By Marianne Donnelly
Pahrump, Nevada, 65 miles west of Las Vegas, had been called, "Pah Rimpi," meaning "water rock" or roughly, "artesian well" by the original inhabitants.
This long-time gateway for tourists headed to Death Valley, Tecopa Hot Springs, California, or "westward" continues to be carefully cultivated into a destination itself as a welcoming
"Heart of the New Old West" as well as, with burgeoning Viticulture, has emerged as,"Nevada Wine Country!"
Debbie and Tom Dahlman, Desert Cane Rum
Here, you can experience award winning wineries; locally made open-batch Jamaica-style rum from local cane; small batch meads and cider; a French patisserie; restaurants specializing in American, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Italian, Japanese cuisines; activities like hiking, rock-hounding, annual balloon festival, annual grape stomp and a variety of entertainment; wellness centers with advanced licensed options and accomodations from cabins, RV resorts, to hotels.
Let's start! How many restaurants do you know have 3 separate kitchens, a serious karaoke following and a retro-style mini bowling alley,
This destination has an aromatic Brick Oven kitchen cranking out gourmet pizzas; a regular-fare kitchen preparing American classics and vegetarian options and an authentic clay Tandoor Oven kitchen (typical of North India cuisine) which uses ventilated extreme heat for firing marinated meats and vegetables, as well as, traditional naan bread! Prices are affordable for plentiful, mouthwatering portions! Their karaoke is a community favorite. If that's not enough, there is also an adorable retro bowling alley! PourHouse has a Facebook page.
Now, with your stomach well-lined, you should go to a culturally important stop: Sanders Family Winery. Jack Sanders seemed, during a laughter-filled interview, to be a gracious, humble, adept visionary, working many decades with community leaders to cultivate Pahrump into a vibrant destination--something like vinification of fine wine!
Sanders Family Winery & Betsie Sanders Theater For The Performing Arts is just one of his many successful businesses. Perhaps, he is best known for being one of a very few businessmen to make an enormous investment in capitalizing on Pahrump Valley's special micro-climate and artesian waters, which are perfect for creating a vintner paradise. He fulfilled his mission to produce wines on par with "special reserve award winning wines" of his native Marin and Napa California "stomping" grounds! Originally, he created the first Nevada large scale vineyard, still known as Pahrump Valley Winery and Symphony Restaurant, with which he pioneered the wine industry for Nevada and eventually sold that successful endeavor.
Sanders continues to shape Pahrump as, "Nevada Wine Country" with his current Sanders Family Winery & Betsie Sanders Theater For The Performing Arts. This picturesque Italian Tuscan Villa style winery is stately, without unnecessary pretension. Gorgeous carved statues, belfry, cozy functional towers, cupolas, arches, rolling vineyard, tasters-haven room, plenty parking and walk-friendly. Tastings of wines—produced using precise cellaring techniques resulting in wonderfully balanced wines with smooth character and pleasant notes--are unhurried experiences perfect for sipping, savoring, and smiles. Purchasing wines you really like is wise, as stock sells quickly and batches are limited.
Sanders Winery's outdoor theater is named for his beloved wife Betsie who, among many accomplishments, was a dancer in the long-run, original cast of the Broadway musical, "Hello Dolly" which featured Carol Channing! State of the art sound and lighting, comfortable bistro-style seating and great wine makes this theater's first class concerts and performances sell out quickly!
Preferred RV Resort 60' heated year-round pool (courtesy photo)
As mid afternoon arrives, go to Desert Cane Distillery where PahRUMpians Debbie and Tom Dahlman produce Jamaican-style, really smooth, flavorful rum from traditional Open Vat Distilling using their own organic locally grown cane! Versions include: Crystal Rum with crystalized cane, hybrid-distilled, bottled unaged. Amber Oak Rum rested with toasted bourbon oak barreled. Dark Rum which is a blend of Crystal and Amber Oak rums with cane syrup. Their premier “Agricole” Rum made with fresh cane juice--is a limited release. And, "Put de lime in de coconut, and shake it all up...!" for Toasted Coconut Lime Rum. Finally, Spiced Rum infused with fruit and spices.
Their casual tasting bar is cozy and cute, sprinkled with gifts from from loyal patrons! It's like being in a good friend's living room! I had the "Dark and Stormy" and it was really easy on the tongue and light on my mind. We all broke out in "pirate talk" for fun! These owners are very warm and inviting--like the spirits they brew!
If you want activity or food with wine try "sip and paint" or other artistic or music-and-tasting opportunities at the newest Pahrump winery, Artesian Cellars (named as a grateful nod to local wells).
Regarding multiple wineries, here's a quote in Pahrump Valley Times by Artesian owner Tim Burke, "we’re not competitors...we we all make different wines...I think Pahrump has tremendous potential to be the wine center of Nevada." Their website says, "we are passionate about supporting and helping grow the Nevada wine industry.. In addition to helping nine other Nevada vineyards, we have four vineyards of our own: two in Northern Nevada and two in Southern Nevada. We also have leased vines in California and Washington State. While growing grapes in the Mojave Desert has unique agricultural challenges, the extreme climate produces rich and beautiful vintages. Our philosophy is that great wines start with great fruit and we strive to use only the best that each area produces. We currently harvest over 8 combined tons of Nevada grapes from our own and leased Nevada vineyards. These include Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, Barbera, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Marsanne."
Here are a few technical words I learned while writing this travelogue: "Viniculture" refers to the process of making the wine itself. "Viticulture" refers to the process of growing the grapes.
You're gonna love this: And, a "sommelier?” According to the San Francisco Wine School, "the word referred to the official responsible for the transport of French Royalty's baggage when they traveled like during the reign of Louis XIV. He was the official who chose the wines, table settings and desserts. The sommelier used his tastevin, a silver saucer on a thick silver chain worn around his neck to check his lord’s wine for poison! He also checked the food. If the sommelier died, his master would avoid the meal!" How's that for a well-paid "bête de somme" (root of the word) "beast of burden!"
Want a truly different tongue pleaser? Get thee to a meadery, Think Mead! Stonewise Mead and Cider is an adorable taproom that incorporates family values right down to a cordoned "tot corner" for those wanting to enjoy something refreshingly different, or take a growler to go, with children in tow. Or not! Hours are specifically keyed to early afternoon, with three closed days dedicated to brewing, to maximize family life for the owners and patrons! Their names are a portmanteau combining husband and wife's name-meanings. How charming is that! They offer small batch meads and unique ciders on tap by the glass, or tasting flights. Limited craft beers are from carefully chosen sources. And, are you ready for this: children's choices are: several flavors of juice boxes, craft sodas, ice-cream floats and snacks. Water is always free!
If you are on the run, you can buy Stonewise cans or growlers of meads and ciders filled to order at the tap room. Flavors change from one season to the next. As small-batch producers, focus is on developing new and exciting recipes that utilize the freshest ingredients available. Their success has been fast and fabulous so check before going as they close when supply has sold out: 775-GOT-MEAD (775-468-6323).
If you think honey-wine is a simple affair, think again, here are a few terms from their website:
Hydromel Mead made to have a lower percentage of alcohol (typically 3.5% to 7% ABV)
Melomel Mead made from a mixture of honey and fruit (e.g., pineapple, elderberry, etc.)
Metheglin Mead made from honey and various spices (e.g., ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)
Cyser Mead made from honey and apples (similar to honey cider)
Pyment Mead made from honey and grapes (typically wine varieties)
Bochet Mead made from caramelized honey
Acermel Mead made with maple syrup...
That's the short list of the wider world of Mead.
See their website for current offerings updated daily.
If all this fine wine and dining has you aching, go to Natural Vibes Wellness Center on postal road for expert chiropractic realignment, health classes, yoga, massage, foot detox, vibroacoustic therapy, reiki, or to buy supplements, stones, scents and surprises. In this soothing environment your questions are answered and you feel welcome to relax, read from books, or sip a non-alcoholic tonic. I had a deep tissue massage (one of the best) using blended techniques by strong, intuitive hands, working a tough under-shoulder knot and referred neck and back tightness. Sheri will listen carefully to your spoken as well as "kinesthetic words" to insure you let go of tension!
If you wish to appreciate the pioneer spirit and native culture of the region go to the free, carefully curated, Pahrump Valley Museum. Fossils, rocks, minerals, artifacts, on site old school, educational resources and more http://pahrumpvalleymuseum.org/
And when you "don't want to leave" I recommend Preferred RV Resort's fully equipped cabin rentals with access to a 40' length, heated, immaculately maintained pool open till 9:30 pm, (meals and activities sometimes available to guests for a tiny fee). The grounds are a work of art in micro-garden spaces from duck pond to koi fish pond, cactus garden and walking path! They have 50-amp service at every RV spot, free WiFi, indoor spa, billiards, an exercise room, woodshop, stained glass shop with instruction, arts/crafts and sewing...and indeed, more! This place is expressly Super Quiet and walking distance to nearly anything you might need.
It is my "gotta go to" sweet-spot for occasional staycations.
Vegas Valley freelance reviewer: