Inside America’s Oldest Winery

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Our editorial staff arrived at Washingtonville, a compact village of some 6,000 dwellers at quarter past noon. The scorching sun could have treated our sedan better, but it decided not to — the day scored the record-breaking 100 degrees exercising no shame or mercy. The town looked humble and lazy, there were a few cars, heading north, struggling through the curvy gravel road. We followed. Cleverly concealed, the road opened into a spacious estate, buried in verdure.

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In 1810, a French Huguenot emigre John Jacques moved to the village to build two wine cellars. Each ceiling was built thick with two feet of brick, dug 14 feet deep and stretched 72 feet in length. They were later referred to as the “Smith” vault and the “Center” vault. By 1837, Mr. Jaques needed more land, so he kept expanding, purchasing building after building. By 1839, he fermented his first wine vintage. Those cellars, the oldest and largest in America, are still in use today.

_27A7232 copyA cafe located on site serves local labels

During Prohibition, Brotherhood remained creative by re-profiling into the production of church wine. It has been noted that the clergy population in the area grew substantially during this period.


One of the cellars at Brotherhood Winery


Champagne bottles are stored upside down and rotated regularly. The chalk marks help identify the bottles that need to be turned

_27A7456The cellars at the winery also served as Fallout Shelter

_27A7498Century-old bottles of wine are carefully preserved

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_27A7527Before the process was automated, wine casks had to be manually cleaned from the inside


The lights at the cellar


Brotherhood’s own collection of vintage labels


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Ads and postcards from the winery’s archives


The winery is open for tours on history of the premises and the basics of wine-making


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Despite barcodes, locals still use chalk to identify wine and vintage


_27A8051Empty bottles


The modern production facility where wine is made and packed

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Each tour at the winery ends with a tasting of labels in season

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_27A7892 copyResearch room filled with wine bottles in all forms and shapes


Winemakers Philip Dunsmore and Bob Barrow




How to get there
Brotherhood winery is located at 100 Brotherhood Plaza Dr, Washingtonville, NY (2-hour car ride from Manhattan)

Sunday to Friday 11 a.m.—5 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m.—7 p.m.

Tours and tasting — $10
Monday—Friday 11:30, 1, 2, and 3:30 p.m.
Weekends as groups gather.

Upcoming event
Wine & Beer Festival
Saturday, July 9, 1—5 p.m.
More about the event

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I've been exploring cities and neighborhoods for as long as I remember myself, documenting my observations and discoveries with photographs and in my journals. This mindful wondering has inspired and greatly fueled my design and research work, parts of which I'm sharing in this journal. Drop me a line at