A winery is a licensed building or property that produces wine. Brotherhood Winery, located in Washingtonville, New York is commonly acknowledged to be the oldest winery in America. With its first commercial vintage produced in 1839, it is described as the oldest continually operating winery in the United States by the U.S. National Park Service. The winery's slogan is "America's Oldest Winery".
Dug and erected between 1835 and 1839, the main cellar of Brotherhood is a rare surviving example of an early, large-scale, commercial wine producing facility. In continuous operation for over 160 years, Brotherhood Winery retains a high degree of integrity of setting, feeling, association, design, materials and craftsmanship. The winery is a significant resource in the context of the Nation’s agricultural history and a seminal landmark at the state and local levels.
John Jaques, a cobbler by trade, began growing native grapes in the backyard of his Washingtonville, NY store as early as 1824. By 1835, he had established a large vineyard, selling his grapes in the New York City market. As prices dropped, Jaques turned instead toward making wine, releasing his first commercial vintage in 1839, under the label “Blooming Grove Winery.” The Jaques Brothers Winery continued to prosper until, in 1886, ill health forced Charles Jaques, the last surviving Jaques brother, to sell the entire winery and vineyards to New York City wine merchants J. M. Emerson & Son. After the enactment of Prohibition, on January 17, 1920, Edward Emerson and new partner Louis L. Farrell reorganized as “The Brotherhood Corporation.” They began producing medicinal and sacramental wines, as allowed by law.
Brotherhood was able to maintain production with its own vines in Washingtonville, and by acquiring another vineyard in California’s prestigious Livermore Valley. Regular tank car shipments of wine from the west coast also ensured a regular supply of wine to keep up with demand.
The winery is made up of stone buildings, an award winning restaurant, modern and comfortable tasting and sales room, and the longest man made under ground cellars in the United States. It usually gets more than 100,000 visitors a year. All the winery equipment is dated 2010 or newer, using solar energy, state of the art water treatment plant and a barrel program that grows every year.
In 2000 Brotherhood Winery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2022 it was inducted into New York's Historic Places registry. Today, Brotherhood Winery doesn't grow grapes but instead has long term contracts with close to 10 grape growers in New York State.
*Note: Some sources claim that Baker-Bird Winery in Augusta, Kentucky is the oldest winery in America. But that is inaccurate. Although the winery sits on land that had a winery dating back to 1798, the existing winery was built in 1850s as admitted by the Baker-Bird Winery website. This makes the Brotherhood Winery, built in 1839, the oldest winery in America.