In late April 2019, Betsy Whipple of Alamo won the bronze medal in the home winemaker category at the Nevada Vinny Awards in Reno. The annual contest is sponsored by Nevada Vines & Wines, a northern Nevada non-profit dedicated to promoting Nevada wine.
Whipple’s wines were presented by Tim Burke, who bottled her grapes at his facility in Pahrump. “It turned out very nice. I was confident it would win a medal,” he said. Burke won five medals himself with wines he entered in the show from grapes harvested from some of his other clients.
Whipple, a home-based licensed financial advisor and stockbroker, said she first planted grapes in 2018 to begin a wine-growing operation. The grapes are a blend of white wine grapes Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.
The Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier are a blended wine, bottled with the name Peggy Sue. The Marsanne is named Betsy Lou.
“Both are a white wine,” Whipple explained, “but are designed to be a blended white that comes from the Rhône-Alpes region of southeast of France. We did a lot of study and decided, based on our climate, the severe drop of temperatures at night, it helps to make the fruit sweet. And we choose that variety of grapes to grow here as they are similar to where these grapes grow in France. That’s also why I have Pahranagat Valley noted on the label and not Lincoln County.”
Whipple said her interest in getting into the wine-growing business began “because I believe this valley is capable of growing something more than alfalfa. My friend and classmate, the late Tim Frehner, and I, way back in high school, used to sit in the hot springs thinking of ways to make this valley unique, and therefore on the back of the bottles from this first harvest, I have dedicated it to him.”
She recalled that even when she and Tim “were in our early grade-school years, and Tim might be here playing at my mom’s ranch, she had tons of old grapevines, planted long ago by the Chisums. He used to love to play in those vines, and although I thought they were just a bunch of junky old vines, Tim would say, ‘No, Betsy, that’s a vineyard.’”
Whipple has about 300 vines on one acre of land on her ranch. “I’m putting in another 300 vines pretty soon and just put in 300 cabernets.”
When the grapes are harvested, they are shipped to Pahrump Burke processes and bottles them, 18 cases of 12 bottles each from Whipple’s first harvest.
Burke said, “Once it had a little more time to age it will probably place even higher. She should be very proud. I think her vineyard shows great promise to produce some more award-winning wine.”
Whipple said, “We harvested our first crop in late July 2018 with great help from Ed Higbee and his family and other members of the extended Higbee family. After it was bottled, I was surprised Burke entered the competition because it was last minute.”
According to Whipple, her two blends of wine “are not heavy like a Chardonnay, a little more fruitier and lighter, and for being out here in the desert it pairs very well with fish. With the Marsanne you can actually taste orange a little bit. The three blends have a bit more flavor.”
She said she is “delighted that with our first harvest, we actually got a nod from people who actually know what they are doing.”
Whipple plans to plant another acre of cabernets on her property. “I want to be able to have a red as well. Ed Higbee is experimenting on his land with a tempranillo, a different type of a red, a more Italy-based grape. Later, I plan to turn the old dairy barn on my ranch into a wine-tasting room.”
Burke said the wines are not out on the market yet, but can be pre-ordered from his website battlebornvineyards.com.
or a new website to be operational soon, www.artesiansellers.com. “We’re letting them age a bit more, but I think they are very nice wines right now.”
He also said by early fall he hopes to have a tasting room open in Pahrump.