The New York Times reported this week that Staten Island Botanic Garden, smaller brother of the prestigious Brooklyn Botanic Garden, has decided to plant an authentic Tuscan vineyard to tempt visitors on to the ferry to their under-visited Gotham neighbourhood. Nearly 40 per cent of Staten Island residents are descended from Italian stock, so the theme seems particularly appropriate: "The vineyard encapsulates what Italians brought to Staten Island: agriculture, wine, culture," says board member Joseph J. LiBassi in the NYT piece. Lucky members of the board have already been on a fact-finding mission to Italy (tough job).
There's just one problem with the SIBG idea: since the phylloxera
epidemic that raged through European vinestocks in the 1860s, plant
imports from Europe to the US are strictly forbidden under tough
American customs rules (despite the fact that they gave it to us
to begin with...). So in a slightly sad undermining of the whole point
of the exercise, Staten Island will have to import the grape plants for
its Tuscan vinery from within the US. Still, I've heard that America is a big Italian country too...