oysterman

Oysterman wine is a boutique product that will benefit oyster bed replenishment. Stephanie Barna/Staff

Wine importer Frederick Corriher was inspired by Casey Davidson, the owner of Toadfish Outfitters to create a wine that could generate money to help coastal ecology. 

Toadfish makes and sells oyster knives, shrimp cleaners and fishing rods, but its main mission is to use those products to raise money for replenishing oyster reef habitat.

"I started the company around the idea of replanting oyster beds, because I knew how important oysters are to water quality," says Davidson, whi launched the company in 2017. 

For every product sold, Toadfish can fund the planting of 10 square feet of oyster shells, providing a place for oyster spat to latch onto and grow. Their products are in 500 retail outlets across the country, and they've raised $50,000 for oyster replenishment projects. 

"That's a lot of working capital we could’ve used," admits Davidson, "but we’re putting our money where our mouth is. Each month we donate to a different oyster restoration program."

Locally, $20,000 has been donated to benefit the Department of Natural Resources' program.

Ben Dyar manages that DNR effort and says they received $10,000, with another $10,00 given to Coastal Conservation Association, which purchased trailers with that money on behalf of DNR.

"We were able to create a couple public drop-off locations directly with that money," he says. "And we can use those trailers every year to recycle hundreds if not thousands of bushels," says Dyar, who is thankful that Toadfish is working to benefit the oyster beds.

"When we harvest, we take the shell and the oyster themselves," he says. "So we’re taking out of the water the very habitat that the oyster needs. It's critical that that substrate gets returned back to the water."

Toadfish started with an oyster knife designed to grab attention and raise awareness of that critical mission of repopulating oyster beds. "We wanted to make something so people at an oyster roast would see the bright teal knife to and ask what it's about," says Davidson. "We really wanted to connect with people at that level."

From there, they started developing other products like a shrimp cleaner and a crab cracker that cuts even circles around claws without crushing them. He expects that one to be a big hit as well. "Our biggest competition is a butter knife and a two dollar nutcracker," he says.

Corriher thought Davidson's story was inspiring and hatched an idea to make a wine that would support the same mission. "After I met him, on my next trip to France I was on a search for Muscadet wine in the Loire Valley."

Muscadet is a white wine that's known for going well with seafood, particularly oysters. "It's a classic pairing," says Corriher. He thought a Muscadet would be the right type of wine to create to benefit South Carolina's coast since people might order it to go with oysters and get a subtle lesson about the stress the oyster's habitat is under.

In France, he met winemakers Guy and Jean-Luc Ollivier, who agreed to work with him to produce a boutique wine called Oysterman, which is making its debut in Charleston this week. 

He is also partnering with Toadfish to donate a portion of the proceeds to programs like the DNR's oyster recycling program. For each case sold, they say it will replant 10 square feet of oyster beds. 

Davidson is glad Corriher decided to take up the cause. "I would encourage any business to donate to oyster restoration," he says. "It’s the most important work we can do for the coast."

Follow Stephanie Barna on Twitter @stefbarna.