Edmond Is... Wine Country

Written by Teddy Burch in the October 2008 Issue

Good wine is more than just a drink to accompany dinner. Good wine is an art. Dedicated winemakers search for the best grapes, the perfect blend of fruit and oak aromas, and the delicate harmony between blend and body. They strive for the richness found only in precise aging, whether it occurs on the vine or in the barrel. Edmond resident David Martin is just such a winemaker. Grapes are his canvases and wines are his masterpieces.

Martin, owner of Deer Creek Vineyard, labors for his love. His results are three Oklahoma state championships and a gold, silver and bronze medal for best wines in the state.

Oklahoma, wheat capital of the country, is also home to 53 vineyards. Becoming the wine capital of the country as well seems like a stretch until you know what Martin and his colleagues know: it’s all in the dirt.

Martin isn’t the first vintner to till Oklahoma’s soil. Winemaking came to Oklahoma before it was a state. Says Martin, “In 1907, when Oklahoma became a state, we adopted prohibition, which effectively killed our fourth leading cash crop. At the time there were many immigrants from Italy, Germany and France. First generation immigrants brought many items from home. Their grapevines were no different. They planted here and soon began making wine.”

Edmond’s first vineyard appeared with a French immigrant in 1890. Growing a variety of grapes and producing a large medley of wines, he helped established Edmond -- and put it on the map as wine country.

Martin joined vintners before him after a trip to Europe. “Driving down the autobahn through Burgundy, France it just hit me. I realized that just like the wheat in Oklahoma or the corn in Nebraska, in Europe as far as you could see on both sides of the road were vineyards. I thought, ‘It can’t be that hard to add yeast to grape juice. Surely I can learn to make good wine.’ If you’ve been to Europe, you’ve seen they have the worst soil for growing anything. But grapes thrive in soils that nothing else will grow in,” Martin says.

Edmond’s Todd Hall, owner and operator of Vintage Cellars, takes a different approach to winemaking. Hall doesn’t grow his own grapes. He imports juices of the best grapes from around the world to create a spectacular range of wines. In Hall’s shop, though, it’s not just his palate that matters. Yours is just as important, and he’ll make a custom wine to match it.

Says Hall, “Customers come in for a wine tasting. Say you taste a merlot and you like it, but would rather have it a bit more heavy. We can make that happen. We custom fit that merlot to your palate. We add the necessary ingredients to create your individual batch of wine and then we begin the aging process.”

It takes Hall a few months to put together a custom wine, but when he’s finished you can bring your friends over to Vintage Cellars for a bottling and labeling party. Says Hall, “We’ve created a wide variety of wines. As a winemaker, I appreciate every batch that’s made.”

All Oklahoma winemakers share at least one quality: pride. “There is nobody in our business that doesn’t harbor a tremendous amount of joy and accomplishment in creating wines that can be enjoyed by all Oklahomans,” says Andrew Snyder, president of the Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Making Association.

Snyder himself is a winemaker and owner of Sand Hill Vineyard. Outside of winemaking itself, his great love is teaching others how to do it. A professor at Redlands Community College, he teaches a two-year program covering the study, science and production of grapes— and how to make wine from them when they turn out right.

Martin, Hall and Snyder believe it’s never too late to become a connoisseur. And Oklahoma’s a great place to start.
Says Hall. “That’s what’s so fun about wine. You can try different styles with different foods. And what’s so easy about wine is that you don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy it. If you like a particular wine, then that’s the one to drink. Experiment and learn what you like.”

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