Oklahoma’s Own Viticulturist: Promoting a Growing Wine Scene

As of February, Madison Franklin is Oklahoma’s first Viticulture & Enology Coordinator. Unfamiliar with the title? Madi basically serves as a wine ambassador, working to market vineyards and develop agritourism for the state. It was water, not wine, that led her to this unusual career.

While working on her biology degree at Oklahoma State University, Madi spent six summers wading through lakes as she worked for various environmental agencies doing biochemistry and water quality testing. Following her adventurous spirit, Madi moved to Asia after she graduated to teach English. When she ended that job, she took four months to explore the world before returning home.

“I booked the cheapest ticket I could find, which led me to Greece,” Madi said. Moving from Hanoi, a city with a population of eight million people, to a small island with just 300 people was a culture shock. To support herself, Madi took work as a farm laborer, the island’s main industry.

“My first job, on my first day in Greece, was at a vineyard in the middle of nowhere,” Madi said. “I was handed a basket and told, ‘Go pick grapes.’ It was that simple. Just fill a basket with grapes. I loved the simplicity and peacefulness of that task.”

Following the Grapevine

Upon returning to Oklahoma, Madi reflected that her environmental background applied to winemaking, so she put aside lake work and started focusing on vineyards. During Covid, Madi searched for a master’s degree in viticulture, the cultivation and harvesting of grapes, and enology, the study of wines. She found a program in Italy that was more affordable than the United States had to offer. So, after working in restaurants and an Edmond wine bar to save money, she moved to Italy to learn the global wine industry.

“I never dreamed that my chemistry, farming and restaurant careers, seemingly unrelated, would come together to perfectly prepare me for the new position with the Department of Agriculture,” Madi said. “Thanks to new liquor laws passed in 2016, Oklahoma’s 45 wineries are finally gaining energy and attention.”

In addition to visiting vineyards and exploring tourism possibilities, Madi has redesigned the Oklahoma Wine Trail Guide. Much like a passport, people can explore nine wine-themed trails in Oklahoma. After completing each trail, participants are eligible for prizes. One trail in Oklahoma county features six wineries, which includes Clauren Ridge in Edmond.

“There’s a booming wine scene in Oklahoma, but we’re still young and working on our reputation,” Madi said. “There’s a stigma that wine has to be expensive or produced in certain places to be good. I’m trying to grow our potential and tackle that stigma.”

Already, wineries are getting creative with marketing efforts. Besides traditional tasting rooms, many are offering enticing experiences, from wine bottle crafting to weddings. Farm-to-table meals are becoming popular, with locally-sourced foods or dinners themed after movies such as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. During harvest season, people can even volunteer to help pick grapes or try grape stomping, as seen on the old I Love Lucy show.

“I love being part of an industry where, at the end of a hard day’s work, people get to slow down and drink the fruits of our labor—pun intended,” Madi said with a laugh. “Going from ‘grape to glass’ is a ton of work, but it’s a beautiful worldwide experience.”

Visit OklahomaAgritourism.com to learn more.

Browse By Story Category

Advertise Your Business

Outlook readers are a dynamic, diverse audience of active consumers.

Advertise  >

The Edmond Outlook is the largest local, monthly magazine covering 50,000 homes with free, direct-mail delivery.

About Us  >

Browse Recent Issues

The Edmond Outlook is a monthly full-color, glossy magazine devoted to the Edmond area. Each exciting edition captures the vibrant personalities and interesting stories that define and connect us all.

View All  >