Plains of Oklahoma
As far as landscape goes, there is little to commend our state except gloriously painted sunrises and sunsets. I’m not purposefully trying to malign the place I live; I’m just stating a fact. No sandy shorelines form the boundaries, or rugged mountain ranges or seventh wonders of the world. Just miles and miles of rolling grassy plains, scrubby treed hills, and ruddy colored lakes make up our buckle of the Bible belt.
However, there are a few endearing characteristics that set us apart from other parts of the world. One is a strong faith that no amount of tornadoes, terrorists, and economic tumbles appears to shake.
Another is despite our lack of jaw-dropping topography, Oklahomans are genuinely an outdoor loving group who hunt (hence the guns), fish, boat (strangely enough, we can boast of more shoreline than New Jersey) and golf. The semi-treeless landscape is perfect for raising golf champs and we have several.
However, there is one unique characteristic that recently had me cringing for a moment. Oklahomans love sweet wine. Love it. A majority of Oklahoma produced wine is sweet and everyone from wine tasting hosts to clerks at Farmers Markets to liquor stores have mentioned the affinity. Maybe it’s a quasi-Southern thing like drinking sweet tea. Or it’s probably just the fact wine making in Oklahoma is tough with the long hot summers and brick clay soil. Sweet wine sells well and even better if it’s peach flavored and named ‘Delightfully Delicious’ and all of the local wineries pour their own fuzzy versions. Personally, I’m not fond of the stuff and often skip any free samples.
Last year, we took a vineyard tour with a winemaker in southern Oklahoma who let slip that when he had a batch of wine refusing to become a characteristic merlot, it was no big deal, he just added sugar and made sweet wine. Guaranteed seller. He currently makes Chocolate Drop, Strawberry Road and you guessed it, a good ol’ peach, Noble Blush as his sweet wine contributions. In his defense, his Cabernet isn’t too flabby either.
Over the weekend, my husband and I visited one of our local wineries and experienced once again the sweet wine dominance of the Oklahoma wine scene. The winery was Put A Cork In It which is located in Bricktown on the river canal. For those not familiar with downtown Oklahoma City, a river walk runs from the ballpark to the home of Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Restaurants, theatres, shopping, art and canal rides take up the space in-between. Interestingly enough, Put A Cork In It sources all their grapes from California, Washington, and Chile so I thought there would be more of a balance in the wine offerings. We ordered the Souvenir Glass/Wine tasting which included all their wines and started with Ikana Riesling, (Ikana is Choctaw for friend.) We quickly moved onto Dustbowl Chardonnay, Skirt Alert Sauvignon Blanc, Indian Paintbrush Merlot and Thunderhead Cabernet Sauvignon. Can you guess the theme?
Then we got to down to business with the 6 sweet wine offerings. As the hostess poured, she said unprompted, ‘Oklahomans love sweet wine’. The mantra was repeated like an apology and I started feeling bad about our apparent simple tastes. As we sampled Scissortail Moscato to Skinny Dip and then Delightfully Delicious Peach Chardonnay, my spirits sunk lower. A second hostess reminded us ‘Oklahomans love sweet wine’ as she poured Rose Rock, a white Merlot and then Red Dirt Road, a wild berry Shiraz. Maybe she thought we were tourists? The last one was Sweet Crude, a blackberry Cabernet that was reminiscent of Marilla Cuthbert’s Blackberry Cordial. You know, the infamous cordial that nearly ended Anne of Green Gables ‘bosom friendship’ with Diana Barry after Diana went home drunk from the tea party. Just good clean fun. My Grandma Sue used to drive from their dry county over the state line for raspberry cordial. Apparently fruit cordials are popular among Southern ladies. It’s more refined for ladies in the south to get tipsy on cordials than moonshine or bourbon, I suppose. Honestly, I thought the Sweet Crude was good and I’m tempted to try it again.
Well, I left the winery feeling somewhat low about my State’s wine tastes. The longer I mulled over my low opinion, the more ashamed I felt for judging them so harshly. See, I realized the affinity for sweet wine is actually just a reflection of the nature of Oklahomans. That nature is one of several reasons I love living here. Oklahomans tend to be genuine, kind, and easy-going. They’re quick to forgive and swift to lend a hand. They like life with a touch of sweet.
The winemaker expressed Oklahoma’s attitude the best. “It’s no big deal. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just add sugar and make sweet wine. Life’s still good.”
Cheers to the good life!