Nevada Wineries? Yes, There are Four and Counting

You won’t be disappointed by the four Nevada wineries you can visit outside of Las Vegas. Not many people think of Nevada as wine country but there’s a growing community of vintners that have long believed in its potential. Did you know there are four Nevada wineries you can visit? The oldest, Pahrump Winery, was established in 1990 and is just an hour drive from the city of Las Vegas. An hour away is Sanders Family Winery. After that, with an 8 hour drive north to you can visit Churchill Vineyards in Fallon, Nevada. Finally in just under an hour and a half you can make it to Tahoe Ridge in Carson City, Nevada.

Mapping the Nevada Wineries

To get your bearings, I mapped the wineries out for you.

Nevada Wineries, Las Vegas Winery
Nevada Wineries: Pahrump Winery, Sanders Family Winery, Churchill Winery, Tahoe Ridge Winery. The University of Nevada Las Vegas is just 10 minutes east of the Strip. Image map created with Google Maps.

Passing AB 4

On May 25 2015 Nevada’s Governor Sandoval signed bill AB 4 into law. With AB 4, commercial wineries are now allowed to operate in Clark and Washoe counties. This means commercial wineries are now allowed to operate in Las Vegas (in Clark Country) and Reno (in Washoe County). Previously, commercial wineries weren’t allowed to operate and sell wine Direct to Consumer (DtC) in areas with a population of 100,000 or more. In counties with larger populations, wine had to be sold through a distributor. Basically, the wine you drink on the Strip is sold through a distributor. Small local wineries could not operate in these areas and sell their wines directly to consumers.

Can Wine Grow in the Desert?

Pahrump Winery, Nevada Winery, Nevada Wines

It turns out certain grape varietals can grow well in the desert. When I moved to Las Vegas I made it a point to visit Pahrump Winery in Pahrump, Nevada. They not only have a great winery, they have Symphony, which pairs their wines with a great menu and outdoor patio where you can enjoy your meal outside.

The Pahrump Winery shares their great story here and the list of the wines they’ve produced after partnering with Nevada wine growers is below:

Here is a current list of our “first ever, Nevada wines. These are the first time these wines have been produced commercially in the state of Nevada.

  • 2005 Zinfandel  ( Nevada’s first commercial red wine )
  • 2008 Merlot
  • 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2008 Frontenac
  • 2010 Primitivo
  • 2010 Tempranillo
  • 2010 Cinsaut
  • 2011 Barbera
  • 2011 Syrah
  • 2011 Silver State Red Blend

In a 30 minute guided tour, visitors learn about the grapes sourced locally and about the grapes that are brought in from Southern California. Pahrump Winery have established a great name for themselves through the quality of their wines and have been a strong advocate to see the AB 4 bill pass.

In by Jane Firstenfeld’s piece, Can the Nevada Wine Industry Grow? New regulation may open opportunities  Bill Loken, owner of Pahrump Wineries says:

“They wanted to prevent tanker trucks from coming in and bottling California wines. We believe in encouraging vineyards. Vineyards come first, then wineries. AB 4 would put vineyards first. We asked that they change the required percentage of Nevada-grown grapes.”

Despite or because of its wide-open spaces, desert climate and terroir, he said, “We are poised for big growth. Our wines are bought as fast as we can make them. You can’t have a farmers market without farmers.”

Southern Nevada has a long growing season and “lots of sunlight. We’re in alluvial sand. If you trench down 6 feet, you can harvest grapes at the end of the third growing season,” he said. Zinfandel, Syrah and Tempranillo thrive there; he’s looking into white Albariño vines for future plantings.

Read more at: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?content=151077§ion=news
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Pahrump Winery, Nevada Winery, Nevada Wines
View from Pahrump Winery

Vintner Resources

To follow more of the vintner activity going on in Nevada look into and join the following groups:

  • The Nevada Wine Coalition: a Political Action Committee committed to the growth of wine industry in Nevada. According to them:
“Northern Nevada’s climate is very similar to that of Eastern Washington, where a majority of the grapes are grown for the state’s $8.6 Billion industry.   Thanks to decades of research at UNR, there are over 100 people growing wine grapes around Washoe County. and making some pretty great wines!”
  • Nevada Wines and Vines: a non profit dedicated to viticulture in Northern Nevada.
  • Vegas Wineaux: A wine (ad)venture started by a true wine lover, aficionado and expert, taking the perception of snob out of the appreciation of wine. With an impressive pedigree, this woman has taken her knowledge of and passion for wine to an impressive, unintimidating level for newbies and us current wine lovers.
  • The Desert Wine Guy: A website and blog produced by a wine afficionado turning vintner. Originally from New York, this Nevada resident is becoming a great resource for wine lovers in Nevada and beyond. See this piece about him “Wine guy works wonders in desert soil and heat“, by Sandy Lopez, Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 28, 2015. The mission available from their About Page:

    Born out of the love of the Vineyard comes a little upstart known as The Desert Wine Guy. Created with the belief that wine is for everyone not just the rich, The Desert Wine guys mission is to share great wines with the world. Come along with me and experience the wonderful world of wine.

Have you been to Pahrump Winery or any of the other Nevada wineries mentioned? Share your experience, we’d love to hear it.