Edible Buffalo Fall 2011 : Page 12

local pour Keeping Up With The Oakes’s by Bryan Calandrelli Jonathan Oakes is certainly doesn’t look like your average winemaker, but his trademark fedora, vest and Doc Marten boots sure make him stand out among the diverse group of older growers, winery owners and winemakers that are gathered at this year’s Niagara Wine & Culinary Festival at Artpark in Lewiston. On this sweltering summer day, Oakes is not only representing Leonard Oakes Estate Winery – pre-ceded by his family’s ubiquitous apple farm, LynOaken Farms–but also the whole region with a series of seminars he’s giving on Niagara wine. experimenting with hard apple cider in his great grand-mother’s basement a decade ago. From there he attended a cider course at Cornell Cooperative Extension, where Oakes was introduced to English ciders. Soon after, the farm planted 10 varieties of English Heritage apples for the sole purpose of making cider. In 2003, Oakes’ father expressed his interest in planting wine grapes as a step that would ultimately move him towards some form of retirement. As Jonathan explains it, in agri-culture you never really retire, you just move into some other facet of the business where you may not have as much re-sponsibility or work to do. So he, along with the elder Oakes and cousin Jared Oakes, literally planted the farm’s first vineyard, the re-sponsibility for which fell into his lap. Who better to give such a broad summation of the wines being produced locally than Oakes, who is responsible for the massive undertaking of making an ever-growing Photo by Bryan Calandrelli range of wines, ciders and fruit wines at his own winery and the lineup at Schulze Vineyards & Winery as well, During his ensuing education where he has the role of lead in Niagara Teaching College’s winemaker. At the festival, Cool Climate Viticulture Jonathan entertained a crowd Program, Oakes experienced of thirsty attendees by talking firsthand how veteran wine-up the area’s wines and makers and growers like Brian pouring a selection of local Schmidt of Vineland Estate whites, red, fruit wines and his Winery get the most out of Leonard Oakes’ own ice wine. their vineyards and grapes. An easy day for Oakes to be Jonathan Oakes sure, whose typical routine in-“Brian has taught me to really volves juggling winemaking for two of the area’s largest pro-pay attention through the course of the season as to how ducers. everything is developing out in the vineyard and follow Indeed, between Leonard Oakes and Schulze, Oakes is preparing to make upwards of 12,000 cases of wine this year, with some twenty-four different grape varieties all fermented separately. How does he balance it all with the demands of his growing family, which just saw a new addition with the birth of his third daughter? “I don’t sleep,” laughs Oakes. “The big thing is coordi-nation, making sure all the logistics are handled up front.” Born into a family of successful apple farmers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Oakes’ first foray into fermenting juice was 12 EDIBLE BUFFALO | FALL 2011 through with that attention with the grapes in the winery as they are handled, fermented, pressed and so on,” Oakes said. It’s this meticulous philosophy and work ethic that Oakes practices with every wine he makes. From top to bottom, native and hybrid to vinfera grapes, or apples to cherries, his wines are precise. He doesn’t subscribe to the belief that there are noble grape varieties and inferior grape varieties because his intention of making the best possible wine from every grape he grows can be tasted in his body of work. He’s taken hybrid wines where they’ve never gone before, on to

Local pour

Bryan Calandrelli

Keeping Up With The Oakes's<br /> <br /> Jonathan Oakes is certainly doesn't look like your average winemaker, but his trademark fedora, vest and Doc Marten boots sure make him stand out among the diverse group of older growers, winery owners and winemakers that are gathered at this year's Niagara Wine & Culinary Festival at Artpark in Lewiston. On this sweltering summer day, Oakes is not only representing Leonard Oakes Estate Winery – preceded by his family's ubiquitous apple farm, LynOaken Farms–but also the whole region with a series of seminars he's giving on Niagara wine.<br /> <br /> Who better to give such a broad summation of the wines being produced locally than Oakes, who is responsible for the massive undertaking of making an ever-growing range of wines, ciders and fruit wines at his own winery and the lineup at Schulze Vineyards & Winery as well, where he has the role of lead winemaker. At the festival, Jonathan entertained a crowd of thirsty attendees by talking up the area's wines and pouring a selection of local whites, red, fruit wines and his Leonard Oakes' own ice wine. An easy day for Oakes to be sure, whose typical routine involves juggling winemaking for two of the area's largest producers.<br /> <br /> Indeed, between Leonard Oakes and Schulze, Oakes is preparing to make upwards of 12,000 cases of wine this year, with some twenty-four different grape varieties all fermented separately. How does he balance it all with the demands of his growing family, which just saw a new addition with the birth of his third daughter?<br /> <br /> "I don't sleep," laughs Oakes. "The big thing is coordination, making sure all the logistics are handled up front."<br /> <br /> Born into a family of successful apple farmers, it shouldn't be a surprise that Oakes' first foray into fermenting juice was experimenting with hard apple cider in his great grandmother's basement a decade ago. From there he attended a cider course at Cornell Cooperative Extension, where Oakes was introduced to English ciders. Soon after, the farm planted 10 varieties of English Heritage apples for the sole purpose of making cider.<br /> <br /> In 2003, Oakes' father expressed his interest in planting wine grapes as a step that would ultimately move him towards some form of retirement. As Jonathan explains it, in agriculture you never really retire, you just move into some other facet of the business where you may not have as much responsibility or work to do. So he, along with the elder Oakes and cousin Jared Oakes, literally planted the farm's first vineyard, the responsibility for which fell into his lap.<br /> <br /> During his ensuing education in Niagara Teaching College's Cool Climate Viticulture Program, Oakes experienced firsthand how veteran winemakers and growers like Brian Schmidt of Vineland Estate Winery get the most out of their vineyards and grapes.<br /> <br /> "Brian has taught me to really pay attention through the course of the season as to how everything is developing out in the vineyard and follow through with that attention with the grapes in the winery as they are handled, fermented, pressed and so on," Oakes said.<br /> <br /> It's this meticulous philosophy and work ethic that Oakes practices with every wine he makes. From top to bottom, native and hybrid to vinfera grapes, or apples to cherries, his wines are precise. He doesn't subscribe to the belief that there are noble grape varieties and inferior grape varieties because his intention of making the best possible wine from every grape he grows can be tasted in his body of work. He's taken hybrid wines where they've never gone before, on to the wine lists of some of the best restaurants and wine bars in Western New York.<br /> <br /> "There's just not much investigation into the possibilities of these (hybrid) grapes when it comes to creating structured red blends and I'm not going to turn away any chances to make something great just because others aren't out there trying similar approaches," Oakes said.<br /> <br /> In addition to his work with classical wine grapes such as chardonnay, Riesling, merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, Oakes is reaching new heights with his Blanc d'Orleans (a Cayuga-based white), Frontenac and chambourcin. His Leonard Oakes Ice wine of Vidal Blanc stands up with the best of the Canadian made versions and with every vintage that goes by, he is raising the bar with sparkling wine at Schulze Vineyards & Winery.<br /> <br /> "There's just not much investigation into the possibilities of these (hybrid) grapes when it comes to creating structured red blends and I'm not going to turn away any chance to make something great just because others aren't out there trying similar approaches," Oakes said.<br /> <br /> His family's history with the Towers family, another prominent farming family in the region, has recently opened the door for Leonard Oakes to also produce lakeshoregrown merlot and cabernet sauvignon which will lend even more blending options for their reds.<br /> <br /> This fall, Oakes will have come full circle with his winery's release of Steampunk Cidre, a traditional English cider made from 12 different estate-grown apple varieties – most of which originate from the orchards his father planted after his initial experimentation all those years ago. Aside from it being one of the most refreshing alcoholic beverages this writer has ever tasted, there's some anticipation that it may eventually be made available in the same grocery stores that already sell the farm's apples–which is a lot of grocery stores.<br /> <br /> Meeting the public, talking Niagara wine and representing the region is just part of the job for Oakes.<br /> <br /> "I love being a winemaker and I love being a grape grower, but ultimately I want to be a voice for the entire region because there's just so much potential for all of us," Oakes said.<br /> <br /> Brian Callandrelli works with several local wineries and contributes as the Niagara Region Editor of the New York Cork Report (www.newyorkcorkreport. com). He blogs at www.waterintowine.com and www.niagaraescarpment.com.<br /> <br /> Winos Wanted!<br /> By Bryan Calandrelli<br /> <br /> Do you find yourself lingering a little too long in the local wine shop? Is one stroll down the Loire Valley section of the store not enough these days? Are people asking you why you are swirling, sniffing and slurping your iced tea? Well then you may be interested in the shameless plug I'm about to present to you.<br /> <br /> Buffalo/Niagara Winos is a Facebook group I created to establish a community of local wine drinkers who share the same passion for good wine, good food and good people. What began as a forum to organize tastings with other winemakers, wine retailers, chefs and passionate drinkers has steadily grown, and we are currently an open public group on Facebook that anyone can request to join. Once you're in, you can add any of your Facebook friends.<br /> <br /> Since the group was inspired by the people I've met working in Niagara Wine Country, USA we've hosted several tasting at local wineries with a few even happening outdoors among the vines. Local non-profit Field & Fork's Bill Metzger recently hosted a Chardonnay tasting, at his waterfront home on Grand Island. Another smaller tasting was recently held at Eveningside Vineyards & Winery, set among one of the most scenic vineyards in the state.<br /> <br /> Tastings are usually done blind as I encourage people to have an open mind about what's in their glass, but our gettogethers will never be scripted or rigid because the idea is to relax and simply experience the wine the way the winemakers intended – that is, shared with good people. With the group's continued growth I expect that I will soon be organizing dinners and a wide range of tastings in wine country and in the city.<br /> <br /> Award Winning Steampunk Cider<br /> <br /> Leonard Oakes Estate Winery's Steampunk Cider has been 10 years in the making, and winemaker Jonathan Oakes sees his approach as being closer to that of craft beer that winemaking. As opposed to the over processed and usually syrupy sweet flavors you may find at your grocery store, Steampunk Cider seamlessly blends the structure and complexity of English ciders with the fruit forward qualities of American style cider. With aromas of fresh picked apples, this cider delivers a mouthwatering sparkling texture with the most refreshing balance of crisp acidity and ripe fruit character. It is hands-down one of the most delicious alcoholic beverages this writer has ever drunk.<br /> <br /> The soon to be released Steampunk Cider was just recognized with a double gold award, at the NY Food and Wine Classic.<br /> <br /> Oakes and the winery, also recently received the "Best Dessert Wine" acknowledgment for their 2008 Vidal Ice Wine at the NY Food and Wine Classic.

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