Day Trip: Grand Lake Wine Trail
Grand Lake in Northeastern Oklahoma sits just about 30 miles past the Missouri/Oklahoma border. A spectacularly undeveloped waterway where commercial businesses and condominiums are less in presence than other lakes, Grand Lake is also home to some great wineries.
Monkey Island Winery and Cottages stands out for its fruit wine from the bounty of their ranch. Also home to the Royal Horse Ranch established in 2010, Monkey Island Winery grows pears, peaches, and blackberries to produce fruity offerings. Their Grand Lake Vineyards were planted in 2004 with Cynthiana/Norton, Chardonel, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. The owner is well educated in the art of wine production, as well as being an avid vintage collector. The new tasting room serves around 30 varieties, with unusual choices such as Pie Pumpkin, California Cherry, among many more not usually seen at wineries. The favorites like Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot all have clever names exclusive to the Monkey Island label adding to fun at the tasting room. Groups giggle at each other when they order “Drawing A Blanc” sauvignon blanc, or “Chard-N-Hay” their crafted chardonnay.
In addition to wines, Monkey Island Winery hosts wine themed cottages with a working horse ranch, making the vineyard and winery a destination to go visit and stay awhile.
Monkey Island is worth a visit in itself with a lot of interesting landmarks. The Shangri-La Resort on the island has a boat that belonged to John F. Kennedy on display in their lobby, the RESTOFUS. His prior boat was named TENOFUS. As the family grew, they purchased the bigger speedboat and aptly named it reflecting the expansion of the Kennedy clan. The Shangri-La Resort is the center of activity for food and fun on the island. A world class golf course, restaurants, and spa are included with lodging.
Also located on Monkey Island, The Shebang is a menagerie of eatery, shopping, and dancing, all in one funky brick complex accented with flamingo pink posts and doors. Steaks and seafood, along with all sorts of creatively named dishes with New Orleans flair are on the menu. The wine list is extensive, that’s why they are on my list. With 40 wines, and 5 champagnes, one can only dream of ordering the Dom Perignon that is offered.
Monkey Island Winery is located at 55800 E 273 Rd, Monkey Island, OK 74331
They can be found online at https://www.royalhorseranch.net/winery---cottages.html
On the southern tip of Grand Lake wine lovers will find Okeozark Winery.
Sitting in the foothills of the Oklahoma Ozark Mountains, this for makes a few original wines that can’t be found elsewhere. They have taken their Swedish, English, and French heritage into account when producing their family recipe of dry, sweet, and semi-sweet labels. Riesling, chambourcin, Fredonia, and Mars variety vines flourish on their 200 year old farm property, lending to the authenticity of their label. Fruit and sparkling wines round out the list at Okeozark Winery. The Arkansas Red Cedar Tasting room is a thing of beauty. Properly named, the entire room is paneled and furnished in red cedar. Tastings are given by appointment only. The family recipe wines are unapologetically crafted in the Ozark tradition of homemade wine, with the owner’s family roots running back to the 1800s in wine making. The blue metal building shop sits at 12273 East 470 Road, Salina, OK 74365 They can be found online at www.okeozarkwinery1.com
Heading north on Interstate 44, about an hour west of Grand Lake is Vogel Family Vineyards. The first thing that grabs visitors at Vogel Vineyards is the artistic label. It’s as fine a label as I’ve ever seen, even in the Sonoma Valley of California. Next comes the grounds that are a landscaped paradise above the Kansas hills. Founded in 2004, the vineyards are one of the hardest worked fields that I’ve witnessed. It seems as if millions of grapes are being harvested here including Cabernet, Sirah, Merlot, and Malbec varieties. If you are a sweet wine lover, this is probably not your kind of wine. California style wines are full bodied, with little sweetness for the Midwestern palate.
The Vogel family proudly declares that they wanted to grow and produce wines not normally grown in the Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma area. Their mission was also to produce full-bodied wines that are uniquely pleasant to a wider range of palates
Vogel Family Vineyards is a fine replica of what the owners learned when visiting Napa Valley in California. It was their goal to fashion the winery after the tremendously beautiful wine estates there. They have succeeded, and outdone a few!
With 6.5 acres of vines, the property makes a nice living from the small batch winery. The owners have recently listed Vogel Family Vineyards for sale, and would like to see other wine lovers interested in carrying on the business.
Their wine bar in the stately mansion continues to be open.
Tastings are offered by appointment only. Walking the meticulously kept grounds at this vineyard is the closest experience there is in the Midwest to the California wine scene.
Where to go
29975 S 566 Rd
The Shebang is located at 29975 South 566 Road
Monkey Island, OK
Vogel Family Vineyards is located at:
116 Hillcrest Drive, Galena, KS.
Online at www.facebook.com@vogelfamilyvineyards