The event, which features 35 wineries and more than a dozen of Oklahoma’s best chefs, will be held on the Stillwater campus of OSU.
Steve Ruby, a professor at OSU and the event’s coordinator, said this year’s theme is Cowboys & Gauchos. The emphasis will be on the similar cultures of Oklahoma and Argentina, particularly our love for the mythos of the cowboy — gaucho is the Argentine term for cowboy — and beef.
Ruby said to help emphasize the theme, the Wine Forum organizers invited world-famous Argentine chef Francis Mallmann to speak and be a part of the event. Mallmann, the owner of Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires, is the author of “Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way,” about which The New York Times said: “Most of what’s in this captivating book about cooking over wood is as straightforward as it is appealing.”
Mallmann will be cooking for the gala dinner and auction Saturday night and will offer the keynote address “Food and Fires,” which is open to the public.
“When you think of Oklahoma, you think of cowboys and beef,” said Philippe Garmy, an OSU professor and food and beverage coordinator for the event. “The idea of taking that global was a simple afterthought, so we reached out to our brethren in South America, the gaucho, in order to embrace the poetic mythology of our similar cultures.”
Garmy said beef is central to Oklahoma’s identity, much as it is in Argentina. “We wanted to be neighborly, celebrate our similarities, and at the same time, celebrate what was unique to both cultures.”
David Egan, a managing partner at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, 1309 S. Agnew, is helping coordinate the chefs from Oklahoma City, Enid and Krebs. (The Wine Forum will include six chefs from the Tulsa area, six from Oklahoma City, one from Enid and one from Pete’s Place in Krebs.)
“The Friday night Grand Tasting will feature food arranged around the Argentine theme,” Egan said. “Each team will prepare three items to taste, and one must be beef. In keeping with Mallmann’s emphasis, many of the teams will be cooking outside over an open flame.”
Egan said Michel Buthion, co-owner of La Baguette, 7408 N. May, will be the “grand master of the fire pit. Michel will don his asbestos suit and tend the flames.”
Buthion’s brother, Alain Buthion, will be one of the chefs representing Oklahoma City, as will Ken Bradford, Robert Black, Kurt Fleischfresser, David Henry and Ryan Parrott.
The proceeds from all the events will be used to provide scholarships for students in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and the College of Human Environmental Sciences. It’s the emphasis on education that sets the Oklahoma Wine Forum apart, according to Jon Biegel, director of restaurants for Chesapeake, one of the major sponsors of the Wine Forum.
“The auction and ticket sales — all profits — go to student scholarships,” Biegel said. “In addition, the forum will include classes on wine varietals, grape growing and winemaking, addressed to all levels of experience. It will cover everything from overall wine culture all the way down to the specifics of a particular winery. There will be plenty of food and wine, but it is ultimately an educational experience.”
The classes include panel discussions, educational seminars and comparative tastings with vintners and winery owners. The classes will cover red wine and white wines generally, but also focus specifically on Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet and Chardonnay. The wines will be from Argentina, California and Oregon.
Included in the list of speakers and vintners are a couple of Oklahomans and others with deep ties to the state. Beth Nickel, a graduate of OSU and proprietress of Nickel & Nickel, Far Niente and Dolce in Napa Valley, will host a tasting on Saturday. On Friday morning, she joins Marilynn Thoma, an OSU alumna and proprietress of Van Duzer winery in Oregon, in sharing their stories in “Oklahoma Roots in Wine Country: A Shared Narrative.” This event is also open to the public.
Bill Stoller, who with his wife, Cathy, is the proprietor of Stoller Vineyards in Oregon and co-founder and vice chairman for Oklahoma City-based Express Employment Professionals, will have wines at the forum, as will Tulsa’s Ed Mascarin, owner of 32 Winds winery in California.
Egan said this event attracts worldclass wines and winemakers because it has proven to be enjoyable for everyone: winemakers, brokers, students and the general public.
Biegel said Oklahoma continues to grow as a “destination” for worldclass wines. “People have struggled in this economy,” he said, “including winemakers and proprietors. They began to seek out secondary markets or so-called ‘second-tier’ markets. They discovered that Oklahoma is a great wine market. The people here work together; restaurants work together to improve the wine culture. It’s an incredibly collaborative food and wine market.”
Tickets for Friday night’s Grand Tasting and information about all the other events are available at ches.okstate. edu/wineforum/2011.