Creating a Home on the Range
Basin and Range Cellars delivers the first all-Nevada grown wines.
BY MEGG MUELLER
There are a number of words I use sparingly in my writing, with unique landing very near the top of my list of over- and erroneously-used words. The very definition of unique after all, means something singular, the only one of its kind. For Basin and Range Cellars, however, I will bust out this word.
A winery located in Reno’s burgeoning libation district on Fourth Street, Basin and Range Cellars is a part of the growing brewery, distillery, and winery industry in Nevada that has taken off in recent years. Each one offers a distinct reason to visit and is truly a great Nevada experience, but it must be said a taste of Basin and Range’s wines is a unique experience.
UNDISPUTABLY IN A GLASS BY ITSELF
Basin and Range opened in 2018, the brainchild of a geologist and a former financial planner, both amateur winemakers. For a number of reasons the pair decided to focus on other aspects of their respective careers and put the business up for sale last year. Enter Krag Redinger, a financial consultant from the Bay Area who grew up visiting the wilds of Nevada and married a Gardnerville girl. When the pair moved back to Nevada, Krag decided it was time for something new and began looking for his next challenge. Basin and Range Cellars proved the perfect fit.
Well, perfect other than Krag has no experience as a winemaker, something he’s taken very seriously as he learns the ropes. The geologist co-founder—Wade Johnston—is staying on for a year, Krag says, and will continue to apply his special knowledge of the land as he crafts the varietals.
To say craft in this situation is perfectly reasonable as the job of making wine from grapes grown solely in Nevada is an art, and that too, makes Basin and Range unique. It is the only Nevada winery farming all of its own fruit and also the only winery using 100 percent Nevada fruit.
FROM THE ROOTS UP
Basin and Range’s vineyard is on an organic, 10-acre site at the Buffalo Creek Ranch in Minden. The vineyard is planted in coarse granite soil on an alluvial fan of the Sierra Nevada, with much more favorable drainage and geochemistry than the volcanic rocks covering most of the state. This granite is the same rock that most vineyards in the prolific Sierra Foothills region are set in.
While Nevada isn’t thought of as a hub of winemakers—especially with California’s massive wine industry next door—the winery’s terrain is similar to those found in Argentina and Chile; high and dry, and set in the rain shadow of a major mountain range. Nevada also has an abundance of sunshine to get grapes to their optimal ripeness, plus the arid climate eliminates the pressure from molds, rots, funguses, and mildews so farming organically is relatively easy. Most wine regions, including California, have to spray their vines with chemicals to suppress these problems.
Not all grapes love the Nevada climate and altitude, but Basin and Range has found success with unique French-American hybrid grape varietals.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Frontenac, la crosse, St. Croix, and brianna. If you don’t recognize those varietals, you’re not alone, but they are the perfect choice for Nevada’s soil and climate. The wines may not be what some are accustomed to, but that doesn’t pose a problem for Krag.
“I’m OK with not having a cabernet sauvignon,” he says. “It’s hard to grow grapes here, but the wines are very good. I think they’re representative of Nevada and Northern Nevada because they are sharp. They are not what I’d call bubblegum wines. Not super sweet.”
“These varietals have a high acid content, so it’s a challenge to get that pH to balance out the acid, and it’s a very unique product and a very good product,” he continues. “We’re going to do some exciting things with it, all within that vineyard. I have three varietals that are on the dry side, and one that’s our dessert wine which is sweet and we’re going to be doing some blends.”
Krag admits that appealing to wine drinkers from the other side of the mountain can be a challenge when their palates are used to a different type of grape. While continuing to encourage the exploration of his varietals, he’s ready to show that Nevada-grown grapes can produce wines for all palates.
“When someone wants a chardonnay,” he notes, “I’ll be able to offer the la crosse that I blended with the brianna, then I oaked it in an oak barrel for three weeks, so I’ll be able to say ‘try this.’ We’ll still be using only the ingredients within our vineyard.”
Asking someone who’s just months into ownership of a new business in a nascent industry what their five-year plan is might seem a bit too hopeful, but for Krag, he sees the future growing as fast as his vines.
“No five-year plan, but I have a two-year plan,” he says, with a laugh. “This year is to not overproduce. With reds, you can keep them for 10 years, but I have a ton of whites that don’t increase in value or change much. This year it’s about distributorship, but without restaurants, it’s hard to get people to taste your wines.”
Like most businesses, surviving during a pandemic has been a challenge, but in that, Krag is not alone. His winery shares space with two other remarkable Nevada wineries—Nevada Sunset and Great Basin. The three businesses share winemaking space in the back of the building and also a tasting room, where patrons can indulge in each winery’s offerings.
“We each have our menus, and we work very well together,” Krag says. People have a lot to choose from, but you can taste a lot of different styles here. We help each other out, because it’s in everyone’s best interest to provide a great experience.”
Eventually, Krag would like to have a second tasting room for Basin and Range, likely in the Carson Valley near the vineyard. The region is ripe for the business, but keeping his Reno-based clients happy is equally important as he considers the winery’s future strategy. The tasting room hosts a mixture of regulars, hipsters drawn to the neighborhood’s revitalization as an arts district with ample places to dine and drink, and people searching for their next Nevada-only experience.
In the 2004 film “Sideways,” a character speaks about the lure of wine, saying “I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. …I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive.”
The Nevada wine experience, new as it may be, is very much alive and Basin and Range is on the forefront of the movement to make wines from grapes grown in the state. They won’t be the only ones forever, but they will always be the oldest which is just one more way of saying they are truly unique.