Welcome to the crush! September is harvest time in the vineyard—and if you are a wine lover as I am, you probably wish you were in wine country right now.
Well, what if I told you that you are in wine country right now, and you can visit wineries right here in Reno?
In 2015, Nevada passed a law allowing commercial wineries in counties with a population of more than 100,000. Previously, wineries could only exist in the smaller counties, but that law paved the way for the creation of several wineries here in urban Washoe County—some even producing wine from vineyards located here in Nevada.
To clarify: Wineries are different from vineyards. Wineries produce wine from grapes that grow in vineyards, just as breweries produce beer from grains grown on farms. Wineries are production facilities, and vineyards are farms. While many of us picture wineries nestled in amongst the vines, that’s not the only place they can be.
In 2016, three wineries decided to work together in a shared location to keep costs lower: Basin and Range Cellars, Nevada Sunset Winery, and Great Basin Winery. They were able to secure a lease of half of Lead Dog Brewing’s building at 415 E. Fourth St. Sadly, one of the three, Basin and Range, has suspended operations; calls to learn the status and future plans of the winery have gone unanswered. We hope they reopen soon.
Nevada Sunset Winery, owned by Mike Steedman and Alynn Delisle, opened in the summer of 2017, and is credited with being the first urban winery in Nevada. When you visit Nevada Sunset Winery, you will be hosted by one of the owners, who will not only pour your wines, but also take you back into the production area to show you how they make the wines. Where else will a winemaker host you in the tasting room, and then give you a tour? Take that, Napa!
Nevada Sunset Winery offers a wide selection of red, white and rosé wines, made with grapes from both California and Nevada vineyards. The current tasting menu offers 19 different wines with something for everyone, including favorites like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, as well as some lesser-known grapes like Frontenac. All of the wines are available for purchase by the glass or bottle in the tasting room; bottle prices range from $20 to $35. Both red and white wine flights are available—three wines for $8. You can also sign up for the wine club, which brings along discounts and special events.
You don’t even have to leave your seat to visit another winery. Great Basin Winery, owned by Wendy and Adam Hand, opened in 2018. Adam is the winemaker and has been making wine for many years. He began as a home winemaker, but his skills and determination drove him to open a commercial winery. Adam has long-term relationships with vineyard owners in Amador, Sonoma and Mendocino counties in Northern California, allowing him to source high-quality fruit and make high-quality wines right here in Reno. Adam has used natural fermentation since 2017.
“I really like to let the fruit make the best wine it can,” he said. “I do nothing to adjust the PH or the sugar content and really try to take a minimalist approach to winemaking.” That hands-off approach really shows in the quality of his wines.
Great Basin offers a tasting of five wines for $8, as well as wines by the glass or bottle; prices range from $18 to $25 per bottle. Great Basin also has a wine club providing discounts and member benefits.
I asked Jeff and Katherine, two Great Basin Winery regulars and wine-club members (and childhood friends of Adam’s), why they enjoyed visiting the Fourth Street wineries.
“It is fun and casual, not packed like Midtown,” Jeff said. “Non-wine drinkers can get a beer at Lucky Dog and sit with their friends.”
Haden, a UNR grad student, decided to take Joel, his wine-loving college friend who was visiting Reno for a few days, to the Fourth Street wineries. Joel said he was to surprised to find the wines on par with—or even better than—the wines from Northern California wineries.
“I love Rombauer chardonnay, and this Great Basin 2021 Chardonnay is every bit as enjoyable,” he said.
If you are looking for a different type of urban winery experience, you may want to head to Engine 8 Urban Winery, located at 1260 Avenue of the Oaks, Suite 150, in Sparks. Owners Mike and Wendi Rawson started the winery in 2018; leveraging Mike’s food-service experience, they have created a unique place for people to eat, drink and gather.
Engine 8 has an extensive food menu as well as regular live music, creating a unique winery experience that might seem more like a wine bar—even though you’re actually in a tasting room.
So welcome to Reno … the biggest little wine region in the world!