Winemaking school starts operations in new location after owner’s death

It is a bittersweet time for Grape Expectations as it begins business in a new location after the sudden death of its owner, Charlie Peters, on Sept. 9.

Peters created Grape Expectations as a venue where people can learn about and partake in the winemaking process.

Friends, business partners and family members are determined to keep Peters’ dream alive as the company expands to 7360 Eastgate Road.

“One day he made me take a solemn oath that if anything were to happen, to make sure the business kept going,” said Larry Lucian, a lifelong friend of Peters’ and the winery operations manager. “He made me look him in the eye and tell him. So we will either go out in a blaze of glory or rise in a blaze of glory. Either way, we will carry on.”

Lucian said Peters loved three things in life: his wife, his friends and what he was doing.

“He was the type that didn’t let everyone in,” said Patty Peters, his widow. “But once you were in, you stayed in and never wanted to leave.”

Peters has replaced her husband as the company’s owner as Grape Expectations heads into its sixth year of production.

The idea for the Nevada School of Winemaking, operating as Grape Expectations, came about 10 years ago when Peters was on the East Coast and went to a winemaking facility.

“It is big on the East Coast,” Lucian said.

Peters decided to emulate the experience in Southern Nevada because there was nothing like it in Las Vegas.

However, he faced opposition because Nevada’s legislation prohibited wineries from being in counties with more than 100,000 people, Lucian said.

Peters rallied for the law to be reworked, which eventually paid off.

Lucian said Grape Expectations skirted by as an instructional winemaking facility instead of a direct winery.

“It took about five years to open from the time he started,” Lucian said.

The process is a long-term commitment and takes about nine months.

First, people go through Winemaking 101 taught by Lucian or other Grape Expectations staff members. The first step discusses the process and schedule for winemaking.

After picking a grape, people load their selection into a crusher and destemmer, where fermentation begins.

One week after primary fermentation, people return to press the juices from the mixture. The pressing is done from a machine and not the traditional foot-stomping method.

A few months later, people return for the racking process. That is when the wine is pumped into a stainless steel tank and funneled into a new barrel to get rid of sediment.

Finally, people come back to bottle and label their creation.

A typical yield is about 150 bottles, Lucian said.

With people’s permission, the company sends two bottles to the American Wine Society for a blind tasting. Judges assess the wine and hand out awards.

The first year in business, Lucian said, the company produced 62 barrels.

“Then it was 126 barrels,” he said about the second year. “Then it crept up to 157 barrels.”

Grape Expectations’ clientele has been steady for the past couple of years.

“And we’ve done that without advertising,” Patty Peters said. “It is mostly word of mouth.”

Peters said she is looking forward to the company’s future growth but hopes it never gets so big that she doesn’t know everybody who comes in.

“I want to know every customer, and I want them to know us,” Peters said.

Lucian said they have had everyone from strippers to senators make wine.

“If you think they would come in, they probably have,” Lucian said.

The company realized it was rapidly outgrowing its former space at 1971 Whitney Mesa Drive.

“It was like putting 5 pounds of flour into a 2-pound sack,” Lucian said. “(The new space) is like putting 5 pounds of flour into a 10-pound sack.”

When moving from Grape Expectations’ old Henderson location, Charlie Peters wanted to take a keepsake from the old building to put in the new one. He chose a spiral, iron staircase.

“He said he didn’t care if it was propped up against the wall leading to nowhere,” Lucian said. “He said he would find a spot for it if it was the last thing he did.”

One Saturday, Peters bragged to Lucian that he had finally put up the staircase.

“He said, ‘I told you I’d do it even if it was the last thing I did,’ ” Lucian said.

The next day, Peters died.

Despite the sadness, the company is moving forward. On Oct. 5, Grape Expectations began the process of winemaking at the new facility.

“His dream is going to stay alive,” Lucian said. “It has to, otherwise he’d haunt me.”

For more information, visit grape
expectationslasvegas.com.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 702-387-5201.

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