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Nevada’s wineries offer unique experience, increased tourism

Joining a national trend of proliferating vineyards and wineries, Nevada’s fledgling wine industry now numbers three wineries, one each in Pahrump Valley in Southern Nevada, in the Lahontan Valley near Fallon and in the Carson Valley near Genoa. Each offers a different experience for visitors and a new attraction for increased tourism.

Nevada’s first winery, Pahrump Valley Winery — just 60 miles from Las Vegas — continues to grow in popularity. Its annual wine stomp in late September always draws crowds. The oldest and largest of the trip of Nevada wineries, the Pahrump facility offers year-round tours, a tasting room, a gift shop and a restaurant for a fine dining experience. Its beautiful main building, wide porches and attractive grounds create an appealing setting for special events such as weddings, receptions and parties.

Since vines take three to five years to mature enough to produce, the Pahrump Winery processed grapes from California vineyards for the first few years. They also had trouble with wild horses raiding their vines. Now they bottle much more of their own product, called estate wines. Take the informative wine tour for a behind-the-scenes look at production. Sample the vintages available at the winery’s tasting room, open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Widely distributed in Southern Nevada, Pahrump Valley wines are also available at the winery where purchasers often have personalized labels applied to the bottles they obtain. Wine lovers also purchase Pahrump Valley wines online at pahrumpwinery.com. For more information, call the winery at (775) 751-7800 or (800) 368-9463.

The Tahoe Ridge Winery tucked away in the Sierra Nevada foothills near historic Genoa is Nevada’s second oldest winery. Although the facility has its own surrounding vineyards, this winery uses primarily grapes grown in California’s mountain counties near the Nevada border to make its wines.

Rapidly becoming a tourist attraction, the Tahoe Ridge tasting room welcomes visitors April through December on Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. January through March, the tasting room stays open Fridays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call Tahoe Ridge Winery at (775) 783-1577 or find it listed on the Internet at winemakersdirect.us.

The newest of Nevada’s wineries, Churchill Vineyards near Fallon in Churchill County was established in 2001. The winery is located on the historic Frey Ranch, homesteaded in 1918 in the Lahontan Valley. Watch for the turnoff on Dodge Lane off US 95 seven miles south of Fallon.

Visitors to the Pahrump Valley Winery’s gift shop or shoppers at Whole Foods locally may spot vintages from Churchill Vineyards, which bottles boutique wines shipped only to Nevada customers. The winery takes appointments for tours of the facility and tasting of its wines made by calling (775) 423-4000.

The Churchill Vineyards bottled its first wine from Nevada-grown grapes in September 2004, producing about 500 cases of Nevada wine. The winery first planted test vineyards, working closely with local, state and federal agricultural agencies, including the University of Nevada. It tested 10 varieties likely to grow in the Lahontan Valley, similar to conditions in eastern Washington. Of the 10 varieties, four succeeded to harvest. The winery now has 10 acres of vineyards, planted with 10,600 vines of successful varieties.

The winery’s developers researched the industry, finding that vineyards use just 10 percent of the water needed to raise other crops commonly grown in Nevada, such a alfalfa or corn. Research also indicated that the economic rewards of growing grapes are compelling. Farmland used to grow hay or grain yields $400-$800 per acre, while vineyards yield $5,000-$10,000 per acre. Tourism in grape-growing areas helps support other businesses and attractions, sometimes having a greater impact that the wine sales themselves. The Churchill Winery gained federal permission in 2008 to experiment with other Nevada products to produce distilled spirits, an enterprise still in its infancy, but promising.

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s column appears on Sundays.

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