklyn became a leader in the field, and the company opened a new plant in St. Louis.
FERMENTATION--The portable crusher removed, juice and pulp in fermentation are shown above.
The company added another string to its bow in its efforts to survive the prohibition era. A lawsuit filed in 1928 accused Garrett & Co. of violating the Volstead Act by selling concentrated grapes with instructions for making wine at home. Government witnesses--with how much enthusiasm we are not told--followed the instructions to prove that a real, full-flavored wine could result from the process. Judge Simon Adler of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York ruled that Section 29 specifically permitted wine making in the home and therefore Garrett & Co's activities were not illegal: they could carry on selling home-winemaking products and the temperance faction could take a hike.
...left to right, Julius Fiore of 1101 65th St. and Anthony Zinzi of 305 5th St. shovel out pulp after fermented juice has been drained.
One can only imagine the jubilation that must have erupted in South Brooklyn on repeal of prohibition in 1933. By 1941 the company was producing "champagnes" as well as its regular wines, and employing about 200 people. Grapes brought in from New Jersey were made into wine at the plant, and wine imported from California and North Carolina was bottled there. The sparkling wines were made from New York State vineyards at Penn Yan. By 1945 the company held 10,000 acres of vineyards in New York, N.C. and California; that year it bought the plant of the Italian Vineyard Co in Guasti California.
NO WASTE--Pulp, received from above and through chute at left, is layered in cloths and completely drained by hydraulic press at right, after which residual waste (poace) is barreled as refuse. Left to right: Patrick Porco of 1032 62nd St. and Vincent Manitta of 87 Madison St. make a layer, spreading the pulp, including skins, before enfolding with overhanging parts of cloth; John Mandato of 946 41st St. and Thomas Policastro of 760 3d Ave. empty pomace from a press cloth into barrel...
In 1965 the company's wine business was purchased in a royalty arrangement by Constellation Brands. However, the flavoring extract side of the business, conceived as a way to circumvent prohibition and incorporated in 1923 as an independent entity, continues to operate out of Brooklyn to this day.
Above, left to right, Angelo Poulos of 6211 5th Ave and Louis Calabrese of 262 12th St at filter through which all wine is passed to remove last traces of sediment.
FINISHED PRODUCT--Through glass piping the finished wine is fed to bottling machines at rear. Filled and stoppered, bottles are moved onto a conveyor belt carrying them to a succession of workers who affix labels and ornamental metalized caps over stoppers before bottles reach packers at end of conveyor. Packers package bottles in cartons of 6 and 12 and move them by floor truck to storeroom.