Las Vegas always has been a cocktail town. In the Rat Pack days, martinis were all the rage, and in the last decade, Vodka Red Bull ruled the day. Now, however, there’s a new option for elbow-benders: Las Vegas just opened its first winery and tasting room.
The Vegas Valley Winery makes five different types of wine: one pink, two whites, and two reds. At present, the wines are available only in a cozy tasting room in a nondescript industrial park in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, about 20 minutes from the Strip; the company promises slightly wider availability later this spring. (For now, the Vegas Valley operation calls to mind a word not typically associated with Las Vegas: modest.)
“We’re not trying to become the next Napa or Sonoma over here,” jokes GM and winemaker Mike Schoenbaechler. “We want to stay small and hand-crafted, a specialty place that makes good wine and gives people another option for something to do when they are out and about in Las Vegas.”
“We try to provide the same kind of tasting room experience people might find elsewhere, but with a bit of a Vegas spin.”
Schoenbaechler and co-owner Patty Peters have been developing the place for the better part of the past decade. Back in 2007, Patty and her late husband, Charlie, started Grape Expectations, a custom-crush facility and winemaking school at the same location. In 2015 a revision to Nevada state law allowed the existence of commercial wineries, so Schoenbaechler and Peters got to work.
That first vintage—blended in house from California wines—resulted in a few hundred cases of five varieties: a dry white, a sweet riesling, a sweet rosé, a jammy zinfandel, and a smooth syrah. All are available by the glass at the tasting room today for $7.50 to $9.50 each, or sample all five for $8.
Despite its light-industrial setting, the tasting room feels like a proper tasting room, albeit one that serves little cheese pizzas while a TV in the corner shows Las Vegas Golden Knights games.
“We try to provide the same kind of tasting room experience people might find elsewhere, but with a bit of a Vegas spin,” Schoenbaechler said. “We want people to feel this is a place they can come and relax.”
Looking forward, Vegas Valley Winery has wines in the works that have a closer tie to Sin City. The 2015 Nevada state law revision allowed the state’s newly legal commercial wineries to crush grapes on-site—and for wineries producing more than 1,000 cases, 25 percent of the grapes must come from Nevada. So, in addition to barrels from California’s Suisun Valley and Paso Robles, Schoenbaechler is vinting barrels from Nevada’s fertile Amargosa Valley, about 90 minutes northwest of Las Vegas.
These wines are in barrels now and will be released next year.
It’s worth noting that drink lovers who make the trek to Vegas Valley Winery from the Strip could parlay the journey into a bigger beverage crawl. Locals call the industrial park the “Henderson Booze District” because there are three nascent craft breweries and a distillery in the same industrial park, all within a short walk of Vegas Valley Winery.
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Matt Villano Matt Villano is a writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. To learn more about him, visit whalehead.com.