Sweet smell (or bouquet) of success: Pahrump Valley Winery to quadruple production

Pahrump Valley Winery has won 100 national awards — 470 total — since Bill and Gretchen Loken purchased the company 14 years ago. That success led the couple to invest $1 million this year to quadruple their production capacity, an effort that’s nearing completion.

“This is the biggest (project) we’ve ever done,” said Bill Loken. It’s going to look better, it’s going to function way better. More wine with less work.”

Twelve gleaming stainless steel fermentation tanks, custom-made in Germany, have been added to the four already at the winery. Some of the new tanks, which are more than 12 feet tall, have a duplex configuration so two wines can be produced in the floor space of one.

Tanks both new and old occupy a new room behind the original winery, with storage space for 18,800 cases. The old winery has been gutted, with flooring and lighting installed, and more than 200 oak barrels are being moved into it along with accents such as half-barrels juxtaposed with gnarled grape vines. The barrel-aging room will be used for small events.

A bottling line, imported from Italy, was on the way to the winery at press time. While the old line required eight people to fill 500 units an hour, the new one can handle 2,000 an hour, with only two people operating it. And the new line can handle screw caps as well as corks.

The 105 cases of Nevada wines Pahrump Valley produced in 2005 and released in 2008 were the state’s first, Loken said. Currently, 20 percent to 25 percent of their production is Nevada wines, with the rest of the grapes brought in from California. Loken said 75 percent of their vineyards aren’t producing yet; he expects an “explosion” of Nevada production next year, reaching 75 percent to 80 percent in four to five years. The Nevada wines currently are a primitivo, a zinfandel, a red blend, a barbera and a tempranillo.

Zinfandel and Syrah grapes are grown on the property on Winery Road off State Road 160 on Pahrump’s southeast side. Other types are produced by their growing partners, who have 15 acres in Amargosa Valley and 10 acres in Fish Lake Valley, near Dyer.

Tours are available daily (except some holidays) at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.; they’re free for groups of fewer than eight (larger groups are charged $5 each). The 30-minute tours are split between indoors and out.

The winery also is home to Symphony’s restaurant, named for one of its gold-medal-winning wines. Lunch and dinner are served daily, with reservations accepted for dinner.

New within the past few years is a glass-enclosed room, overlooking the vineyards, that doubled the restaurant’s seating.

“This is a very, very popular place,” Loken said of the space, finished with light-gray plank flooring, a beamed ceiling and a spotlight over each table. A private dining room, which seats up to 24, which can be used for birthdays, small weddings, family get-togethers or business meetings.

The couple already has figured out next year’s project: improvements to the grounds, including infrastructure for weddings. pahrumpwinery.com