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You’re doin’ vine, Oklahoma

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Currently,
Oklahoma wineries account for nearly $100 million in economic impact
annually. As of 2010, there were 51 licensed wineries and 139
grape-growers in the state. The industry provided 840 jobs for
Oklahomans. The numbers come from a survey by California-based Frank,
Rimerman + Co.

“Ninety
to 95 percent of all Oklahoma wines are sold in tasting rooms or at
festivals and events,” said Jill Stichler, OGIC’s treasurer.

The
group commissioned the survey to assess the state of the industry.
Based on the findings, OGIC members have targeted three areas for
improvement: marketing, legislation and education. The latter is focused
on teaching people how to grow quality grapes.

“You
can’t make good wine from crappy grapes,” said Stichler, who owns
Willow Pond Vineyard in Lexington. “We encourage people who are
interested to get educated at an accredited institution like Redlands
Community College or Oklahoma State University.”

Stichler said a lack of education has hurt the state’s wine industry.

“We
try to educate people about varietals, trellising, pruning, pest
control and all the things they need to know to succeed,” she said. “You
can’t plant varietals no one wants to buy.”

Winning wines

OGIC
is working to correct problems and market good wines. Using California
fruit to make “Oklahoma” wine is not its focus. Its main task is
improving local products made with Oklahoma grapes.

Gene
Clifton, president of OGIC, is the owner and winemaker at Canadian
River Winery in Lexington. His Muscat Canelli, a full-bodied, semi-sweet
white, is an example of good Oklahoma wine. It is available at Byron’s,
2322 N. Broadway Ave.; Pancho’s, 6801 N. Meridian; and Joe’s Place,
1330 Alameda, Norman.

Oklahoma
seems to do better with whites than reds so far. Summerside Vineyards
in Vinita is producing some of the state’s best white wines. Varietally
correct and well-balanced, it has won multiple awards, including a gold
medal at the 2010 Oklahoma State Fair.

Its Riesling is particularly impressive.

The winery makes a dry and a sweet Riesling, both of which showcase crisp fruit flavors and food-friendly acid.

Summerside
wines are available at The Wine Gallery, 12000 S. Western; Sam’s
Warehouse Liquor, 2933 N.W. 63rd; and Fenwick Liquor, 16712 N. Penn,
Edmond.

Dale Pound has
been making wines outside of Anadarko since 1998. His Woods &
Waters Winery produces some of the best noble grape reds in the state.
When other wineries were producing flawed Merlot and Cabernet early on,
his wines showed restraint, balance and varietal correctness.

For
several years, Pound only sold his wines out of his tasting room. Now
he works with the state’s wholesalers, which means his product is
available throughout the state.

The
new Woods & Waters 2009 Malbec is sold out at the tasting room, but
might still be available at retail locations. Like his other Bordeaux
varietals, the Malbec is an excellent example of what Oklahoma’s climate
can do for Bordeaux grapes, including Cabernet and Merlot.

His wines are available at Sam’s Warehouse Liquor, Joe’s Place in Norman and Quicker Liquor at 9109 S. May.

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