Did you know that Oklahoma boasts at least 54 wineries? Did you also know that the state’s fine wines compare favorably with European fine wines, especially those of Spain and southern France? I certainly didn’t, until a few years back when some friends of ours bought an old vineyard, and entered the world of wine-grape growing. As it happens, Oklahoma’s varied climate zones and constantly changing weather along with its “red dirt” soil are simply made for wine-grape growing. A country walk just about anywhere in Oklahoma will testify to the proliferation of wild grape vines, some native and others reminiscent of early homesteaders. Even more amazing is that wine grape growing is the most profitable crop one can produce in the state.
The first vinyards in Oklahoma were planted before statehood (1907) by settlers staking their claims. Prohibition nixed the full scale production of wine until its repeal in 1959. Slowly, things began looking up and in the mid 1990’s wineries were booming all across the state. Today, Oklahoma’s wine industry is thriving. Many wineries offer tours of their vineyards, processing, barreling, aging and bottling facilities; tasting rooms, bistros and elegant restaurants, wedding chapels and reception venues, and more. Operating hours open to the public vary among the wineries, with some open seasonally, some year-round with limited days and some welcome visitors every day of the year. Seasonal wine festivals and wine trail tours offered by cooperating wineries offer visitors a chance to experience the Sooner state’s varied cultural history from European to Native American celebrations, museums, and fairs.
The state’s long growing season with plenty of sunshine and frequent rainstorms in spring and early summer along with our “good ol’ red dirt’ happen to provide just the right conditions, although the proper growing and management of a vineyard here certainly isn’t without its difficulties.
I was curious as to why grapes do so well in our state – after all, we have more than 54 bonded wineries in the state – so, I called my long-time friend Beth Ledbetter. Beth and her husband, Leon, are the owners and vintners of Prairie Wind Winery in Burns Flat. Since 1998, Prairie Wind Winery has been producing mostly estate wines grown on its 5.5 acre vineyard of all Vinifera grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Orange Muscat, Viognier, and Gewurztraminer. I asked Beth to give me a brief summary of the pros and cons of successfully growing grapes in Oklahoma.
“Grapes grow best in areas which lie between 30 degrees N and 30 degrees S of the equator,” Beth told me, adding “We have grapes growing in all types of soil. Grapes don’t like wet feet. They want good drainage. It is very hot (in SW Oklahoma), which can be a problem getting them to ripen evenly, especially when they’re young. At the same time, you want grapes that won’t freeze out on you. We also think that unlike California and south Texas, Oklahoma’s winters get just cold enough to kill off the organism that cause Pierce’s Disease.” Caused by the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa, Pierce’s Disease is spread by insects across the vines. The disease is less prevalent where winter temperatures are colder. Also, many muscadine grapes and American hybrids of native grapes with European wine grapes (vinifera) also seem to be less susceptible to the organism.
The combination of climate, soil and exposure to the elements is called terroir. Wind, shelter, irrigation and vineyard location all matter, too. Generally, the best wines are produced under conditions where terroir is only warm enough to just ripen the grapes. Planting times are in April and May. Summer’s heat can be intense in Oklahoma, but fortunately, grapes are ready to harvest by mid-July, which most years is just before our usual 100-plus temps typically arrive. How many grapes are grown on each vine is also important. In viticulture, a general rule of thumb is that smaller yields result in better quality grapes. Vines yield their first crop after three years, are fully productive after five, and may produce for 25-40 years.
Interested in an Oklahoma winery tour or self-guided Oklahoma wine trail? Prepare for your journey by reading about each of Oklahoma’s six distinct regions and their wines. Your travel agent, the internet, or your public library will have information on the state’s various “countries” and their wineries. Here are my top picks, in no particular order, for an introduction to Oklahoma Wines and Vineyards. Explore and enjoy. You’ll come away with more than just a few bottles of Oklahoma wine; you’ll have gained a deeper cultural appreciation of wine, its proper food pairings, and the people who make it.
Northwest Region: Red Carpet Country:
Indian Creek Village Winery, Ringwood. Winery tours and tasting; gift shop, wedding chapel, Victorian styled bed & breakfast overlooking vineyards; free Sunday afternoon concerts. Open every day, 1:00-7:00 pm. 580-883-4919
Plainview Winery, Lahoma. Twenty-five varieties of fruit wines along with proprietary food products. Guests can try jam, jelly, pickles, buffalo sausage, wine cheese and yogurt cheese. Best known for their Black Strawberry wine, they also offer assorted non-alcoholic fruit concentrates, including elderberry. Open Mon. – Tue. 9:30 am – 4:00 pm and Wed. – Sat. 9:30 am – 6:00 pm. 580-796-2902
Plymouth Valley Cellars Vineyards and Winery. Free tastings after touring winery and vineyard. Renowned for their Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Doux, Oklahoma Reisling and their ice wine specialty, Flaming Ice. 580-227-3207
Southwest Region: Great Plains Country
Panther Hills Winery, Clinton. Produces Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and specializes in Shiraz. Currently, all wines are estate grown, vinted, bottled, and sold through the winery’s tasting room. On the last two Sundays in July, visitors can tour the vineyard, see the ripening grapes hanging, view production equipment, and hear informative talks by the vintner. Vineyard tours begin at the top of each hour. Winery tours begin at each half hour. Advance notification of attending an event is necessary. Tasting room open every Sunday afternoon 1-6 p.m. or by appointment.580-337-6982
Prairie Wind Winery, Burns Flat, markets its fine table wines on site and at fairs and festivals. It is most noted for its Orange Muscat wine, a white wine with floral notes and a slight orange flavor. The winery’s tasting room is open by appointment and for private events. 580-214-0715.
Winery of the Wichitas, Medicine Park. Tasting room, art gallery, and outdoor deck overlooking the quaint historic artists and retiree village with its cobblestone buildings. Open daily, often with live music and special events. 580-588-2515
Woods and Waters Winery and Vineyard, Anadarko. Six hundred lush, rolling acres of Vinifera wine grapes. Bistro cafe. Wedding Center. Art Gallery. Several varieties of wine. Open Mon – Fri 1:00pm – 6:00pm; Sat.- Sun. 11:00am – 6:00pm. Bistro Open Sat – Sun 11-5 Only
Other times by appointment. 580-588-2515
Central Region: Frontier Country
Grape Ranch Winery and Vineyard, Okemah. Home of the Frozen Rose. Daily wine tastings of their premium wines. Outdoor deck overlooking scenic pecan groves. Special events, weddings, and corporate events. Frequent live music throughout the month. Open daily 10:00 am to dusk. 918-623-2250
Greenfield Vineyard. Chandler. Tasting room With a beautiful oak tasting bar and soft jazz music overlooks tank room from above and offers panoramic view of seven-acre vineyard and grounds. Separate marble tasting bar in gift shop. Conference room and wedding grounds. Private tours and groups welcome. Seasonal supper club events. Tues.- Thurs. 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm; Fri. – Sat. 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed Sun.- Mon. 405-258-0525
Parsons Vineyard and Winery, Shawnee. Five acre vineyard and 4,000 sq. ft. winery. Variety of estate red and white wines. Conference room, Tasting room, and patio overlooking vineyards. Tours and groups welcome. Gift baskets. Open 12:30 PM – 5:00 PM. Closed Wednesdays & Sundays
Sparks Vineyard and WInery, Sparks. Award-winning Pinot Grigio and Muscat wines, among other fine table wines. Tasting room overlooks ponds and vineyards. Hours by appointment. Private tours, events welcome. 877-669-8893
Stableridge Vineyards and Winery, Stroud. Internationally award-winning wines. Tasting room and gift shop located in the town’s original Catholic Church. built in 1898 using materials milled from local farms and ranches. Open Mon. – Fri. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sat. 10:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sun. 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm. 918-968-2568 or 800-359-3990
Tres Suenos Vineyards and Winery, Luther. Free wine tastings and tours from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Several wines, including a Riesling, and award-winning Merlot and Blanc. Tours, demonstrations, grape stomps, private parties, weddings, family or school reunions, or any special event. 4,000 square-foot facility has a 1,000 square-foot loft. 405-277-7089
Woodland Park Vineyards, Stillwater. Heritage farm, vineyards, and orchards. Tasting room, Saturday winery tours, antique rose and herb gardens, woodland trails, picnic areas, dining room, art gallery, wedding venues. Wed.- Sat. 11:00 am to 6:00 pm; Sun. by appointment.
Northeast Region: Green Country
Lavender Hill Farm Vineyard & Winery, Stone Bluff. Charming establishment. Tasting room, gift shop, several fine wines, and pure Concord grape juice. 918-482-2336
Nuyaka Creek Winery, Bristow. Wines from native Oklahoma fruits and classic wine grapes; herbal teas, grapevine stock, and elderberry plants. Wines range from raisin to blackberry, white Zinfadel to white Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, shiraz, and premium oak aged reds and whites. Free wine tastings on the weekends. Open 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Thurs.- Mon. 918-756-7568
Oak Hills Winery and Vineyards. Chelsea. Award-winning Traminette, Seyval Blanc, and Catawba and many other fine wines. Picnic grounds, tours of winery and vineyard. Tasting room and gift shop. Open Thurs. – Sun. 11:00 am to 6:00 pm or by appointment.
Stone Bluff Cellars, Haskell. Excellent, award-winning wines. Winery and vineyard tours. Wine tasting fee refunded with purchase. Dining room. Gift shop. Open Fri. – Sat. 11:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sun. 1-5 pm. Lunch served till 3:00 pm. 918-482-5655. 888-275-8579
Summerside Vineyards and Winery, Vinita. Producers, blenders, and bottlers of a range of excellent Oklahoma wines and grape juices, from dry reds and whites through sweeter styles. Free guided Cellar Tours 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm Saturdays. Free self-guided tours of winemaking facility available anytime. Open daily 9:30 to dusk. Bistro opens at 11:00 am. 888-508-WINE
Tidal School Vineyards, Drumright. California-style wine-country experience features tours of the state’s largest producing winery, free tastings, food and wine pairing talk, vineyard tour, art gallery, and gift shop. Open Thurs.- Fri. 11:00am – 5:00pm; Sat. 10:00am – 6:00pm; Sun. 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm and by appointment. Live music events throughout the month. 866-258-1903
Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery, Tulsa. More than 13 different award-winning estate wines. Tasting room, gift shop, wedding reception venue. Adopt a vine program. Harvest events. Open Mon.- Fri. 4:45 pm – 6:00 pm; Sat. 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm; Sun. by appointment.
Southcentral Region: Arbuckle Country
Legends Winery, Lindsay. Award-winning estate wines: ten grape, four fruit and one fruit/grape port. The winery hosts numerous indoor and outdoor events including murder mystery dinner parties, birthday parties, weddings and annual spring and fall wine and music festivals. Tasting room hours are Fri. – Sat. 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm and Sun. 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm. 405-823-8265.
Valley Vineyards and Winery, Paul’s Valley. Dry red, sweet red, rose, and sweet white. Tasting room. Beautiful location for weddings. Open Wed. – Sat. 12:00 to 6:30 and Sun. 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm.
Southeast Region: Kiamichi Country
Girls Gone Wine, Broken Bow. Boutique winery with tasting room and gift shop. Sixteen wines from grapes around the world are fermented, bottled and corked on site. Opportunities to taste, select, bottle your own. Open Mar.- Oct. Tues-Fri 2:00 pm -8:00 pm; Sat. 12:00 -8:00 pm; Nov.- Feb. Tues.-Sat. 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm. 580.306.WINE