Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's Not All Sour Grapes

Blogger: Natasha
(photo credit: Sarah Nicodemus)

This has been a tough year for local wineries. After the late freeze this spring and the heavy rain this summer, several vineyards in northeastern Oklahoma don't have much of a crop this year.

Since 2000, the number of wineries in the state has jumped from 4 to 48. Winery presence in Oklahoma surged after the passage of SQ 688, which allowed wineries to bypass distributors and wholesalers to ship directly to liquor retailers and restaurants. SQ 688 has since been declared unconstitutional. Soon, HB 1753 came along to reinstate a prior regulation of alcohol distribution within the state such that Oklahoma wineries are free to ship to customers outside the state, but not to those within Oklahoma borders.

So, without a business relationship with a distributor – which is hard to come by, since a distributor often has to choose between pushing small quantities of specialty wine from local entities and pushing large quantities of consumer wine from much larger enterprises with leveraging power - a local winery cannot sell its juice to in-state customers from anywhere but its headquarters or local festivals. As logic would have it, vineyards don’t thrive in urban centers. When a winery is stuck on a vineyard in Bristow, Haskell or Vinita, it doesn’t get much foot traffic.

Consequently, most of the state’s wineries and vineyards can’t subsist on the grape-growing and wine-making business alone. Vineyards and wineries like Stone Bluff Cellars near Haskell and Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery, which has been sprouting near my old stomping grounds in west Tulsa since 2002, support their winemaking businesses by hosting or setting up displays at events and festivals that attract rushes of agri-tourists.

Might be a pain for some of the folks in the Oklahoma winemaking business who’d rather hone a centuries-old craft than play customer service all day, but these events open the art and craft of the winemaking process and wine culture to everyday people in the community.

Here is a frequently updated list of such events. Whatever your opinion on the regulation of alcohol in Oklahoma, find time to head out to the boonies, find a few of these wineries and enjoy their wine tastings and fall festivals. Many of them feature tastings for free, fancy meals and live entertainment. And, oh yeah: they have lots and lots of yummy wines, and they're happy to let you try as many as you'd like.

My favorites/recommendations:

Stone Bluff Cellars near Haskell hosts some of the nicest wine and food pairing events in the Tulsa area, and lunch is served on the grounds Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sunday 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Just think: good wine made from grapes grown on the country land that surrounds you, gourmet food, a view of the Tulsa skyline and wonderful people. I mean, the owner is a guy named Dr. Bob. Who couldn’t love that?

I just have two words to say about Nuyaka Creek Winery in Bristow: Petite Pecan. The best pecan pie in the world would have a hard time holding a candle to this fortified wine, which is 24 percent alcohol. Hint: sample it in a small(er) glass. Also, have a taste of the specialty at Nuyaka Creek Winery, the Elderberry Wine. I don’t need to suggest that twice.

Merlot Vines at Nuyaka Creek Winery (photo from NCW Web site)

Last but not least, take a Saturday afternoon to drop by Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery, 7374 W. 51st St. Late last week I stumbled upon Dean and Doreen Riesen and their vineyard and winery, which opened quietly this spring. After giving me a taste of several of his favorite wines, Dean took the time to tell me how the business he shares with his wife got to where it is today, rough spots and all. Dean and Doreen are some of the most darling folks – come to think of it, I find most winery people quite darling, especially after I’ve been hanging around for awhile.

Not only was the wine fabulous (I recommend the Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat Canelli), but the grounds are beautiful. The Riesens plan to host wine parties with live entertainment on the deck out back of the winery once fall hits. Take my advice: plan to attend at least one of them.

During the spring and fall, day travelers could make a weekend out of visiting the Green Country vineyards and wineries. Who says we need a bunch of concrete and air conditioning at the river to have a good time in Tulsa? Whichever box you’ll be checking Oct. 9, make an effort to enjoy the community as it exists. As this blog has proven, there’s plenty to see and do in T-town.

P.S. - From Tasha, Party Brenda, Chester, Natalie, Chris, Sarah, Jeff and Aaron, thanks for nominating Tasha Does Tulsa for Best Culture Blog, a subcategory of the 2007 Okie Blog Awards! We’re glad you enjoy our antics.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My Labor Day Weekend: An Essay by Party Brenda

Blogger: Party Brenda
(photo credit: Chris Boldini, or something)

So, this weekend was Labor Day weekend. It was also a perfect opportunity for Tulsans to get out there and enjoy the town a little more than usual.

The weather was just wonderful, especially in the morning hours – or, so I hear. Party Brenda slept in. If there is one thing I enjoy more than a good karaoke party it is sleeping in.

Get Your Shop On

Anywho, I had a great weekend. I meet up with some friends and ate dinner at P.F. Changs in Utica Square. It was delicious. Then we strolled around trying to catch some Labor Day specials. I bought a great little white dress on sale, and some unmentionables too. Ha! Wouldn’t you like to know? I just love Utica Square and the wonderful outdoor environment they’ve created there.

After we were tired of walking around and a little sweaty ‘cause it had warmed up quite a bit by then, we all headed over the Osage Casino at the End of the Yellow Brick Road, I mean the L.L. Tisdale. I usually don’t like spending time in a casino (I’m broke), but my friends assured me I would have a good time. Plus, they have a bar.

A Party Favor

So, we went! May I just say, it is so nice that they have speakers in their parking lot! The place was packed and we had to park out in BFE, but with the speakers pumping out the classic music master pieces of the eighties we had a little added bounce in our step to the front door.

We walked inside and I immediately felt as if I had already smoked five cigarettes. I guess that appeals to some people. My friend Jack lit up first thing. The security guards that met us at the front entrance were very pleasant. They even offered Jack a light.

I only had three dollars to spend, so I wanted to find a low-bidding machine. I was telling my friends that I had played a pretty fun slot machine with my Party Grandma not that long ago. I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s a little more interactive than most slot machines and also not as complicated and number-y as others.

Well, I now hate that game because it devoured my first dollar in less than five minutes. Ah well. We moved on.(photo credit: WMS Gaming)

Jack was telling us about this game he’d played for hours one day called “Super Jackpot Party.” I immediately became interested ‘cause, you know, I like to party! The game starts out like most computerized slot machines by having you pick the number of lines and how much you want to bet and yada yada yada, BUT, if you get three party symbols anywhere on the screen…

You get to have a party.

Balloons fall from the top on the screen and party blower noise maker thingys are blown, and then Disco Inferno starts playing on the speakers. I was so excited to have this party. Then the screen fills with wrapped gifts that you get to open by touching the screen. The gifts contain anything from extra credits at multiple levels, to whack a party pooper game, to a dance-off, to multiplying all the credits you had already won, etc. The best part is that you get to keep selecting gifts until you select a “party pooper” gift. The party pooper comes in and, of course, ends the party by saying something really stupid like, “Shouldn’t we all be studying?” Or, a cop will come in, and we all know how much of a party pooper one of those can be.

The game was awesome, is what I’m getting at. I spent a little more time on this one with my remaining two dollars, but I was really temped to withdraw some more cash from my checking account.

Then, we went to the bar…watched some football games and drank some Corona. Yum. Good Times.

In Conclusion

The things I wish I could have done this weekend were:

A. Buy more new clothes;

B. Drink some iced coffee at the Coffee House on Cherry Street;

C. Spent a little more time by the pool…or, just outside in general. It was beautiful.

Oh! And…

D. Hang out with my BFF Natasha. I guess she was kinda being a party pooper herself this weekend. I’m sure we’ll all hear what she’s been up to here on the blog soon.

So, in conclusion, I hope everyone found their own special little way of enjoying the long weekend. I did. We can only hope that the winter will be filled with extra icy, deadly conditions so that we don’t have to go to work all those days and we can stay home and make my award-winning cheesecake and hot chocolate.

Good-bye, summer. We will miss you. Oh, and hey, summer? See you at El Guapo later for some roof top drinks. Love it. Party On!

Natasha’s note: I was really busy being pregnant this weekend. Party Brenda and I get to hang out at Coffee Jesus tonight. Good thing there's no full moon...

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