When you visit an Oklahoma winery or vineyard, you are able to enjoy unique local wines and can often learn about how those wines were made. What you may not realize is how long these spaces have had a prominent role here. Our state has a long history of grape growing and winemaking – dating back to the 19th century!
Our State’s History of Wineries and Vineyards
The Early Days of Oklahoma Vineyards
People have been growing grapes in Oklahoma since before it was a state, with the first known vineyard opening in 1898. By the early 1900s, the state had over 5,000 acres of vineyards, where farmers grew table grapes along with fruit that was perfect for wines.
When statehood began, the sale of alcohol was banned. This was furthered on a national level when the 18th Amendment was ratified in 1919. However, Oklahoma’s grape growing industry still thrived; from 1919 to 1923, the state averaged over 1,800 tons of grapes produced per year.
Oklahoma was the second-highest producer of grapes in the United States until the Dust Bowl began in the 1930s. Much like other farmland throughout the state, vineyards suffered throughout those years. Work was still done to help the industry thrive again; for example, Oklahoma A&M began research on 75 American hybrid grape varieties.
New Opportunities Lead to Growth
After Prohibition was repealed in 1933 and the Dust Bowl ended in 1936, Oklahoma vineyards were able to start recovering; however, it would be a long road. During this time, the industry was still supported. In the 1950s, Oklahoma A&M expanded its research on American grapes by including an additional 43 varietals into its study. Most of those were table grapes.
More substantial growth in the industry was made possible in 1956, as the Liquor Control Act determined that Oklahoma would no longer be a dry state. By the mid-1990s, a steady growth in grape production and winemaking was in effect – which continues to this day.
In addition to the hard work of grape growers and winemakers, growth is supported by various associations and education programs that began in the 1990s and 2000s. Our state also established a Viticulture & Enology Fund in 2009 with the goal of developing education programs, strategies, technologies, and more to help with growing grapes in Oklahoma.
Supporting Oklahoma Winemaking, Today
Oklahoma’s wine and grape industry continues to move forward in size and quality. Within our state’s 77 counties, 40 have active vineyards. Currently, there are over 100 acres of land dedicated to producing quality Oklahoma-grown grapes.
The Oklahoma Grape Industry Council was established in 2010, and we are proud to be part of our state’s storied history of grape growing and winemaking. We aim to support every member of Oklahoma’s wine and grape industry while building a strong community of viticulturists, vintners, and hobbyists.
Experience Our State’s Wine History at an Oklahoma Winery
If you are interested in sampling new wines while supporting an Oklahoma business, consider visiting one of our member wineries or vineyards. Whether you schedule a tour throughout their facility or go to a tasting room, you will have the unique opportunity to explore that location’s own history of winemaking.