News & Opinion | June 12, 2019 2:50 pm

Inside Manhattan’s Ultra-Exclusive Upper East Side Vineyard

It may be the city's most exclusive rooftop destination

The family-owned vineyard is open only to close friends
The family-owned vineyard is open only to close friends
Maja Petric/Unsplash

Manhattan’s only vineyard has been operating since 1985, but you have to know somebody to get in.

That somebody would be Latif Jiji, who with his wife has been operating the city’s sole vineyard out of his Upper East Side brownstone for years. Chateau Latif is a family-run winery in the truest sense of the word, and is only open to friends and family of the owners.

The Jijis’ vertical vineyard soars up the side to the rooftop garden of the brownstone the couple have called home since the 1960s.

“If you look at satellite images of the house, you’ll see it’s the only one with a green roof,” Jiji told Atlas Obscura.

The Jijis’ got into the wine business more or less by accident, after a vine planted on a whim in 1977 became unexpectedly fruitful. The couple harvested their first 24 pounds of Niagara grapes in 1984, and a year later the vine was producing enough fruit to make Chateau Latif’s first bottle of wine.

Since then, harvest day has been a tradition for friends and family of the Jijis. The annual event usually takes place on a weekend in August or September and involves a home-made system of pulleys, baskets and helping hands. According to the Jijis, friends from all over the world have travelled to the Upper East Side to join in the Chateau Latif winemaking throughout the vineyard’s 35-year history.

While Jiji doesn’t make any grand claims as to the wine’s quality, merely calling it “fruity, but not too sweet,” he knows he still has a certain claim to bragging rights as the owner of Manhattan’s most exclusive rooftop vineyard.

“I’m not competing for quality,” he told Atlas Obscura. “It’s the story I’m selling.”

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