Dennis Flaming was once considered a traditional Oklahoma farmer.
When he and his wife, Elaine, married in 1966, they began a farming life by raising cattle and growing crops, such as wheat and alfalfa. He also did custom harvesting from south Texas to the Canadian border for 40 years.
“I decided it was time to do something else,” he says.
So he began raising a crop more associated with France, Italy and Northern California than a farming state like Oklahoma. He began growing grapes.
“I was looking for something else to do to try and stay on the farm and keep it going,” says Flaming, who owns Plymouth Valley Cellars, a vineyard and winery in Fairview. “Numerous people told us the wine industry was the coming thing. We started out just selling grapes because they were getting $1,000 an acre. But then we soon found out the real money was in the end product.”
The Flamings opened Plymouth Valley Cellars in 2006, and today, their end product consists of nine varietals of wine, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay.
“We have an experimental vineyard,” Flaming says, “where we do a little bit of each.
“I was farming 1,800 acres (of row crops and cattle) at one point, and now we’re down to a five-acre vineyard,” he adds. “It doesn’t sound like much, but it makes about the same amount of money.”
Value is particularly high at the Woods & Water Winery in Anadarko, where Dale and Lena Pound manage a 600-acre farm with the state’s largest vineyard. In addition to tastings and tours, the winery features a supper club and mystery dinner theater and is a popular location for weddings.
It is also unique in the type of grapes it grows, according to Pound.
“We can grow the true vinifera grapes, the Old World wine grapes,” he says. “Other areas of the state grow mostly hybrids, but the drier climate here allows us to grow the true wine grapes.”
The Flamings and Pounds aren’t alone when it comes to seeing the value of vineyards and wineries in Oklahoma. From mom-and-pop locations to operations with vineyards spanning hundreds of acres, the number of wineries in the state has grown significantly in the last decade. Today, Oklahoma is home to more than 60 licensed wineries.
One reason for the growth is the generally favorable climate for growing grapes throughout the state, which is divided into five distinct wine regions.
But the main reason wineries have taken such a foothold in Oklahoma is changes in state laws having to do with retail sales and some distribution, according to Gary Butler of Summerside Vineyards in Vinita.
“Those changes have been slowly coming about,” says Butler, who has served on sever wine industry boards and in leadership positions in the Oklahoma Wine and Grape Association along with his wife, Marsha. “One of the first changes was to allow wineries to sell on premises. Other changes have allowed us to sell at festivals and do self-distribution to liquor stores. Those were big improvements.”
The Butlers’ winery, located on historic Route 66, sees a good number of tourists. Like most of Oklahoma’s wineries, Summerside Vineyards has tours and tastings. It also includes a bistro and hosts a variety of events.
Indeed, the wine industry has benefited the state’s economy, not the least from tourism dollars.
“We’ve had a very positive impact on local tourism and revenue for our local community,” Butler says. “It’s adding some value to the land.”
See More Wineries in Oklahoma
Blue Coyote Vineyard & Winery
Black Sheep Winery & Vineyards
Canadian River Vineyard and Winery
Chapel Creek Winery
Clauren Ridge Vineyard and Winery
Deer Creek Vineyard, LLC
Gander Way Vineyards & Winery, LLC
Girls Gone Wine
Girouard Vines, L.L.C.
Indian Creek Village Winery
Legends Vineyard and Winery
Native Spirits Winery
Oak Hills Winery and Vineyards
Panther Hills Winery
Parsons Vineyard and Winery, (405)-395-9178
Plain View Winery
Prairie Rattler Winery
Plymouth Valley Cellars
Put A Cork In It Winery
Quartz Mountain Winery, (580)-821-6441
Redbud Ridge Vineyard & Winery
Redland Juice Company
Redstone Vineyards and Winery
Rusty Nail Winery
Strebel Creek Vineyard
Summerside Vineyards Winery & Inn
The Range Winery, (405)-247-2311
Tres Suenos Vineyards and Winery
Turkey Creek Winery, (580)-983-2285
Wakefield Country Inn and Winery
Whispering Meadows Vineyard and Winery
Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery
Winery of the Wichitas
Woodland Park Vineyards
Woods & Waters Winery
Yippee Ay-O-K, (580) 515-8214