Canadian River Vineyards & Winery
Can you tell us a bit about Canadian River Vineyards, how it all started and how you got to where you are today?
Canadian River Vineyards were planted in 2000 and the winery has now been going strong for 17 years. Gene Clifton and Bill Lehman moved from California determined to show that Oklahoma can grow grapes and make competitively good wine. Gene has been a pioneer in the Oklahoma grape growing the industry and encourages entrepreneurs, through education and classes, to grow their own grapes. We were later joined by another passionate wine connoisseur, Jill Stichler, who also became and is still highly involved with the Oklahoma Grape Industry. We are now doing so well that our imperative mission is to get people growing more Oklahoma grapes. We sell out every season and are always on the lookout to purchase from local growers.
What are the current and future goals for Canadian River Vineyards?
It is important to us to be one of the very few growers in this state using real OK grapes and making real OK wine. We would like to see the stipulation other states have a distinction between winemakers and kit/concentrate tasting rooms. There are close to 100 wineries in this state and less than 10 of them are making real MIO wine. We would like to see this change hugely so that we can become a legitimate wine destination location. This will not happen with kit wineries leading our state as an example of OK wine. This is extremely important to the wine industry of our state as a whole, going forward with the new law changes. We would like to see more local, farm to table restaurants carry OK wine with the same passion they use for sourcing local foods. This can happen when we have better choices of real Oklahoma wines of high quality. Our wines continue to enter and win medals in prestigious wine competitions from Fingerlakes International, Indy International (Best of Class), Texoma International to name a few, from New York to California and we hope to continue to show that it can be done here in our weather and soils. Our future goal will always be to continue to make real Oklahoma wine of award-winning quality.
How has Canadian River Vineyards contributed to our state and your community?
We constantly donate and fundraise locally for the community. Next seasons "Music in the Vineyard" will be a fundraising event for many local non-profits. Each event raising for a new fund from police and fire to local schools and gardening clubs. Gene Clifton helped create and was President of the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council, Jill- Secretary and she continues to be involved with that and the Oklahoma Grape Growers Association. We continue to educate and encourage new grape growers and purchase from many local vineyards, large or small.
Does the house have a favorite wine?
Our winemakers, owners, and employees all prefer the dry wines. We all have "Wine Time" on the patio together daily to brainstorm and connect. This usually consists of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay in the Summer and Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon in the Winter.
How does the company choose the flavors introduced into the process?
Oklahoma tends to prefer sweet wines. That is slowly changing as we become more evolved as a wine region and the drys do seem more popular in Oklahoma City, Edmond, and near the Air Force Base. We have slowly added on to our dry list with our newest dry being a Riesling grown from a vineyard in Norman, Oklahoma "The Ingels Vineyard Dry Riesling". Sweet wines are still most popular, our Moscato and Chocolate drop being best sellers. We recently added a semi-sweet Red "Sangiovese" that has been a huge hit and will be the perfect compliment to Thanksgiving dinner.