A few days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve Byfield, the winemaker and founder of the new virtual winery called Nyarai Cellars, to taste and talk about his wines. Virtual wineries are becoming more and more popular as talented winemakers wishing to practice their craft can do so without having to come up with the huge sums of money required to invest in their own winery and vineyards. Steve sources his grapes from carefully selected vineyards within the Niagara Peninsula (Ontario, Canada) and makes artisan crafted wines from these grapes. Nyarai (pronounced na-rye) is a South African word meaning “humility” and “be humble.”
I’ve known Steve since back when he was assistant winemaker at Southbrook, when they were still located in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. He then moved on to Ridgepoint Wines, in Niagara, and then to the now defunct, Thomas and Vaughan Estate Winery. In 2006 he started working at Calamus Estate Winery, where he continues to work as a winemaker. He established Nyarai Cellars in 2008.
I was impressed with all three of the wines Steve showed me. They will soon be available on the website www.nyaraicellars.ca. Steve is hoping that even by this weekend the website will be up and running. Keep checking if it’s not.
2008 Sauvignon Blanc : This wine won a bronze medal at this year’s Ontario Wine Awards and it’s easy to see why. It has intense aromas of sweet gooseberry, pink grapefruit, and a hint of green apple. The palate showcases flavours of grapefruit, melon, and gooseberry that linger pleasingly for a long time. There is a refreshingly crisp acidity that leaves the mouth watering. It’s a great value too at only $18.20 a bottle. Steve is predicting that this wine will be sold out by the end of August so don’t wait too long to get some.
2007 Chardonnay: This wine was aged for 12 months in new and seasoned French oak. There are aromas of vanilla, cream, pear and yellow apple. The same fruit and vanilla flavours are evident on the palate where there is good acidity and just a hint of smoky toast on the finish.
2007 Cabernet-Merlot: The grapes in this wine are 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Syrah. It was aged for 13 months in French oak. I really love the nose on this wine with its pronounced aromas of red and dark fruit, a hit of spice, a touch of earthiness, and even some floral notes. It has firm tannins and the oak is well integrated, adding some caramel and chocolate to the flavours. This wine is also a great value at around $18. That night at dinner at the Stone Road Grille, I was excited to see this wine on the wine list. Of course I had to order a glass and was pleased by how well it paired with my rack of lamb.
Winemaker Steve Byfield certainly doesn’t need to be humble about these wines. They are definitely products to be very proud of.