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Oklahoma vineyards on rise, but face legislative challenge



The two things for Oklahoma wineries to fear are weather and government, according to Randall Miller, the owner of Piedmontese Nursery & Vineyard in Duncan.

Miller, who is an adjunct professor of agriculture at Oklahoma State University's Oklahoma City campus, teaches three different classes a semester on growing vinifera, or wine grapes. And without advertising or promotion, the classes are filling up, he said.

"It seems to be pretty strong. We haven't done a whole lot of advertising and we've had a pretty good turnout," Miller said. "On one hand, it has somewhat of a romantic side to it. But it is also one of the fastest growing industries in the state."

However, the growth of wineries around the state does not come easy, he said. Oklahoma has challenges.

Recently, a federal court declared unconstitutional a law that was to allow direct shipments from Oklahoma wineries to restaurants and customers within the state. The decision to strike down the law threw a cow patty into the vintage.

"(The recent court decision) prevents wineries from self-distributing to liquor stores and restaurants, which was obviously a large retail outlet for their product," Miller said. "They can still sell at their winery and at festivals."

Miller said he is cautiously hopeful that upcoming legislation might again try to level the playing field for Oklahoma wineries.

"Oklahoma has those archaic laws left over from Prohibition era. Our centennial is also the centennial celebration of Prohibition in the state as well," he said. "Ben Fenwick

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