By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Wine and cheese paired up last month at Oklahoma’s first statewide wine competition during the Watonga Cheese and Wine Festival. The award for Best Oklahoma Red went to Redbud Ridge Vineyard and Winery in Norman for the dry Oklahoma Syrah.
There were 65 entries in the inaugural wine competition and a 35 percent increase in attendance at the festival, organizers reported.
“Over the years, Oklahoma wine has grown from a few small wineries, into a blossoming industry and each of these wines are a wonderful example of how this unlikely industry has come of age in our state,” said Andy Barrett, chairman of the Watonga Cheese and Wine Festival. “We celebrate the excellence of each of these wineries.”
Wines entered in the competition were judged by class and division.
“As you’re trying to put the wine in the bottle, you’re thinking about what else you need to add for compexity,” said Tom Knotts, co-owner of Redbud Ridge Vineyard & Winery. “These grapes were grown in north Oklahoma City. For a wine to be called by the varietal name, they have to have 75 percent but this wine has 80 percent Syrah. I felt like it needed a little addition so it has 10 percent Tempranillo and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Knotts said Syrah is difficult to get ripened in Oklahoma, so he’s only used those grapes twice. This was a 2010 vintage.
“I try my best to only use fully ripened grapes and so I have to be particular about that when I’m looking for grapes,” Knotts said.
Wine entries were assigned medals based on a cumulative scoring system, according to festival officials. Wines were evaluated on appearance, bouquet, flavor and varietal accuracy. Redbud Ridge won silver medals for a Riesling and for “Wine for Stoops” and a bronze for the “Big Red Steak Wine.”
“I entered four wines and received four medals,” Knotts said. “The gold for the Syrah was also named the Best Oklahoma Red Wine.”
The Norman winery is located on Highway 9 at the northeast corner of the SE 72nd Street intersection. The winery will be open additional days and hours between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“When the sign is out, we’re open,” Knotts said.
Or call ahead, 321-WINE (9463).
Winner of People’s Pairing contest, which allowed festival attendees to choose their favorite wines paired with Watonga Cheese, was “Berry Woo” from Plainview Winery in Lahoma, according to festival reports.
Garnering the Best Oklahoma White award was the Yippee Ay-O-K winery in Clinton, for “Girls Are Meaner” semi-sweet white made from the Tramminette hybrid grape variety, which is related to the Gewurztraminer.
Receiving the Non-Oklahoma Red and White wine awards for wines produced in Oklahoma from grapes grown elsewhere was Tulsa’s urban winery, Girouard Vines for their “Fire Alarm Red” Petite Syrah and the “Warehouse Market” Sauvignon Blanc, labeled in their “Tulsa Deco” wine series.
Earning the Festival’s Best of Show Knudson Cup trophy, named after the Knudson family who pioneered Watonga’s connection to wine and cheese, was Base Vines and Cattle Winery of Geary for their sparkling red wine, “Glitz.” The wine was made from the Norton variety of grapes grown near Yukon by Max Cremer at the La Vina vineyard.
Watonga’s inaugural wine competition was sponsored by the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council and organized by Brad Stinson, owner of the Whirlwind Winery, Andy Barrett, chairman of the Watonga Cheese and Wine Festival, and William McGlynn, Ph.D., horticultural products processing specialist at Oklahoma State University.
Judges included McGlynn, Clayton Bahr, Premium Wines representative and host of Oklahoma’s only wine radio show, Tasting Notes; and Amie Hendrickson, general manager and sommelier at Edmond Wine Shop.
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