Thursday, June 9, 2011


Still striving to taste 50 wines in 50 states, Now And Zin's Wine Country series gambles on a Zin from Nevada.

Nevada's wine industry is one of the tiniest in America.  There are only three wineries in the state and a half dozen additional vineyards.  At one time not too long ago, there was only one winery in Nevada, and it was the Pahrump Valley Winery, about an hour outside of Las Vegas.

Wine grapes are very hard to grow in Nevada, as the weather is not hospitable.  Depending upon where you are, it's either too hot or too cold.  The University of Nevada at Reno studies grape growing in an effort to stimulate that industry for the state.  They feel the grape-growing areas in Washington and Colorado are similar in climate to the northern part of Nevada.

Pahrump Valley Winery is in the southern part of the state, where temperatures are very hot throughout the long summer and can get quite cold during the winter.

Nevada Ridge ZinfandelPahrump Valley Winery was established in 1990 in the town that bills itself as "The Heart of the New Old West."  Besides the winery, Pahrump is probably most noted for its legal brothels.  Pahrump Valley's 2005 Nevada Ridge Zinfandel was the first Nevada-grown red wine produced in the state.  They made 100 cases of that vintage and plan to produce 1200+ cases of wine in 2011.  They also have the first-ever Nevada Port aging presently.

Pahrump Valley does utilize some California and Oregon grapes, but the Zinfandel is all Nevada and they proudly say it represents their terroir well.

Bill and Gretchen Loken - the winemakers and proprietors - give special thanks on the label of the ‘08 Nevada Ridge Zin to Jerry Nelson and Bob and Roni Regan, who are listed as contributing growers.
The Nevada Ridge 2008 Zinfandel is a medium ruby color I can see through.  Wild cherry on the nose is joined by plenty of vanilla spice notes.  There is quite a bit of alcohol on the nose, and on the palate at first.  That’s surprising since it carries a 14.2% abv number, not huge by Zinfandel standards.  The heat does settle down nicely after a bit of time, though.  I’d recommend decanting for a couple of hours.

The wine shows big, bright berry flavors; there’s a raspberry layer over the wild cherry I smell, and a dusty aspect laces the fruit.  A flavor of black tea lasts into the finish very pleasantly.  It’s a fairly lengthy finish, too.

The mouthfeel is a little lighter than I am used to with California Zinfandels, but in the hot desert summertime, that’s probably a welcome attraction.  I can even see drinking the Nevada Ridge Zin with a bit of a chill on it - say, at a barbecue.

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