Knowing Nevada: The 'Fruit of the Vine' here in the Silver State

A calm and crisp fall day on the Basin & Range vineyard at the Buffalo Creek resort in Gardnerville, NV.

The finest varieties of wine come from all over the world. For most 'winos' out there, California, France, Spain, or Italy are top of mind when considering the world's best vines . All four locations are ideal when it comes to growing aged vines, harvesting their grapes, and processing them into nature's nectar.

However, not many are aware that -- right here in Nevada -- we have what some winemakers would consider an ideal climate to grow wine; and the men at Basin & Range Winery would agree with that.

Located near the base of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in Gardnerville, Wade Johnston and Joe Bernardo are two-of-a-kind when it comes to the world of wine. At a remote location called Buffalo Creek, these two have secured over 10 acres of land to establish a vineyard.

The vines themselves are not as aged as some wine connoisseurs would prefer, but they provide a combination of flavors that are unusual and interesting, even to the experienced palate.

"When you come to a vineyard, you expect there to be 'vitis vinifera' grapes such as Cabernet, chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc, but -- since these vines are roughly ten years old -- you get a combination of flavors that are natural to the Americas," says Johnston. "You still get a similar taste, if you prefer red or white, but sometimes the red will bring a green pepper taste or the white will have that hint of pineapple on the nose. Those flavors are exactly what makes wines in Nevada unique."

The process begins by growing the grapes from spring to autumn, and when late September and early October arrive, Wade and Joe strap on their gloves and get to picking.

"It is just Wade, myself, and the good old John Deere tractor that helps us pick these grapes," says Joe. "Once harvest comes around, I'm pretty sure I don't talk to anyone besides Wade because getting these grapes off the vine and into a barrel is our goal."

Once they have dozens of crates full of their grape varieties, they haul them up north to Reno to begin the process of crushing, oxidizing, and fermenting the product. Up until recently, this would not have been possible -- a law was passed in 2015 to allow Nevada counties with more than 100,000 make and distribute wine.

Legality aside, having wine fermentation operations in Reno just makes good sense.

"I live in Reno and the market here has a wider range of wine fanatics, or people just looking for a casual tasting of locally made wine," says Johnston.

At last, after months of barreling the wine and letting it sit in a dry and cool climate throughout the winter months, it is ready to be bottled and distributed.

Legs, nose, mouthfeel -- these wines cover every expected dimension. The most impressive space these wines inhabit is the space between Nevada's pioneering past, innovative present, and unexpected future. Nevada has made 'something' where others have seen 'nothing' -- and winemaking is nothing if not a tribute to that spirit.

"We just want to make a wine that is all Nevada-made, and grown for the people who live here and appreciate a home-made product," says Johnston.

To know these Nevada wines firsthand, visit Basin & Range Cellars.


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