Agriculture - Ranching

#FridaysOnTheFarm: USDA LOAN HELPS COUPLE TOAST NEW WINERY

 

 

From the kitchen table to the boardroom table, the USDA brings people together across the nation for: healthier
food, natural resources and people; a stronger agricultural industry; and economic growth, jobs and innovation.
Each Friday, meet those farmers, producers and landowners through our #FridaysOnTheFarm stories. Visit local
farms, ranches, forests and resource areas where USDA customers and partners do right and feed everyone.

This Friday, meet Hillary and Diane Dean, boutique wine operators in Caddo, Oklahoma, who are passionate
about wine making. The Deans own and operate Blue River Valley Winery, growing several grape varieties and
producing over 15 varieties of wine.

From Hobby to Business
“It all started with homemade peach wine. A family member had us try their homemade wine, and we couldn’t
believe the quality. We wanted to try our hand at it,” said Diane. “We started off in the kitchen. Our table space
was taken up by small fermenters.”

After making craft beer for nearly 20 years, Hillary and Diane fell in love with making fine wine. Their hobby
quickly became a business, selling more than 15,000 bottles of their handcrafted wine in 2016 and over 19,000 in
2017.“Making wine became a passion. Over the years, we were encouraged to do it commercially,” said Hillary. “It
grew so fast, we couldn’t believe it. We thought it would just be a small mom and pop business, but it just
exploded.”

Growing a Dream
Before opening their boutique winery, they visited the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center where they
learned about the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) loan opportunities. The Deans visited the Bryan County
FSA office and met with Greg Mathis, farm loan manager, to explore their options.
“We had a dream and it just didn’t seem like it was going to work out. We came to Greg and everything worked
out,” said Hillary. “He was interested in our venture. Greg believed in us and worked very hard to put together our
loan.”

FSA’s farm loan programs offer opportunities, such as microloans, to farmers and ranchers by providing access to
credit. Microloans focus on financing the needs of new, niche and small to mid-sized family farm operations.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

Producing an Oklahoma Wine
The Deans currently grow muscadine grapes and other grape varieties, but they don’t produce enough to supply
their entire wine operation. According to Hillary, 100 pounds of grapes will only make about five gallons of wine.
To keep up with demand, they purchase juice from several vineyards across the country through a wholesaler.
“Our grapes might be grown all over the United States, but our wine is all Oklahoma,” Hillary said. “We ferment
the juice and then it goes through the clarification process. When that is done, we fill the bottle and cork it by
hand. It’s truly a handcraft.”

They currently offer 15 varieties of wine at Blue River Valley Winery, including “Blue River Bliss,” a blackberry
merlot, “Strawberry Blonde,” a strawberry white zinfandel, and “Rio Rosa,” their blackberry and lemon signature
wine. The number of varieties will continue to increase as they keep exploring new flavors.

Agritourism Is an Added Benefit
Since opening, the winery has drawn customers from all over the United States. To increase agritourism, the
Deans recently added a covered outdoor pavilion, where guests can enjoy live music on select evenings, hold
small weddings and other events.

“There are thousands of varieties of wine that you can make. We get a kick out of making our wine the highest
quality that we can,” said Hillary. “This doesn’t feel like a job. It’s something we really enjoy.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Follow the #Fridaysonthefarm story series and other news you can use on farmers.gov and @Farmersgov Twitter.
View all #FridaysOnTheFarm feature stories.
Story Credit: Lauren Moore
Photo Credits: Blue River Valley Winery; Lance Cheung (USDA), Scott Bauer (USDA)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.