What do a petroleum engineer, an ophthalmologist and an architect/design consultant have in common? They're just three of the far-sighted entrepreneurs who have brought the wine industry to Oklahoma. From one end of the Sooner State to the other, you'll find an increasing number of vineyards and wineries serving up a diverse menu of wines ranging from traditional European varieties to American hybrids. In fact, the wine industry is so promising that Oklahoma State University added a grape management course to its curriculum earlier this year.
Visitors to western Oklahoma will find Turkey Creek Winery just northwest of Cheyenne and south of Durham. Proprietor Tony Adams, an architect/design consultant, converted the hurricane cellar of a guesthouse into a compact but efficient winery. "I'm trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records as the world's smallest winery," he says in jest of his 12' x 24' operation.
Currently offering six wines, Adams and his wife Elaine literally planted the seeds of Turkey Creek Vineyard's success in 1993 on land that was homesteaded by her family in 1902. Initially selling their grape harvest to other wineries, they began commercial wine production of their own this year.
From June through October, Turkey Creek's tasting room is open from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Saturdays and by appointment. The tasting room may be small, but in addition to some delicious vinifera wines such as Merlot, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, it provides a relaxing, scenic getaway, looking out over a small lake.
Looking to get some hands-on experience? Reserve a spot in one of the weekend picking parties during the August and September harvest. Be ready to start your day early, though. "We start early in the morning to beat the heat, pick until 11 or so, then have lunch, drink some wine and relax,"
Adams says. You'll find accommodations in nearby Cheyenne, Sayre and Elk City.
For directions and more information, contact Turkey Creek Vineyard at 580/983-2285 and via email at email@example.com.
In the heart of Oklahoma's Green Country, stop by Stone Bluff Cellars Winery & Inn, where the McBratney family - Bob, Sandy and Brendan - host wine tastings, tours and operate a comfortably appointed bed and breakfast inn.
Currently making seven wines, including award-winning vintages of Native American Cynthiana, Sommet Blanc, Vignole and Royale - a blackberry and Cynthiana dessert wine - Stone Bluff Cellars opened in October 2000, just three years after the first planting (grape vines require three to five years before producing a quality harvest).
"It's grown much faster than we anticipated," says proprietor Bob McBratney, whose ophthalmology practice has taken a backseat to Stone Bluff Cellars.
In August, Stone Bluff will host two harvest festivals, again encouraging interested parties to reserve a spot on the harvest line. Following the early morning grape picking, you'll enjoy a barbecue lunch and a grape stomping contest. Stone Bluff will also host the Green Country Wine Festival, set for September 28. The small admission fee will include wine samples, live music, arts & crafts and more.
The winery sits adjacent to Trinity Farms Inn, featuring three bedrooms, a wraparound porch, a private lake with catch-and-release fishing, and more. Overnight guests receive a gourmet dinner tailored to their preferences, a tour of the winery, wine tasting, a bottle of wine, and a full breakfast.
For those seeking an afternoon getaway, Sandy McBratney will prepare a picnic lunch.
Stone Bluff's gift shop and tasting room is open from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and on Sunday from 1-5 p.m.. The gift shop features wine-related items, chocolates, locally made products, fine toiletries, candles, soaps and more. "About 50 percent of our products are made in Oklahoma," says Brendan McBratney, who coordinates marketing, sales and promotion of the family operation.
Stone Bluff Cellars Winery & Inn, located between Stone Bluff and Haskell, can be reached easily from Tulsa and Muskogee. For more information, call 918/482-5655 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website at stonebluffcellars.com.
Sandwiched between Bristow and Okmulgee, down a tree-lined gravel road, you'll enjoy the rural beauty and down-home charm of Nuyaka Creek Winery, where the vineyard is nestled among native wild fruits and vegetation.
Proprietors Pete and Dianne Jones feature 11 types of wines, including Elderberry (their biggest seller), Chardonnay, Pear and Rose' made from wild grapes. Nuyaka Creek wines contain only natural sulfates, as Jones doesn't add sulfates or preservatives. Although Nuyaka Creek is a fairly new winery, opened in 2000, Jones, a retired petroleum engineer, has been making wine since he was a youngster.
"I started making elderberry wine when I was a boy," he explains. "I've always enjoyed making wine. I've made it out of anything. You can make wine out of anything you can make jelly with. We're the only winery in the state making elderberry wine, as far as I know. It has more medicinal benefits than any red wine and has as much vitamin C as orange juice."
Nuyaka Creek also welcomes guests during the August harvest, so call to reserve a spot on the picking crew. Or drop by the cozy tasting room and gift shop (found in the Jones' family farmhouse), open from noon - 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday and by appointment. You'll find wine accessories and a variety of local craft products. As the proprietors say in their brochure, "If you drop by, you may catch us there working. If the gate is open, come on in, you are welcome. However, we may put you to work!"
Tour groups are welcome, visitors are encouraged to bring their children and pets, and with some advance notice, the Jones' will roast hot dogs in an open stone pit to go along with the wine tasting. Which raises the question: which wine goes with hot dogs?
"Whatever you like!" Jones states with a smile. He wants guests to enjoy their visit to Nuyaka Creek and encourages them to spend an afternoon on the heavily wooded farm, relaxing under the shade trees, fishing in one of the many ponds and idling the hours away in peace and quiet.
Contact Nuyaka Creek Winery at 918/756-8485, via e-mail at email@example.com and on the web at nuyakacreek.com.
You'll find more wineries throughout the Sooner State, including Robert Bartunek Winery in Enid and Indian Creek in Ringwood. Several are near the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, including Moonfeathers in Guthrie, Sparks Vineyard & Winery in Sparks, Canadian River Vineyard & Winery near Noble, Tres Suenos Vineyards & Winery in Luther, and Graham Hill in Stroud.
In southeast Oklahoma, visit Oklahoma's oldest winery, celebrating 20 years, Cimarron Cellars in Caney.
For a complete list of Oklahoma wineries, visit www.Oklahomawines.org. For information on these destinations and more, visit TravelOk.com or call 800/652-6552.
By John Bartels, Tulsa Correspondent.