Industry Comments

In the immortal words of Jim Morrison, This is the End (of the Glog).  It has been a fun, educational tool for me to communicate with growers and I hope that you found it useful.  This is the last entry, but it will remain up for reading — at least for awhile.  I will start a new blog sometime after I start at Mississippi State University and it will be on  Some other capstone items I wish to say:

1. Please continue to support OSU’s viticulture and enology efforts.  Just because I am leaving does not mean the program just goes away.  And if you would like to see my position refilled (that is not guaranteed!), I suggest developing a strategic plan to make this happen.  Contact the appropriate people (department heads, deans, provost, president, legislators, anyone with influence — and money), find a way to provide some funding to support research and extension efforts and do it on an annual basis, and come up with a plan of attack that may include having discussing with folks in the pecan industry.  It is unlikely that the position will be refilled solely as a grape position, but as a joint position with pecans is possible.  A plan of action may look like this: rally support for filling the position within the industry by drafting a position paper on why it needs to be filled as soon as possible, develop a plan for funding assistance to do the work you need done through research and extension, develop strong relationships with the OSU horticulture dept head and OSU division of agriculture dean.  If they don’t know you exist, then they won’t care.  How many times since 2005 (when I started) has anyone in the industry interacted with the dean?  I don’t know the answer to that, but if it is 0 or a very few times then that does not bode well.  A plan of action must include items like “why the position is important to the industry”, “what does the industry bring to the table in order for the university to invest in the position”, “how is the industry growing and what are future projections such that a continuing presence is needed?”.  Think about resources that might be available for an extension specialist to use (in-kind services, etc.).  In essence Why does the grape and wine industry of Oklahoma need this position to be filled and what is the Oklahoma grape and wine industry prepared to do about it?

2. Contribute your voice to an industry organization and keep abreast of what is happening in the industry now.

3. Don’t forget to read my last issue of Le Vigneron (to be published sometime early October).  It will include some photos of our vineyard, data and interpretation of the Perkins vineyard since 2002, and some other goodies.  At this point I don’t know if it will be the last one or not, but it will be a “blow-out” issue.  If you are not on the mailing list you can always find it online here (

4. Growers and wineries need to stick together and display a unified front to legislators.  Find a way past the differences and work together.  To be honest, other states have really gotten their acts together and formed cohesive state organizations that get a lot done.  It might be a good idea to talk with leaders from other states that are on a similar scale to Oklahoma  (like Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, etc. to find out what they are doing that is successful).

5. Be leery, but not dismissive, of vinifera grapes.  Well, maybe dismissive in many parts of northern Oklahoma.  Vinifera grapes can grow in Oklahoma, but we are concerned not only with growth.  We are also concerned with productivity, survival, disease resistance, and fruit quality.  Through my six years here I have come to these conclusions: Vinifera grapes are high-risk and should not be a first choice north of I-40.  South of I-40 on excellent sites they can be considered but not all varieties work.  Always use a rootstock, preferably a low vigor rootstock like 101-14.  Economics must be a prominent thought in variety choice.  What price per ton can be obtained?  How much does it cost to maintain per acre per year?

6. Open your mind to hybrid grapes.  There are many good varieties out there.  The only way to learn about them is to taste the wine and view the vine growth.  There are opportunities to do this within Oklahoma as well as in surrounding states.

7. If you have not done so already, please complete this survey:

8. Attend conferences such as ASEV, Unified Symposium, Midwest Grape and Wine Conference, etc.  The national perspective you get from these types of venues are invaluable.

9. Stay positive.  Oklahoma is a difficult place to grow grapes, but it can be done (with proper variety selection, site selection, management, and education).  Setbacks will happen, but Oklahoma has a terroir different from anywhere else, so it is exciting to be able to taste that through the grapes.  Taste Native Oklahoma is something to strive for.  Will it be possible to have an industry built entirely on Oklahoma grapes?  I don’t know, but at this point it is unlikely and impossible.  However, with a positive attitude anything is possible.

10. Not sure what else to say, but I wanted to have 10 items here.  So, as Bill S. Preston, Esq. once said, “Be excellent to each other.”


I know I am, but then again I am headed to Hawaii next week.  If you don’t have that option, then check out Roberdes Family Vineyards and Winery.  On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 starting at 2pm they will host the Roberdes Family Luau.  Included in the event is Music, Roast Pig, Bike and Auto Show, and, of course, Wine.  Need directions?  Go here:


The ICCVE will be hosting a workshop on ‘Vineyard and Winery Economics – From Vineyard to Customer’ with noted wine industry business advisor Mike Fisher. Mike is a CPA and holds degrees in accounting from the University of Missouri and enology from UC-Davis. He is also a founding partner of Global Wine Partners LLC. The workshop will be held at Les Bourgeois Winery’s Bistro Restaurant in Rocheport, MO on Tuesday, October 4th from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Registration is $65 per person. You may register online at The registration deadline is October 3rd.

I went to the OGIC board meeting yesterday and was somewhat struck by how “embryonic” the group is.  They are trying to take everything back to the beginning — back to involving wineries and growers alike.  I believe this is definitely the right way to go forward.  Over the years the Oklahoma grape and wine industry has become convoluted, confusing, and, in some cases, downright distasteful.  The state now has two organizations and it is up to you to choose which one to join.  In my mind it is not a question of joining or not, if you are in the industry and have any stake at all, you must join.  To these organizations member numbers matter — member participation matters.  One of these organizations will decide the future of the Oklahoma grape and wine industry.  I know how I would make my decision — communications.  Do I hear from the organization?  Am I apprised of what is happening?  Do they ask my input on matters?  Do they have a vision for the future?  I’m not a winery owner or commercial grape grower, but I know where I would spend my money.  You may think differently, and that’s OK, but non-participation will keep the industry in this fractured and chaotic state.  One organization must emerge as the leader on issues in Oklahoma.  Only you can make that happen.

If you are a member of OGIC and wish to go to a meeting see the notice below.  I will be there.

Last reminder.  All OGIC members are welcome to attend.

 OGIC Board Meeting Wednesday 9/7/2011 10:00 am

Woods & Waters Winery and Vineyards in Anadarko is Host

 Can’t come, but have some great ideas to share, please call.

 Regards, Gene Clifton


Yes, the end is coming soon for this blog.  When is the last day?  I’m not entirely sure, but probably somewhere around September 22.  The reason?  Well, for one thing I am leaving on the 23rd to give a talk at a conference in Hawaii.  Secondly, if you have not heard by now, I am leaving OSU on October 14.  I have been offered, and accepted, another position similar to this one at Mississippi State University.  I start there on November 1.  I will still be in the grape world — I will continue to be the Project Leader of and I will start a new blog that can be read from that website.  It will no longer be Oklahoma specific, but I will touch on grape growing in the Deep South as well as other broader topics of interest.  There are many loose ends concerning how things will continue here at OSU, but meetings will be held to discuss those things and we hope to have a plan in place before my departure.  I have really enjoyed doing this blog and I hope you will continue to follow me when I move over to my new blog.

Granted, most of the hard, nitty-gritty work is done by enterprising winery and vineyard owners.  These are the folks who point the industry in a positive direction and I have been happy to see that start to happen again in the past year.  However, the industry can only do so much — you need help.  You need help in areas like education.  OSU has been providing the Grape Management Short Course for a decade.  Redlands CC provides courses.  These are great at helping a grower/vintner get started in the industry; however, what happens when new problems are encountered?  New challenges that were unforeseen?  This is where research and extension fills the bill.  The education component without the benefit of research and extension can only go so far.  If we don’t do research in Oklahoma on grape growing and wine making, then essentially you are learning how to grow grapes from Missouri, Texas, or California — the local knowledge is missing.  Luckily in the past decade we have done research trials at our Perkins station, but also in Buffalo, Burns Flat, Stillwater, Bixby, and Oklahoma City.  We have learned a lot and I have tried to pass on some of those results to you through my extension appointment, but we still have so much to learn.  I encourage the industry to develop a strong, long-term plan that focuses on how to help fund viticulture and enology efforts.  I am here to tell you right now that if the industry does not get involved those efforts will never reach the level that is needed.  Some states have figured this out and have started to make those contingency plans for when the state (university) is no longer able, or willing, to fund to the level needed.  Read this article out of Washington and Oregon in today’s Wines and Vines:

I also encourage you to take a look at some of the resources OSU has developed and evaluate them for yourself.  How useful are they?  How much do you value them?  How much more is needed?  Below are just a few examples:

OSU Grape Newsletter:

OSU Grape Short Course:

OSU Viticulture Research:

OSU Viticulture Handbook:

OSU Enterprise Budgets (examples):

OSU Black Rot Advisor:

OSU Grapevine Disease Testing Service:

Midwest Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide:

OSU Grape Insect and Disease Control:


Those are just a few of our offerings at OSU — it is really up to you to decide how much farther we can go together.

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