Lynoaken farm was founded in 1919 along the Niagara Escarpment. Sheltered along moderating shores of Lake Ontario, the multigeneration fruit farm has been a leader in the New York apple and cider community. In 2004 Darrel Oakes teamed up with Cornell’s Dr Ian Merwin to plant a large collection of heritage and cider apples. Today this mature planting is unique with the growing cider community. The next generation Jonathan and Christopher have focused on developing and understanding the future of the region for cider making.
Any adventure is an inherently bold and often risky, endeavor. Jonathon Oaks is a proud son of Western New York, growing up in a generational orcharding family. An adventurer at heart, he started his “adulthood” trying to embody his childhood hero, Indiana Jones. After studying anthropology at Mercyhurst University, Jonathan continued the adventure in Buffalo living as a punk rock freegan in a collective house and putting on shows featuring bands from around the world. Oakes came to the family’s 4th generation fruit farm when his father lured him back to help plant and care for their new endeavor; vinifera grape vines. Tending to the vines led Jonathon to experiment with fermentation in his great grandmother’s basement, using bittersweet cider fruit from a collaborative planting between his father Darrel Oaks and Dr. Ian Merwin. In 2004 Jonathan attended esteemed UK cider educator Peter Mitchell’s cider making course and was instantly hooked. As the passion began to boil, Oakes enrolled at Niagara College, Canada where he studied viticulture and enology all while laying the groundwork back at the farm for what would become Leonard Oakes Estate Winery and Steampunk Cidery.
About the Oakes Family, Leonard Oakes Winery and Steampunk Cider
While Jonathan was learning how to make exceptional wines in Niagara, his younger brother Christopher devoted himself on the family farm. Christopher returned to manage the family’s apple crop after earning a degree in sound recording technology from the University at Fredonia. Chris took the lead to expand their already considerable apple blocks to include more bitter sharp and bittersweet varieties. LyOaken was one of the first farms in the area to commit to growing proper cider fruit.
They applied vineyard and winery lesson from their cool climate grapes to make clean ciders with an expression of both the place and the maker’s hand. It is in this work - making estate-grown cider, complex with aromatics and balanced in sweetness, acidity, and bitterness, speaking clearly of place, time, and point-of-view, that the Oakes brothers have found themselves. Steampunk Cider is a fraternal adventure, full of potential, requiring nerve, rewarding the family vision of making their farm viable for generations to come.