Last summer, Pahrump Valley Winery owner Bill Loken rolled the dice and this year, it appears to be paying off.
Loken invested roughly $1.7 million in the 9,000-square-foot expansion effort, which is expected the be complete later this month.
The enhancement includes all new state-of-the-art wine-making machinery and additional accoutrements, including tanks, a bottling line, and pressing equipment for the business located at 3810 Winery Road, which continues to thrive.
Additionally, the augmentation includes a spacious cooling room to store hundreds of oak barrels costing between $400 and $1,000 each, to age the product.
Much of the equipment, Loken said, was purchased in parts of Europe.
“The tanks hold about 1,550 gallons, or about 7,500 bottles,” Loken said. “These are custom made in Germany. We also have a brand new, fully-automated bottling line. The expansion started last August and we are now doing all of the finishing work on everything. You can tell that we have gutted it and redone everything.”
Brand new automation
Loken was especially pleased with his new bottling line apparatus, though he said he hadn’t yet learned to operate it.
“You put the bottles in on one end, where the conveyor belts keep feeding the bottles down the channel,” he said. “This machine, along with three people, would take just five hours to bottle one of the 1,500-gallon tanks. On the other hand, it would take eight people two days to bottle the same amount of wine. We can fill 2,000 bottles in one hour.”
As most wine bottles are sealed with a cork, Loken said he now has the ability to also use screw caps.
“Actually, some of the finest wines in the country are using screw cap bottles,” he said. “It’s perfect for certain kinds of wine but not all wines, because not all wines benefit from a cork and not all wines benefit from a screw cap. This machine is very unique, in such that we may decide not to cork the bottles, but rather screw cap them. The screw cap is better at keeping oxygen out of the bottle, which maintains the freshness of the wine. A cork allows the wine to keep aging as if it were in a barrel.”
Made in the shade
Regarding the sprawling vineyards on the winery grounds, Loken said he’s created a method to keep the grapes safe and healthy during summers in Southern Nevada.
“Years ago, we learned a method called the California sprawl trellis system where we let the canopies spread out to provide a lot of shade to the grapes where they get to cool down,” he said. “We also give them plenty of water so they don’t starve to death from dehydration, just like human beings. If you are out in the hot desert in the middle of the day, what are the two things that you want more than anything else in the world? The answer is obviously shade and water. Grapes want the same thing. It’s pretty much common sense.”
When such due care is exercised with the grapes, the effort is bound to pay off, as the winery has again recently earned several awards from wine industry magazines and similar publications and organizations.
Raising a glass
At present, the winery has won roughly 120 wine awards for the Nevada wines, as well as close to 500 national awards.
“We have received more than two dozen awards for our Nevada wines just in the last month or so,” Loken said. “Our Primitivo, which is a rich, red wine and is very similar to red Zinfandel, recently won a double gold and a gold award. The double golds are extremely hard to get, and it’s the third time our Primitivo from Amargosa has won a double gold award. You could be in a competition with 3,000 wines and they only give out two double golds. It’s pretty exciting, especially when you receive a double gold and the silver winner is from a Napa Valley winery.”
As the single largest investment since purchasing the winery, Loken said he and his wife Gretchen are completely committed to continuing their pursuit, 16 years in the making.
“This is an extension to the commitment we made to our fine grower partners, as we call them,” he said. “We have been very fortunate in working with people around the state who have planted vines on our behalf based on the promise that we are going to be able to take their fruit when it’s ready.”
Once all of the dust has finally settled, Loken said he and his wife plan to host a celebration on the grounds.
“I think sometime in September, when things kind of settle down a little bit, we will have a big open house for the community complete with food, wine and maybe some entertainment just to kind of show it off before the Grape Stomp, which is scheduled this year for October 6th and 7th.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at email@example.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes