City wine maker toasting success

Saturday, July 19th 2008, 12:35 am
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Oklahoma is rapidly developing a reputation for producing fine wine -- a bit of Napa next door. Some state vineyards have won awards.

A year ago, Dr. Gary Strebel opened the first and only winery in Oklahoma City. Strebel Creek Vineyard is nestled in a northwest Oklahoma City neighborhood and quickly gaining a reputation for producing quality wine.

"It's hard to hang them on the vine long enough to pick up the tannins, so most oklahoma zinfandels are white," Strebel said.

Oklahomans by and large are new wine drinkers, but connoisseurs none the less, Strebel said. "They know what they like."

And they like what Strebel, an obstetrician gynecologist , is making these days. Strebel started moonlighting as a vintner 12 years ago after a friend showed him how to prune grapes already growing on his property.

"MY wife squeezed them by hand and i served it to my friends without them knowing that I  made it," Strebel said.

The experiment-turned hobby continued and soon the Strebels were running out of room at  their home in 115000 block of North MacArthur.

He had every flat surface in the kitchen and the breakfast room were filled with the big five gallon jugs of wine," Sherry Strebel said. "Finally, I said if you're going to continue doing this, we really need to find a better place to do it."

So the couple renovated an old barn on their property and installed vats, a cold room and a press. After planting their first vines in 1997, Strebel Creek Vineyard opened for business in 2007. His savignon blanc already has won a gold medal and business is booming.

"In fact, I'm out of four varieties of wine because I had no idea how much I would sell and what I would sell," Gary Strebel said.

Gary Strebel doesn't mind working seven days a week between his medical practice and the  winery. He vows to stay in the wine business, "As long as it's fun and as long as my wife will help me."