UNR eyes commercial vineyard

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Several years ago, I started following the progress of Dr. Grant Cramer of University of Nevada, Reno as he encouraged the wine industry in Nevada through his classes and wine tastings. There is now even more reason to get involved: the new venture to build a commercial-scale vineyard at the Main Station Field Laboratory.

UNR’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources is providing the land, water and equipment, and a newly formed nonprofit, Nevada Vines and Wines, is raising funds for vines, trellising and vineyard care.

The UNR program has been gaining momentum since 1995; 13 varietals of 90 vines each have been successfully maintained to date at UNR’s experimental vineyard. Wine made from these grapes is tasted twice monthly. To get a sense of what’s ahead for Nevada wine and the venture into a larger vineyard, put a Tuesday tasting on your schedule. Tastings are held at 5:30 p.m. at either the Greenhouse Complex on Valley Road at the UNR Field Station or at Studio on 4th, 432 E 4th St. A small donation, usually $10 or $15, is requested to support the program.

If you are fortunate, you’ll run into some of the other movers and shakers behind the new commercial vineyard at the tastings, all of whom are enthusiastically involved in the Nevada Vines and Wines initiative. Look for Professor Cramer’s students Ryan Ghan and Danny Hopper, and William Coplin, an avid local winemaker.

The plan is for a 3-acre vineyard that will produce 10 to 15 tons and make upwards of 2,000 cases of wine. The ultimate goal is 7 acres that will produce 20 to 35 tons. Both a Kickstarter campaign and an IndieGoGo campaign brought funds to the venture in the past few months.

One acre of 1800 Riesling vines has already been planted, and a grant from the Nevada Department of Agriculture is enabling a second acre of Lemberger grapes to be planted. The crowd-sourced funds are earmarked for planting a third acre with 1,500 Chardonnay vines, a trellis system and tanks that will hold 400 gallons of juice. The hope is for even more funding to buy Pinot Noir vines and additional wine making equipment.

The chances of building a good and reputable wine industry in Nevada are excellent. Many factors come into play of course, but climate is an important one. Northern Nevada’s climate is similar to that of eastern Washington State. The arid climate of Nevada means warm days, cool nights and relatively disease- and insect-free conditions.

This is a wonderful opportunity for Tahoe-Reno wine lovers to add to the success of a nearby wine industry. Contact the Nevada Vines and Wines organization by e-mail at uncorkingnevada.com to get on the list for updates.

To sample Nevada wines during a Tuesday tasting e-mail cramer@unr.edu. For more information on Nevada Vines and Wines, e-mail uncorkingnevada@gmail.com.

Search past columns at winebiznews.blogspot.com, or contact Barbara at barbarakeck.winenewswriter@gmail.com. 

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Barbara Keck
Barbara started writing for newspapers when she was 14 and continues to write, most recently the “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” book published by Range of Light Media, parent company of The Tahoe Weekly. Barbara wrote the wine column for the Weekly for many years, and contributes occasional tidbits on tourism and entertainment topics. A long marketing consulting career that included extensive international travel led her to conclude that Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Almost 20 years of enjoying the seasons on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe has confirmed her belief.