Manhattan winery grows grapes in brownstone backyard

- Chateau Latif is the only winery in Manhattan that grows its own grapes.

Latif Jiji planted his first vine in the backyard of his East 92nd Street brownstone in 1977. Forty years later, those vines now climb nearly 60 feet up the back of his home and another 45 feet along his roof deck. It's a lot of vine, but it is quite easy for this retired professor to keep it growing in an urban setting.

"It's rain water that collects in the soil and the roots are very long, very deep and they apparently pick up enough water to sustain it," Jiji said.

All of the wine he produces is white, which comes from the Niagara grape.

Latif's vineyard grows about 400 pounds of grapes per year, with a record of 700 pounds in 2008. He also produces about 150 bottles annually, all of which he gives away to friends and family. He makes no profit from his wine.

"I learned it as a child in Iraq," he said. "My father used to make wine."

Back in the 1940s, his Jewish family started making wine as a hobby so they'd always have it on their table for meals and holidays. It was a very different way of life from their mostly Muslim neighbors, whose religion prohibits alcohol consumption.

Latif never imagined he'd bring his wine-making roots to the U.S. He invites his friends and family over to hand-paint unique labels for each bottle. 

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