During the month of February, Vinequity will feature black wine professionals in the industry making a difference. By no means are the icons we feature here the extent of the list of black change agents, but let us introduce you to a few to get started.
Let us introduce you to Steve Byfield,Winemaker
Winery: Nyarai Cellars
Location: Niagara Peninsula, Canada
V: How did you land in the wine industry?
SB: I became interested with the mystique of wine during my period of post - secondary studies in university (pursuing a degree in music performance / education). As such my introduction to becoming interested in the culture of wine came during my second year at university the way of a part time employment working at brew on premise business where I assisted customers making and bottling their own wine and beer (this period fueled my desire to purse winemaking for the commercial side).Four months after completing my post education studies, I was hired by Southbrook Vineyards (at the time known as Southbrook Farms and Winery located in Richmond Hill, On) as part of their retail sales team. Nine months later, I was given the opportunity to apprentice as a winemaker when I was hired on as cellar hand in the summer of 2001.
V: If you were a wine grape, what would that be, and why?
SB: If I were a wine grape, I would be Sauvignon Blanc. My fascination with this grape stems (pardon the pun) from my time with Southbrook Winery. I was always taken by the broad spectrum of favours, aromatic intensity, along with its brilliant ability to be crafted in many styles (stainless steel, barrel fermented), etc. Here in Ontario, we are blessed with the type of climate that allows us to fully take advantage of the natural attributes of Sauvignon Blanc; its affinity to cool climates, its elegance, and its charming qualities. I am a huge admirer of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s as they have elevated the varietal on the mainstage, however, there’s nothing like a great Sancerre that exemplifies the true nature of this grape.
V: What is your favourite food and wine pairing?
SB: My favourite food and wine pairing is Gamay Noir paired with a rustic Caribbean offering of jerk chicken, accompanied with rice and kidney beans, affectionately referred to as rice and peas. More specifically, Malivoire Wine Company’s Courtney Gamay Noir or Dominique Piron Morgon La Chanaise.
V: Who are some of the people, industry or not, that inspire you the most?
SB: There are a number of individuals who have inspired me from within and outside of the industry. Without their support and encouragement, perhaps my career trajectory would have been different. That said, I would have to acknowledge the key individuals who were fundamental from the beginning; my parents and family, for their unwavering support and belief in their children; Mr. Paul Morton (Brew on Premise owner), who gave me the opportunity to learn the basic principles of wine and beer making; Bill and Marilyn Redelmeier, of Southbrook Vineyards, who took the chance affording me the real-world experience of commercial wine production. My time with Southbrook had a tremendous influence that would shape my aspirations to pursue my career within the industry further. It was a priceless experience.
V: Any advice for black wine professionals who would like to make it to the top of the industry?
SB: Stay focused and embrace any opportunities that can be taken as teachable moments. Knowledge is the foundation upon which you stand upon. If you truly want to be the best at your craft, you must be willing to put in the work. If that craft is your passion, well, the notion of working at it is not completely tedious but rewarding. To be complacent is a false notion of accomplishment. Character, work ethic, and professional conduct are the measurables that we are all judged by. If you carry yourself as such, your peers and your associates will take notice. Being mindful of past generations' contributions who did so much to make opportunities more accessible for us now is vital. Their willingness to sacrifice their own aspirations, endure hardships for future generations to travel further is the realization of true social equity. This renaissance that we are currently experiencing has absolutely permeated the wine culture, and the barriers of the past are being reduced.
You can get more of Steve and Nyarai Cellars at his upcoming virtual wine and food pairing.
Thank you , Steve Byfield, for sharing with us!