On a recent trip north of the Red River, I took the opportunity to check out the wine offerings of Oklahoma. After a quick Google search for “Oklahoma wineries”, I found one that wasn’t too far off my travel itinerary. The winery was the Winery of the Wichitas located in Medicine Park, Oklahoma. This winery was started by Lex and Marty Hazelwood who decided to open a winery after they retired. As Marty put it in a 2008 episode of the Oklahoma Horizon program, “I love grapes, love wine, and it just seemed like a natural thing to do when I retired, because I love wine, and I wanted to be a winemaker and own a winery.” To begin the journey, Marty enrolled in an Associate Degree Program in Viticulture & Enology at Grayson County College in Dennison, Texas. Not only did this teach her about viticulture, but it also put her in contact with others in Oklahoma and Texas interested in the wine making business. The ties to the Texas Wine industry doesn’t stop there, according to a December 2008 article in the Edmond Sun, the Hazelwood’s consulting chemist is Benedict Rhyne, chemist for Ste. Genevieve Winery in Fort Stockton, Texas.
According the website, the wines produced include Palomino/Chablis, White Table Wine, Blush, Petite Syrah, and Syrah. However on my visit, the wine selection included an Oklahoma Desert Flower, Blush, White Table Wine, and a Merlot. The tasting room also doubles as a restaurant, the Buffalo Bistro. The wine bar was similar to what I’ve seen at other wineries, however the attendant knew little about the wines. I asked a couple questions related to where the grapes were grown, blends, and if there was any literature available about the winery or the wines. I received a smile, but little more than that. After a quick tasting, I selected the Oklahoma Desert Flower because it tasted similar to a Muscat that my wife would enjoy. The bottle was a bit more than I had anticipated on spending, ringing up at $21 before taxes. The price and the fact that it had the name “Oklahoma” on the bottle led me to believe that it was wine made with Oklahoma fruit. According to an Oklahoma Magazine article, if the a bottle has the “Oklahoma” label it is required have a minimum of 75% of local fruit.
Oklahoma’s wine industry is relatively young. According to Charles Cantrell in a 2007 article for the Greater Tulsa Reporter, in 2000 only four wineries operated in Oklahoma, as as of 2007 that number had jumped to over 50. Just as a point of comparison, the state of Texas has more than 170 wineries. None the less, I’m a firm believer in trying new wines and new wineries, and now I can say I’ve tried wine from an Oklahoma winery.