Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, St. David’s, Ontario
Chef-Proprietor Paul Harber has an enviable résumé. He grew up in Ontario wine country, honed his culinary skills with Chef Michael Stadtlander and then headed to Germany for 18 months to work with Stadtlander’s brother in law’s 2 star Michelin restaurant in Stuttgart. He returned to Canada and his familial roots at Ravine Vineyards Estate Winery. Three years ago, on Food Day Canada, he and his buddy Ryan Crawford did a pop up restaurant in downtown Niagara on the Lake. Horse drawn carriages slowly clopped to rest near the clock tower; the two men jumped out; fed great food to a quickly assembling crowd then headed off, into the soft southern Ontario night.
Ravine Vineyard was originally planted in 1869 by David Jackson Lowrey, the same family that today calls it ‘home’. It was one of the earliest vineyards with around 500 vines. Five farming generations of Lowreys have grown all kinds of tree fruits and grapes. Until the mid 1970s they sold their entire crop to Canada’s largest winery at the time, T.G. Bright, Ltd. At that time, almost the entire 100-acre farm was planted in labrusca and French hybrid grapes. Eventually, most of them were torn out. For several years the vineyard lay fallow until 2003, when Lowrey descendant Norma Jane (Lowrey) Harber, and her husband Blair Harber, prepared to return the upper farm’s 34 acres to grapes, but this time to very fine European varieties.
The winery site is located in the sub-appellation of Niagara called St. Davids Bench. It is different from other sub-appellations in Niagara mostly because it is the warmest area – 20 percent warmer than any other location in the region. The vineyard shares that fortuitous distinguishing feature with its neighbours, but if you go a little deeper, that is where the physical attributes it has in common ends. In fact, the property is actually an anomaly. The soils are lighter, its airflow and water drainage are more consistent, and its position on the Bench is at its highest elevation. With Peter Gamble, the founder of the Vintners Quality Alliance, as their wine consultant, Ravine wines are among the finest in Niagara. And now, with Norma Jane and Blair’s son, Paul, as Winery Chef, the food matches the wine in excellence. Their own Berkshire pigs are made into charcuterie that hangs in a specially-built cellar. They bake their own bread in a fabulous brick oven and have revived the tradition of canning using their own Lowrey’s brand label.t
One of the region’s most creative chefs, Ross Midgley, oversees the culinary operations. Ross didn’t begin cooking professionally until he was twenty-six years old when he returned to his P.E.I. home to attend The Culinary Institute of Canada. His arrival in Niagara is being welcomed with great fanfare by other chefs and diners alike. Whether it’s house-smoked whitefish, one of the finest and healthiest freshwater fishes in the country, that he makes into cakes and serves with leek/tartar sauce and a wine-poached egg; a platter of his extensive collection of charcuterie and house-made pickles; steak & thyme-scented frites or a hearty brined Ontario rack of pork, the menu is designed specifically to pair with Ravine wine-maker Martin Werner’s beautiful vintages.
Ravine Vineyards is one of many restaurants that celebrate Food Day across Canada. Contact them at the number below.
Ravine Vineyards est l’un des beaucoup des restaurants à travers tout le Canada qui participent au Journée des terroirs .
1366 York Road,
St. Davids, ON L0S 1P0