Nevada Dept of Ag Offers $250K Specialty Crop Grant; Viticulture Qualifies

The Nevada Department of Agriculture has announced funding for its Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

Specialty crops are defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, legumes, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture),” according to a statement from the Department.

A student clips a grape vine at the Nevada Vines & Wines Academy on March 18,2017. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

“Viticulture definitely qualifies,” said Agriculture Department spokeswoman Rebecca Allured. “We have funded wine industry projects in the past.”

While the awards will go to projects that enhance the “competitiveness of Nevada’s specialty crops,” the Department specifically disqualifies private parties as sole beneficiaries.

“Individual producers can apply,” Allured said. But the proposed project must have multiple beneficiaries, and should be for research, marketing, education, or outreach.

“Not simply to start up or improve operations,” Allured told GBN.

Nonprofit and tribal organizations, minority groups, disadvantaged farmers, agricultural associations, industry groups, community based organizations and academic institutions are also encouraged to apply, the Department says. Nevada boasts several community-oriented food distribution and research projects funded by the specialty crop grant program.

The funding is available through a partnership between Nevada and the United States Department of Agriculture. Letters of intent are due by March 15, 2018. Full application proposals are due a month later.

UPDATE – This story has been updated to reflect comments from Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Rebecca Allured.


Joe Bernardo, Ingrid Benson, Ann York, and Ed York (in the distance, upper right), work the harvest at Bill Coplin’s Casa Castana Vineyard in Washoe Valley on September 16, 2018. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Bottling Day Arrives for Basin and Range

“It’s been two years in the making,” said Joe Bernardo.

Bernardo stood in the parking lot of the 4th Street Wineries and watched a crew push cases of Basin and Range Brianna from the rear door of a mobile bottling plant. The plain, white cartons moved from a conveyor belt to a stacked pallet, where Basin and Range partner Wade Johnston guided a forklift into place.

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Wade Johnston moves cartons of Basin and Range wines on February 17, 2018 Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Bernardo and Johnston expected that by the end of the day they’d pack up 950 cases of their sweet, white Brianna and a Frontenac Rose. They’ve planned a separate bottling session in March for 450 cases of Frontenac and St. Croix reds.

Bottling day marks a new chapter for Basin and Range, whose 2016 harvest was unexpectedly put into frozen storage when their shared  4th Street location faced a series of construction delays and licensing challenges. The Basin and Range winemaking effort remained in limbo until last August.

“A long time getting here, long time getting the equipment, a long time getting the wine made,” Bernardo said. “Now we’re nine-tenths of the way there.”

The two bottling sessions — 1,400 cases by the end of March —  includes vintage 2016 and vintage 2017.

Basin and Range Partners Wade Jonston and Joe Bernardo in the barrel room at the 4th Street Wineries on February 17, 2018 Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Basin and Range will hold off its tasting room debut until all its varietals are ready to pour, likely in the early summer.

“I don’t want to rush the reds,” Johnston told GBN. “They could still sit in the bottle for a little bit.”

The brand will be offered in the same 4th Street tasting room that’s been inhabited since last fall by Nevada Sunset Winery. The two wineries operate in the same building under a recently-legalized business arrangement called an alternating proprietorship. A third winery, Great Basin Winery, LLC, is also located there, and has yet to debut its wine.

Prices for the Basin and Range products haven’t been determined. Bernardo and Johnston will host tastings to gauge response to the wine before pricing it, Bernardo told GBN.

ABOVE: The Ball Bottling mobile unit at the 4th Street Wineries on February 17, 2018 Photo: @GrapeBasinNews
Ball Bottling mobile unit with newly bottled Basin and Range Brianna on February 17, 2018 Photo: @GrapeBasinNews
Ball Bottling mobile operation; empty bottles move into the plant (right): Full bottles come back to the rear of the trailer, ready to load into cartons (left) Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Accidental Success: Twin Mustang Breaks Out Marquette Never Intended for Harvest

The vines were just two years old. The fruit had ripened, but it was too young to work with, so Jason Schultz decided to leave it in the vineyard.

Then one day, on a whim, he collected the grapes, which led to a crush, which led to an award-winning 2016 Marquette.

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Jason Schultz is visible behind his lineup of Twin Mustang wines, sporting awards from various regional competitions PHOTO [email protected]

That’s the short version. When GBN asked Schultz why he submitted the young wine to the Cellar Masters of Los Angeles competition, there was a short answer.

“Because I opened it up, and I was like — ‘damn!'” he quipped.

Southern California judges apparently agreed, awarding the silver.

Schultz and wife Debora popped the cork Friday night on the Twin Mustang Brindle Marquette, at the first in a new series of home winemaker tastings hosted by Nevada Sunset Winery.

The Marquette will be subject to blending experiments at the winery later this year. Twin Mustang is likely to combine the Merlot-like Marquette with the winery’s deeper, gold medal Frontenac. The final product will be determined when Schultz gathers a close knit group of trusted palates for a blend-and-taste session.

Twin Mustang proprietors Debora (left) and Jason Schultz, with Lynne Keller (right) Photo:@GrapeBasinNews

Nevada Vines & Wines Energized in 2018; Seeks Alliance with Beer and Spirits

Nevada’s wine and viticulture advocacy group will redefine itself in 2018, following a weekend retreat where new board members were initiated.

Nevada Vines & Wines President Teri Bath (left) speaks to members at the 2017 Christmas Party Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

Nevada Vines and Wines will reach south to work with growers and winemakers in Clark County and the state’s rural regions. The organization also expects to collaborate with Nevada’s growing contingent of craft brewers and distillers to influence alcohol regulations.

“We’re going to be a lot more organized,” said Vines & Wines president Teri Bath. “We are Nevada Vines & Wines, not just northern Nevada.”

Bath will invite southern industry members to join the organization and to attend events in Reno.

At its retreat, the board welcomed Adrian Dyette and Stuart Michell as new members. Steve Bamberger and Mary Sauvola have both resigned from the board for personal reasons. It’s currently unclear whether Bamberger will continue to coordinate the group’s annual winemaker awards held in the spring.

Vines & Wines will also seek a new location for its monthly third Thursday tastings. The February tasting will feature chocolate and wine pairings with Allison Robinson of Wine Tahoe will pour from Boisset Collection. This event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on February 15 at the 4th Street Wineries.

THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED: An earlier version of this story identified new Vines & Wines board member Stuart Michell as Stuart Mitchell.

Nevada Sunset to Launch Wine Club, Host Local Winemakers Series

Nevada Sunset has spent its short existence in the spotlight, and it hasn’t always been comfortable. But Washoe County’s first urban winery is hitting its stride in 2018 with unique special events and a new wine club.

A monthly tasting series featuring local home winemakers is planned, starting February 9 at the Nevada Sunset tasting room. The inaugural tasting will feature Twin Mustang’s estate grown 2017 Frontenac Gris, 2017 Edelweiss, 2016 Marquette, and 2016 Frontenac. Each of the Twin Mustang wines has captured gold, double gold, or silver medals in competition.

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Nevada Sunset has new momentum for 2018, including a new wine club. The club has no membership fee.

Twin Mustang proprietor Jason Schultz is enthusiastic about kicking off the series.

“Anything that draws attention to the home and commercial winemaking community should be seen as positive,” he told GBN. “We need all the help we can get.”

The tastings will create public profile for local wines that can’t legally be sold, and stimulate discussion of state law that many in Nevada’s wine community view as overly restrictive.

It was Statutory changes pushed through in the final days of the 2017 legislative session that made it possible for the 4th Street winery to clear legal hurdles allowing it to open last fall. Nevada Sunset shares space with two other wineries. The cost saving arrangement, called an alternating proprietorship, had been illegal even as the three entities secured commercial space in 2016 with plans to bottle wine under separate labels for commercial consumption.

Nevada Sunset’s two collaborators are producing wine on the premises, but have not yet begun pouring. Basin and Range will bottle its first vintage later this month, and there appears to be activity in the third production area, which belongs to Great Basin Wines.

Some local winemakers with an eye on starting commercial operation believe more changes to Nevada law are needed.

Admission to the Nevada Sunset tasting series is free, but guests can make optional donations to a nonprofit selected by the featured winemakers. Jason and Debora Schultz have chosen Foundation Fighting Blindness, which devotes resources to retinitis pigmentosa. The condition runs in Debora’s family.