The Oklahoma Grape Industry Council is partnering with the
Oklahoma Restaurant Association to get more local wines onto local
Even though that synergistic business relationship would seem to
be good for both industries, it's only potentially positive for the
consumer, some wine connoisseurs said. Many of Oklahoma's wines
simply aren't ready for market, at least not yet.
"This can be a good thing if it's all done the right way," said
Clayton Bahr, a broker for Putnam Wines Ltd. in Oklahoma City.
"There's a lot of potential out there. There was a Gewurztraminer
made locally and a Riesling this year that were fantastic, and I
can't think of any restaurant that wouldn't want to put those wines
on their list.
"But too many others only think they're doing it right," Bahr
said. "Experts in the industry know what wine flaws are; they're
obvious problems in the process that can be fixed if they would just
take the time to fix them. A lot of our Oklahoma wineries seem to
have a lot of those flaws."
The collaborative market promotion will take the shape of a
postcard campaign, enabling diners to leave notes at favorite
restaurants to prod them into adding local wines to the menu, said
Gene Clifton, president of the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council. The
campaign has a political aspect to it as well. Some Oklahoma
wineries do not distribute their product to retail liquor stores and
restaurants because of the annual licensing fee. Mike Greenfield of
Greenfield Vineyards and Winery in Chandler said the grape industry
association hopes increased consumer demand will lead to legislative
"With a rich history in grape vineyards and wine, Oklahoma is
poised to become a grape and wine leader in the south central U.S.,"
Bahr and others in the industry agree, but add that Oklahoma's
success depends on the state's overall vintner skill level - putting
bad wine on restaurant tables leads to badly trained palates, at
best, and potentially turns consumers away entirely.
Bruce Rinehart at Rococo restaurant in Oklahoma City cited a
Shiraz blend, the Impressao, from Tidal School Vineyards in
Drumright as a particularly worthy example of wine done right, and
said he wished similar success for other Oklahoma vintners. The
Impressao won a gold medal at the Lone Star International Wine
"We want to support Oklahoma wines," Rinehart said. "And when we
can, we do."
Other restaurant operators said they were reluctant to publicly
criticize their colleagues. One manager who asked to not be
identified said it would be political suicide to discuss the
industry's faults. …