The drought of 2012 made it difficult at best and impossible in some cases to be a farmer in most of America. The hot, dry conditions killed or stunted everything from corn to soybeans. But in Oklahoma at least one crop thrived and will deliver outstanding quality. That crop is wine grapes. “This past summer was nearly ideal” Andrew Snyder told KRMG news. Snyder owns the Sand Hill Winery in Calumet Oklahoma and is a Professor of Viticulture and Enology (that means he knows grapes) at Redlands Redlands Community College. “With the 30 some days we’re going to have of 100 degree temperatures coupled with the early bud break we had allowed us to harvest two or three weeks earlier than we would have” he continued.
Andrew says in the case of wine grapes, the lack of water actually helps. “Reducing the irrigation does concentrate those flavors and gives you some grapes that’ll give you some great wine.” Because of that, Oklahoma growers have always been careful to manage the amount of water their grapes get. "We use an irrigation process called RDI" Andrew explained. "If we can back off on that water then the sugars concenterate in those grape clusters, you get better flavor profiles.”
Less water doesn’t just concentrate the flavor, it also makes the grapes smaller. Andrew says that is an advantage as well. “When you have smaller berries you have more skin than you do juice and pulp” Snyder explained. Andrew went on “in the case of red wine, that’s where we get the color so that skin to pulp ratio is actually an advantage to us.”
You might not think of Oklahoma as, pardon the pun, a wine hot spot but Andrew says don’t write us off. Oklahoma did very well in a large Dallas wine competition in 2011 “they had over 3,000 wines that were entered in that competition, only 173 gold medals were awarded and we own one of those.”
So what grows well here? “Tempranillo, Albariño, some Spanish varieties” Snyder began. ”We’re making some good solid cabs (Cabernet) and that Norton that I talked about which is an American grape” he wrapped up.
Snyder also told us that while Napa Valley is still the Holy Grail of grape growing in America, Oklahoma does just fine. “From Guymon all the way down to the Red River you’re going to see a lot of varying climates that you’re going to see vineyards grown in.”
Snyder told us many are surprised at how good Oklahoma wine really is. And he hopes sometime soon, you have a chance to tip a glass and find out for yourself.