“Harvest is Fun and Romantic for About 10 Minutes. Then the Work Starts.”

With big variations in its northern and southern climates, Nevada’s harvest season can stretch over more than two months. Tim Burke toiled at both ends of the state in 2018, gathering grapes from eight different vineyards in far-flung locations. Barbera in Amargosa Valley, Gerverstemener in Fallon, and a scrambled assortment of fruit from here and there.

It’s been “very crazy,” Burke told GBN.

Burke, who expects to break ground on his Artesian Cellars winery some time in 2019, is scooping up Nevada grapes. With an eye toward large-scale commercial production, he made a deals to harvest for a few small vineyard owners who wanted help. Story continues below…

Southern Nevada winemakers working together in August of 2018, L-R: Tim Burke (Artesian Cellars); Mike Schoenbaechler and Patty Peters (Vegas Valley Winery); Gretchen and Bill Loken (Pahrump Valley Winery). Photo courtesy of Tim Burke.

Yields from the small growers have been a few hundred pounds from each vineyard. “It all adds up eventually,” he said. “It’s like putting money in the bank. We’re stockpiling gallons of wine right now for our 25 percent,” he told GBN.

Burke believes some of these owners didn’t realize the demands of vineyard management when they planted. To boost the Nevada-grown quotient for Artesian Cellars, he’s been happy to step in and relieve them of the burden. “Harvesting is fun and romantic for about 10 minutes. Then it becomes a lot of work.”

Last weekend started on Thursday when Burke took the wheel of a one-ton crew cab with a flatbed trailer, rolling from Pahrump six hours north to Fallon.  At 4 a.m. Friday, he was up and ready to work in the vineyard owned by his sister, Kelly Service. By 6 o’clock he was onsite with hired harvest help. At 4 p.m. the bins were full, the trailer was loaded, and he was back on the road to Pahrump, arrival time 10:30.

Saturday morning the grapes were moved to Bill Loken’s Pahrump Valley Winery, where they spent 24 hours cooling. They were back on the truck Sunday morning, headed for Burke’s winemaking facility. Crushing and pressing commenced at 9 a.m., and Burke called it a day at 8 o’clock Sunday night.

The Fallon marathon produced primarily Gerverstemener and several red varieties. Based on the quality of the fruit – “outstanding,” he says – brother and sister are planning to expand the vineyard.

A few weeks earlier, Burke had picked grapes in Amargosa Valley alongside winemakers from Vegas Valley Winery and the Pahump Valley Winery. After a demanding harvest season, Burke credits southern Nevada team spirit for his upbeat attitude. Everyone works together down here, he says of the other wineries in the region.

Burke is in negotiation with Nye County, which owns the plot on highway 160 where he plans to build Artesian Cellars Winery. He hopes to plant vines at the site next spring.