Wineries booming across state

With almost 50 vineyards and wineries across the state, you can turn a few glasses of your favorite Merlot into a wine-soaked weekend of full-bellied fun.

While out-of-state wine snobs may pooh-pooh Oklahoma's fledgling wine industry, Don Neal, co-owner of StableRidge Vineyards in Stroud, said this still-tiny business was once more full-bodied (with a rich bouquet).
"In 1908, Oklahoma had 5,000 acres of grapes, according to the official census," he said. "But, when we became a state in 1907, we joined the union as a bone-dry state 10 years before Prohibition. Everything that was in the ground at that time became cotton. We had to start the industry all over again about 10 years ago."

The wine may be young, but it's not so weak. In a recent competition in New York, StableRidge wines won two gold medals in a blind taste test out of 2,126 wines entered.

"Can you imagine when the judges looked at that bottle and said 'Oklahoma?' It just shows that we can compete in the world," Neal said.

Jack Whiteman, managing partner at Grape Ranch Vineyards in Okemah, admitted that temperature plays a much bigger role in Oklahoma wine production than in some of the more well-known wine regions like California.

But, he said, "the wine country experience is about beautiful vineyards and wineries, education and fun. The source of the grapes, I believe, is secondary." "Jenny Coon Peterson


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