With the varied hyped developments lying fallow inside the Inner Dispersal Loop, it’s nice to have a new spirit downtown.
Chris Girouard has been approached by curious passersby who have noticed grapevines growing behind his space in the Maverick Building at 817 E. Third St.
“You can drive down Lansing (Avenue) and see them,” he said.
Girouard, proprietor of Girouard Vines, said there is a good explanation for the vines sprouting among the warehouses in east downtown – he plans to open a winery.
It will be months, if not years, before Girouard’s 2,900-SF space, leased from Micha Alexander of Virginia Lofts fame, is ready to open for business. Girouard obtained a building permit from the City of Tulsa June 21 and construction is under way.
Good Things Come
Girouard and his partner, Dunkin Families LLC, planted several grape varieties on a .75-acre vineyard on the Dunkin Family Farm, two miles east of Wagoner, in 2004.
Girouard and Dunkin Families will pick the best of seven varieties next year. They will use them to expand the vineyard next spring to about five acres.
The five acres to be planted at the Dunkin Family Farm will not be fully productive until the vines’ third leaf in 2010. The grapes will produce a full-bodied red wine that will need to age until 2011-2012.
“This is a long lead-time business,” he said. Though Girouard wants to focus on “Oklahoma juice, particularly our vineyard,” he looks for other wine producers to come aboard so he can open his business to the public sooner.
Bringing the Farm Downtown
Girouard Vines will feature a tasting room with a small dining area headed by photos of the vineyard in Wagoner played on a flat screen TV. Visitors will be able to retire from there to an outdoor vineyard and patio, complete with a fireplace and landscaping, he said.
Girouard will use his winery to teach visitors about the local winemaking process. Wine-tasting dinners and seasonal events centered on food and local wines are also on the list of possibilities.
Girouard is anxious to tell not only the story of the local winemaking business, but also his father’s journey toward breeding his version of the perfect hybrid Oklahoma grapevine.
Girouard’s father, George E. Girouard Jr., spent more than 30 years breeding grapes to create hybrid vines that are acclimated to Oklahoma and would produce quality red wine.
George Girouard, a native Tulsan, arrived at successful breeds in the early ‘90s, and by 2000 four of those vines proved to be worthy of commercial testing.
“These ‘Native Oklahoma’ vines budbreak late so they don’t get killed by an early warm period followed by a freeze – such as the one that happened this spring. They ripen late, when it’s cooler. They don’t get fungus, and they’re more pest resistant.”
Dunkin Families operates 100 percent of the vineyard, and Girouard will operate 100 percent of the winemaking portion of the business. They are 50/50 partners.
“Our goal is to produce a red wine that would rate 85-plus on the Wine Spectator scale from 100 percent Oklahoma grapes, preferably using one or more of my father’s hybrids. We are willing to sacrifice short-term profitability for long-term success.” ?