Local Beta – for the spirit of it

Muskogee Avenue is the old historic downtown of Sulphur, Oklahoma and two short Sulphur blocks west of the Visitor Center site on Muskogee Avenue is another local establishment of interest. The Rusty Nail Winery touted as a “Boutique Winery nestled in the Heart of Historic Downtown Sulphur” is located on the NE corner of Muskogee and 3rd Street. They were the 45th winery to get a license in Oklahoma and are getting ready to celebrate their 2nd anniversary on September 22, 2012.

The building in which they are located was constructed in 1906 as a hardware store. Over the years it has been a lumber store, antiques shop and sandwich shop. The upstairs was a boarding house. The winery occupies all of the first floor with the front portion set up for tasting and sales. Some day the owners hope to convert the upstairs into a bed and breakfast. They are open from 4-8pm Monday through Friday and Noon to 8pm on Saturdays.

The owners, Jackie (he goes by Jack) and Debbie Alexander, are a delightful couple that make you feel right at home. Left to right are Jack, Debbie and myself. Jack and Debbie met at a hoe down and it was love at first sight. That was 32 years ago. Debbie grew up in OKC and is Choctaw. Her great grandfather came to Oklahoma by way of the Trail of Tears which was the American Indian removal. Jack grew up in Pauls Valley, was a welder for 25 years and worked at Halliburton until the oil bust of the 1980’s. Somewhere along the way after welding he was also a musician and played in a honky-tonk band called “Heaven Bound.” Jack has now been a nurse for the past 25 years. Debbie is also a nurse and together they manage a local nursing home.

They have two daughters Melissa and Leah. Melissa is the Marketing Director for the Rusty Nail and recently completed a 65 day world tour; obviously likes to travel. She resides in Boston. Leah and her husband Richard live in Mansfield, Texas and make regular treks to Sulphur to help out and see how the winery is progressing. While Jack and Debbie are the main stay of the operation, it is definitely a family affair. Debbie’s interest in wine making began with home wine kits. It wasn’t long before her and Jack decided to try it out on a larger scale.

The grapes for the Rusty Nail wines are mostly from California with some coming from Colorado. They typically have about 500 gallons fermenting in 12 vats that are a combination of 50 and 75 gallon capacity tanks. They cap between 100-500 bottles per week. The wines for the most part are playfully named after shoes and include Cinderella’s Slipper, The Little Black Pump, Peep Toe, The Stiletto and Buster Brown. The selection of wines is predominantly sweet which responds to the taste preference of the majority of their patrons. The overall selection consists of 5 dry wines, 18 sweet, fruit-infused wines and 1 dessert wine. They plan on 4 new dry wines to come out in September; a Malbec, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

I decided to stick to the dryer selections and worked my way from whites to reds. I started with a California trinity blend of Colombard, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (named Cinderella’s Slipper); it was semi-dry with a light fruit aftertaste. Next up was a Chardonnay (Gold Digger); a delightful fruity nose and dry finish. Midpoint was a White Zinfandel (Goldie Locks); your basic rose. On to the reds was a Merlot (The Vintage); a deep rich black cherry color with bold flavor. The last of the dry’s was a Cabernet Sauvignon (The Little Black Pump); this was a hearty red wine with great legs (a wine term, really). I thought I should give the best-selling wine of the house a try which was one of the sweet, fruity ones being a combination of Red Cranberry and Chianti (Dorothy’s Ruby Red); it was surprisingly very tasty and went down easily. I finished off my tasting with their dessert wine which as an “Ice Wine” from the Riesling grape varietal (Goody Two Shoes); fruity and floral.

The ice wine is an interesting grape crush; it only occurs when the grapes freeze on the vine late in the harvest and the grapes are crushed the following morning. This was originally a German tradition with the most special of the ice wines being an Eiswein Christwein which was when the grapes froze on the vine on Christmas eve and were crushed on Christmas day; sadly the Christwein is no longer produced since a change in German wine laws a decade or two ago.

The Local Flavor

Around 6 to 6:30pm some of the local patrons begin to slip into the tasting room. In addition to its wines, the Rusty Nail has a fun offering of about a half-dozen appetizers; great for socializing over a glass of wine with friends.

The first locals to stroll in were Stacy and Lynn. That’s Debbie on the far left, then Lynn and Stacy on the right. Stacy runs the Aria Bella day spa offering aromatherapy and massage which is also located on Muskogee Avenue. Stacy is a certified message therapist and is ready to sign you up for a relaxing visit. Turns out Stacy is also a bluegrass singer and was going to be singing at a local eatery later that evening. Too bad I didn’t have my guitar with me, I could have taken her up on a jam invite. She’s going to be traveling to Nashville later in September for a recording session; how wild is that. Lynn works with the local IBC banking center and also has a catering business “Premier Catering.” If you need to book some good eats, Lynn is the one to call.

Loisa and Kidd are a fun couple (hope I got the spelling right). They live up the road in Roff. Loisa works with a manufacturing company in Wynnewood. They have recently gotten into making scopes for the medical field and are breaking into the military market as well; hope it all goes well. She was having the house favorite to sip on. Kidd works in the agribusiness and we had a discussion of how tough the year has been for the ranchers and farmers in the area. The price of grain has turned their business upside down.

It was great getting to know Jack, Debbie and their patrons. There are fun events year round at the Rusty Nail along with regular relaxing evenings with friends.

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