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Get a taste of Las Vegas’ first winery

As the young Zinfandel blossoms on your tongue, Ryan Duncan will tell you about the grape’s unpronounceable relative in Croatia, which his cherished Sancerre’s minerality lands like lime licked off granite. From malolactic fermentation to diurnal shifts, his sommelier muscle will simply keep twitching. Up until you ask about the first wine so scrumptious it made him close his eyes.

“Beringer Private Reserve, 1986. I didn’t understand enough to know why it was so excellent, but I knew it readied,” he says, tasting the memory. “It was remarkable.”

That’s been the widespread gut reaction to Clark County’s first winery. After releasing quietly on December 8, Vegas Valley Winery sold out its January 20 grand opening, which included a stunning model with a glass of red painted between her bare breasts. To any gasping wine snobs, this is how Las Vegas does a winery.

“Part of me likes that we remain in a warehouse, since I think when people first drive in they’re going, ‘Oh my God, how excellent can this be?'” Patty Peters says, chuckling. She and co-owner/winemaker “Big” Mike Schoenbaechler considered turning a golf course into an idyllic place, but that would have meant uprooting their winemaking school, Grape Expectations, which Peters opened with her late partner Charlie in 2007. The school is a staple in Henderson’s Booze District. Plus, romantic vineyards are California’s thing.

“The winery’s stunning, however only from the inside,” states Big Mike, who assisted build the tasting space. He and production professional Chad Evans hand-applied Venetian plaster walls and a layered cement floor you ‘d swear was wood. Evans made declaration art from old barrel staves and smooth paneling from bleached-out boards. The bar is polished stone the color of aged cork, versus which the five initial releases can be picked out by color alone.

All were made with grapes from California. Big Mike describes that it will take years to cultivate vines like Pahrump’s wineries have. State law previously barred wineries from counties with populations over 100,000, however that altered in 2015, and the Grape Expectations group got started right then on licensing to plant the fundamental flag in Las Vegas.

The very first 1,000 cases of wine can be made with grapes from anywhere. After that, 25 percent of the fruit must be native.” [Legislators] didn’t wish to just open the floodgates and let California roll in and put big wineries on the Strip, the cash streaming right back to California. We want to develop a market from the ground up,” Big Mike states. “There have been existing wineries in the state for quite a while now, and they’ve shown that grapes can grow; they have actually shown they can make good wine from those grapes. So we just need to expand upon that.”

Duncan, who handles the tasting room, states Vegas Valley Winery is dealing with growers on three varietals in the Amargosa Valley, about 88 miles to the northwest. The clay soil and big swing in temperature level from day to night make it perfect. There are other promising areas in our dry state, Duncan states, pointing to the blossoming wine scenes in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. “I think it’s just truly untapped.”

Big Mike has actually seen the lounge get busier and busier, as locals stick around over cheese pizzas and charcuterie and take spontaneous tours of a rack home stacked to the ceiling with barrels.

“I really thought it would take a while to get it increase, to acknowledge that we’re even here,” he says. “It caught on like wildfire. … It tells me that there was a built-up need.”

Two more reds will likely be launched this year, a Barbera and Sangiovese; and a Tempranillo, Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend and Sauvignon Blanc are racked. While some of the wines will continue to be made with the very best grapes from other states (or nations), the “five-year strategy” is to unveil a simply Nevada line. Vegas Valley Winery has a great model in the Pahrump wine community, which has actually been very helpful of growing the market.

Sales at the brand-new winery have actually been strictly by-the-glass to save supply, however bottles will be prepared in the next couple of months. Simply do not try to find them in supermarket. “We wish to make a handcrafted product that’s small-volume and quality that we can put our blood, sweat and tears into,” Big Mike says. “I cannot say it won’t ever occur, however it’s not what we’re pursuing.”

That goes way back to the days when he and Charlie were making wine in a Tuff Shed in the Peters’ yard. It’s where he fell for the process and the people– the friendship of wine. When Charlie died suddenly in 2012, none of his partners might imagine letting Grape Expectations pass away, too, so Huge Mike and others stepped up to assist Patty keep it going.

Backing up the bar, she recalls her very first date with Charlie, when he pulled into a McDonald’s only to whip a cheese board and chilled brut Champagne from his trunk.

“I have no idea what happens to you after you pass away, however if he’s drifting around he’s a delighted little camper. He ‘d be tickled with this,” she says. “You know, I feel like I have actually got Charlie.” Not just in the bones of the operation, however in the charming wackiness of marketing chief and “Professor of Yeastology” K.J. Howe. In Evans’ reliable “brute strength.” In the way Duncan and fellow cop-turned-somm Chris Carroll can’t assist nerding out. And particularly in Huge Mike’s focus. Without him, Peters states, the location would have folded.

She calls it an unusual family. More like the ideal mix.

Swirl, sniff and drink your way through Vegas Valley Winery’s very first 5 offerings– for $8


Grapes: Paso Robles, CA

ABV: 15.3%

Scent: black pepper, spice

Taste: dark berry, cherry compote, raisin, fig

Complete: flower

Duncan states: “This is just classic Paso Robles zin for me– it’s got high alcohol; it’s jammy; it’s got a great deal of dried fruit notes. However it’s actually ripe fruit and an actually nice balance of acid and tannin.”

SYRAH, 2014

Grapes: Paso Robles, CA

ABV: 14.5%

Aroma: purple and red flowers, lavender, peppercorn, Herbs de Provence

Taste: blackberry, plum, black olive

Complete: dark chocolate

Big Mike says: “A little bit bolder, darker. This is really our most popular wine. It’s got good body and great soft tannin– great balance.”


Grapes: Suisun Valley, CA

ABV: 11.6%

Fragrance: orchard fruit, citrus blossoms, lemongrass

Taste: Golden Delicious apple, pear, grapefruit, lime passion

Finish: zingy

Huge Mike states: “Since we were only gon na be able to begin with one dry white wine, we wished to have something that wasn’t too acidic or crisp, more of a crowd-pleaser.”


Grapes: Suisun Valley, CA

ABV: 9.2%

Fragrance: honey, white flowers

Flavor: peach, apricot, tropical notes

End up: mineral

Duncan states: “It’s not offensively sweet, not a honey bomb, and it’s got great taste. With a hot Thai dish, ideal. Indian, too.”


Grapes: Suisun Valley, CA

ABV: 11.1%

Scent: red flowers

Flavor: ripe strawberry

End up: watermelon sweet

Duncan says: “Believe summer season by your pool when it’s 110 and this wine, actually, actually cold. Nearly wine-slurpy cold. If the rosé were a little drier I ‘d probably drink it out of stock.”

VEGAS VALLEY WINERY Monday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m.; Friday, 2-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; Sunday, noon-9 p.m., 7360 Eastgate Roadway # 123, 702-806-3383, vegasvalleywinery.com