Pahrump Valley Winery Comes of Age

By Glen Frederiksen

I have been following the progress of Pahrump Valley Winery since its inception a quarter century ago in 1990. At that time, a few acres were planted to an obscure grape called Symphony, a white grape with floral aromatics that reminded me of Riesling and Gewurztraminer rolled up into one. It could produce delicious wines, from bone dry to dessert style.

Unfortunately for the winery, the wild horses and other animals that roamed the surrounding sparse landscape also found the grapes and vines delicious, and quickly ate them down to the roots, trampling the vineyard.

The name of the grape lives on today in the wonderful bistro connected to the winery, called Symphony’s.

In the first decade, most wine made at Pahrump Valley Winery was produced from grape juice purchased in other states (like California) and then fermented and finished at the winery. To be charitable, many of these wines were of the lowest commercial grade, some barely palatable.

Hard times came, and the winery went on the block for sale in 2003. Enter Bill and Gretchen Loken.

Residents of Scottsdale, Arizona, they were looking for a change. A winery sounded like the perfect challenge. Far from being wine connoisseurs or insiders in the wine industry, they had to start from scratch. They learned all they could about wine, with Gretchen eventually attending the school of Enology at UC Davis and earning a certificate in winemaking.

With each successive vintage, the quality of the wines has improved. Many of the twenty or so bottlings done at the winery are made with premium grapes grown in California, Oregon, and Washington. But, more and more, the Lokens are seeking out grape sources locally, from vineyards in Nevada. In fact, over 25% of the wines they now produce are made with Nevada-grown grapes, and that percent is increasing with each new vintage.

They have several acres of vines on the property, mostly Zinfandel and Syrah, with smaller plantings of other varietals. They also purchase grapes from around the state, where microclimates have proven favorable to a number of grape varietals. Among the grape varietals they now purchase are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Barbera, Ruby Cabernet, Primitivo, Tempranillo, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc, with Chardonnay and Malbec soon to be available.

On this occasion, I noticed something new in the current crop of releases. The wines of Pahrump Valley Winery are more refined, more balanced, with better fruit definition. These are delicious wines, ready to hold their own with the offerings from wineries in California, Oregon, Washington, and other recognized areas.

The best news is that the wines made from 100% Nevada-grown grapes are as good as those made from imported grapes. Nevada wine-making has come of age. This is reflected in the spate of awards that Pahrump Valley Winery has been garnering in commercial wine competititons. The Nevada Ridge line-up of wines, made from Nevada-grown grapes, has already earned 60 medals, including 12 Gold Medals and two Double Gold Medals.

While at the winery, I tasted a few of the wines currently available for purchase in the tasting room. Below are my palate impressions and on-the-fly ratings.

2013 Charleston Peak Pinot Grigio, California
Pale straw color in the glass. The delicate nose includes floral impressions, apple, citrus, and peach fruit, and a hint of sweetness. In the mouth, the off-dry sweet impression continues. The white is medium-bodied, rounded, and has a creamy afterflavor. A Value Vino.
MSRP: $15.95 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 88

2010 Charleston Peak Syrah ‘Reserve,’ Sierra Foothills, California
This red sports a bright ruby color. Initial notes of smoke and cocoa mix with ample aromas of black berry fruits. It is medium-full in body, picking up some black licorice towards the finish. Enjoy with lamb or smoked red meats.
MSRP: $23.95 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 88

2012 Nevada Ridge Silver State Red, Nevada
This is a blended red featuring several varietals, all grown in the state of Nevada. It has already been awarded two Gold Medals in wine competition.
In the glass, it is a nearly transparent, light ruby color. The nose delivers lush aromas of raspberry and sweet cherry fruit, along with a touch of oak. Light and bright, with a sense of refinement, this is a perfect red for your next BBQ, lunch, or buffet-style event.
MSRP: $25.95 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 88

Pahrump Winery is open daily for wine tasting from 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM. And be sure to dine at the Symphony’s restaurant, open for lunch and dinner daily. Dinner reservations are recommended, especially on the weekend.

Pahrump Valley Winery
3810 Winery Road
Pahrump, NV 89048

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