LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — Patricia Shultz admits she was skeptical.
"We're driving up the drive and I'm like, ‘where's the grapes?’” Shultz said. "And then we pulled up like, ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh.’"
Shultz visited the Pahrump Valley Winery for the first time a few years ago with friends. It was a Nevada wine tasting that made her a believer.
"Every time we come to Las Vegas, we come to the winery,” said Shultz.
Shultz is hardly alone. Since it first opened in 1990, visitation at the winery has grown steadily.
One of the main questions: how does anything grow in our harsh Nevada desert?
"Every year, we are amazed at what we can grow in this desert,” said owner Gretchen Loken, with a laugh. “It's not too hot as long you grow the right kind of grape. Certain grapes we would never try to grow here because it is too hot.”
Loken and her husband Bill bought the winery 14 years ago.
During harvest, she's right there among the vines providing sweat equity.
It’s a labor of love that's now producing about 9,000 cases of wine a year. It’s enough to make it the biggest and oldest winery in Nevada but is still considered a very small operation.
"Perspective? Gallo is the biggest producer in the world, and they are worldwide. They do six and a half million cases a month," said Loken.
But "small" does not mean low quality.
Nevada wines have now racked up about 100 national awards. The grapes are stemmed, pressed, barreled, and bottled right on site.
From vine to table, it's about a two-year process. Trouble is the winery is running out of room. The obvious solution is expansion.
Just out back, plans are laid out for a new 7,000-square foot facility for production and storage. They've also planted another five acres of vines in neighboring Amargosa Valley to keep up with wine demand.
"The budget is, between the new building and equipment, the budget is $1 million if we hold true to form," said Loken. "We'll go way over budget."
An industry quite literally grown from the dirt is beating the odds in Nevada.