Summer break is almost upon us! How do I know? This is the last week of school, my kids are freaking out over finals and the air conditioner just clicked on for the third time this hour despite the interspersed chilly days of rain and tornadoes. Anyway, I’ve started planning a few mini-road trips and hope to get to a couple Oklahoma wineries before school starts again in August. Ya, I know, it’s only May but I guarantee we’ll both wake up in July in a week or two and pre-school activities will be on the horizon!
Oklahoma Wine Trail
I know I’ve mentioned my home state’s love affair with sweet wine. However, there appears to be a steady growth in the production of good red blends, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Merlots among Oklahoma vineyards that’s simultaneously gaining appreciation among Oklahoma wine drinkers. Make good wine, they will come. Even the number of licensed wineries has multiplied since the mid-90s from 4 to over 60 with a handful located along the historic Mother Road – Route 66, which can make for a very pleasant road trip.
We had the opportunity to taste two Oklahoma Cabernet Sauvignons a few weeks ago while in the middle of a very successful DIY project; successful because it only required two additional trips to Lowes. The first one we tried was while strolling through our town’s annual Arts Festival. The evening was calm and comfortable, crowned with a clear twilight sky. A couple Oklahoma wineries had tasting booths where you could buy a ‘Large Taste’ to enjoy alongside the art appreciation. It cracks me up that the ‘taste’ was really a big glass but the law requires creative semantics. Anyway, we sampled several wines from Sparks Vineyard and Winery located in southeastern Oklahoma and decided their Cabernet Sauvignon was worth bringing home.
The second Cabernet Sauvignon we picked up was from a vineyard closer to us, Clauren Ridge Vineyard. The challenge of wiring in a new kitchen light can produce great thirst as well as anxiety, so we took a break and enjoyed the sunshine and wine on CRV’s lovely porch. It made for a good comparison between the two wines. Clauren Ridge is nice but Sparks resembled more of a traditional Cabernet with pronounced bold fruit and tannin. However, both contained a certain native flavor on the finish.
Here’s the thing. If you’ve tasted an Oklahoma Cabernet, you’ll notice immediately a certain something consistent with all of them. A particular aroma/flavor I like to refer to as the Oklahoma ‘umami’. Regardless of the vineyard, this ‘umami’ seems to show up in almost every bottle. I think it’s born from the windy, heat kissed red clay terroir of these Great Plains. So, this summer if you get a chance to visit our panhandled patch of red earth, make a point to visit a winery and try it.
The Historic Mother Road
Last weekend, while a few of our teens played Commencement and our college kid took her first road trip sans parents to Texas, we explored Route 66 between Oklahoma City and Stroud. The main reason; there’s a winery tucked in among the historic attractions and, of course, Pops with its nearly 700 sodas. Our youngest daughter got stuck with us for the afternoon so we bribed her with the promise she could drink herself into a sugar-induced coma.
Pops is a diner and gas station with two main attractions: a gigantic roadside soda bottle and 700 sodas.
Soda flavors range in everything from Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon (It really does taste like chocolate bacon), buffalo wings, peanut butter & jelly to jalapeno. Their monikers are just as interesting with the likes of Deadworld Zeek Cocktail Cotton Candy, Rowdy Roddy Piper Bubble Gum, Avery Bug Barf and Gross Gus’s Bloody Nose. I think Gus’s is actually cherry but I don’t have the courage to try it. And for the coffee lover there’s a soda called Martian Poop. Yum. Overall, a worthwhile stop with or without kids.
Sugar coma complete, we headed up the mother road toward Stroud and Stable Ridge Vineyards which sits a mile off Route 66 in a relocated Catholic Church. The vineyard and winery were actually started from the result of two separate tornado events. Moral of the story: if a tornado wipes out your house, plant a vineyard.
Stable Ridge Vineyards has a variety of wines to sample. Their most popular and award-winning is Jeremiah Red, a dessert wine made from a blend of full-bodied reds and blackberries. However, the owner/winemaker has an affinity for growing Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc is hard to impossible to grow in Oklahoma but the winemaker enjoys the challenge. The owners have recently planted more of the vines to try and replace dwindling growth.
In the end, we left with a semi-sweet white wine made of Riesling and natural lemon flavoring named Soleil which was a refreshing compliment to the humid evening. It’s basically wine lemonade and pairs very well with summer.
At the beginning of June, I’ll have another opportunity to compare more Cabernet when a majority of Oklahoma vineyards and wineries gather for Wines of the West in historic Stockyard City. You’re welcome to join me. Just shine up your cowboy boots and ride into town on June 3rd.