A fall winery tour in central Oklahoma
By Susen Foster
Our adventure begins in beautiful Oklahoma City. We drive south on I-35 through Norman and exit Highway 9 west past Riverwind Casino and down the toll road to Highway 76 south (30 cents) where we begin a winding country road through small towns. As we sneak up behind Lindsay, we take a left on 120th Street, which you have to watch for, and another left on Meridian where on a vineyard covered knoll in the rolling hills north of the Washita River Valley we find Legends Vineyard & Winery (405-823-8265) with Italy's grape country painted on tasting room walls, grape clusters etched on terra cotta tiles, and huge urns overflowing with water. Legend's wines, like their Cappuccetto Rosso--a Tuscan style blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon--are truly legendary and Bob and Debbie Sirpless have a flair for very special events. (www.legendswinery.com)
Now we head south on Meridian, with a jog left at the T, into Lindsay where we turn east toward Pauls Valley on Highway 19. As we come up on I-35, we turn left at Love's and we are a quarter mile from Valley Vineyards & Winery (405-207-9829). Sunlight bounces off the sparkling wine bottles and colorful stained glass in this high-ceilinged, multi-windowed tasting room where guests sip Valley's fine wines. There is room for meetings or luncheons, and Chauncey and Joanna Klingensmith built a welcoming patio and brick fire pit to accommodate outdoor weddings and intimate concerts. (www.valleyvineyardsandwinery.com)
Next we hop on I-35 north and take Highway 77 through Purcell and Lexington, turning right on Bryant Road to Redland Juice Company aka K & J Vineyards (405-527-9181). Wine grapes picked at their peak and not allowed to ferment produce luscious juices with flavors as distinguishable as those of fine wines. Here you can taste their Golden Muscat--moderately sweet with a delicate Muscat flavor; Chardonnay--fresh and sweet with a crisp finish; Merlot--a sweet red with berry/cherry flavors; or a refreshingly light Riesling. Learn from Jill Stichler and Kathy Bates about this unique facet of the grape growing world. The pond side setting is beautiful; tastings are by appointment. (www.redlandjuice.com)
From here, we drive back to Highway 77 and go north a couple miles to Canadian River Vineyard & Winery (405-872-5565) near Lexington. This is the only truly commercial winery on the tour, but there is nothing snooty about it. It is a working winery in the midst of a vineyard where tasting wine gives guests a real sense of what winemaking is all about. Owners Bill Lehman, Gene Clifton and Chuck Decious are often around, but they are usually out in the field. The children or grandchildren will probably be the ones in the tasting room educating you on their wines. Family pride is well placed. They not only have a large selection, but their reputation precedes them when it comes to quality. (www.canadianriverwinery.com)
To reach our last stop, we cross Highway 77, take the first left onto 72nd Road where we drive a steady 50 mph to avoid tickets. When we reach Highway 9, we turn right, then left into the first driveway and we're at Red Bud Ridge Vineyard & Winery (405-306-9492). Tom Knotts learned winemaking from his dad and at college in Texas. Upon retirement, he decided to share these skills with the public. He believes a steak and a bottle of his full-bodied Big Red Steak Wine are the key to a good day. They also bottle a palate tempting Oklahoma Riesling and Three Roses, a uniquely dark and delicious rosé. The winery is nestled in a grove of oaks where the fragrance of the woods and of aging reds are part of its appeal.
Editor's note: Susen Foster is the owner of Greater Success Advertising. She is the author of numerous travel books. Susen can be reached at www.greatersuccess.com or call 580-622-5408.