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.


Jeff Shaw said...

A day trip sounds like fun. Do you think it would be ok to take the kiddo along? I don's see why not?

Thanks for the Info.

Alternative Tulsa said...

Tasha: Enjoyed the wine report. We've recommended your story in a post on our site. Keep up the good work.

Mos Jef said...

I did the tour of Tidal School once. It was a good time.

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