You just have to love the passion of Niagara winemakers and their desire to always do more… it reminds me of another breed that flourishes in Niagara: the chef.
It’s a magical thing when chef and sommelier become one, it’s even more extraordinary when that person then also becomes a winemaker. A�The synergy of their food and wine become a truly wonderful experience. A�Enter Ryan Crawford.
Chef Ryan Crawford has just finished eight years as executive chef/sommelier at Niagara-on-the-lake�s premier gastro-bistro, the Stone Road Grille. A�A�He’s also helped raise the bar for the Niagara region by taking farm to table cuisine one step further, at Ravine Vineyard by raising his own Berkshire pigs.
He’s also running a pretty cool little pop-up operation (soon to turn brick and mortar he assures me constantly!) called Gastrohomestead. A�His mandate? A�Integrated Sustainable Cooking. A�”GastrohomesteadA�is a coined term, combining the notion of gastronomy with that of homesteading” says their website. A�It’s all about raising the animal and bringing people back to where their food comes from. A�It’s about celebrating agriculture beyond the plate.
Did I mention he also won the inaugural Terroir Award of Excellence for Outstanding Chef?
Now, with the help of the foodservice and wine-making community, Chef Crawford has embarked a new journey: he’s makin’ wine. A�Good wine too!
“It was a community of winery professionals helping a chef and sommelier follow his dreams” said Ryan about the release of his first two wines.
Ryan convinced Derek Barnett of Lailey Vineyards to let him stagier at harvest. He badgered Kevin at 2027 Cellars to teach him about running a virtual winery. He had Charles Baker hook him up with once used barrels and bartered food for a few more from Rob Powers at Creekside Estates. A�He rented space from Roselyn at Cattail Creek and even had Frederic of Huff Estates help convince his wife to let him grow the business. A� A�This really was a community effort.
I could tell you that “The Dyck” is made from Cab Sav grapes, aged for 6 months in oak, with 1 month of racking and lees stirred weekly for the initial three months; or that “The Duke” is a Pinot Noir clone, coarse filtered, with 13% alcohol and uses 2 different sizes of oak chips for copigmentation.
I could… but I’d rather tell you that Chef Ryan Crawford makes delicious, food friendly red wines in true Niagara style: with the help of his friends.