NevadaGram #77 – Pahrump Valley Winery, Goldfield’s Northern Saloon and More

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I visited Pahrump Valley Winery a little before Christmas, to see the changes that are being made in that historic enterprise.

Photo courtesy Bill Loken

Pahrump Winery, Nevada’s first and foremost.

The building is the way you remember it, with its trademark blue roof looming above the manicured grounds. And the restaurant is still elegant — well, actually more elegant since the recent makeover. The tasting room and gift shop have been expanded, and the winery itself has been outfitted with new equipment from Germany.

The winery was considered quite a novelty when it was established a dozen years ago or so, but this valley was well-known for wine production in the 19th century.

photo courtesy Bill Loken

Symphony’s restaurant.

There are now eight varietals produced and bottled on the premises, made from carefully selected California grapes but zinfandel grapes are now growing in the vineyard and a 2005 zin will be bottled later this year, the first estate-bottled red to be produced in Nevada in more than 100 years.

photo by Max Winthrop

There’s much more than wine for sale in the Gift Shop; these bottles of grape skin moisturizers, for example.

Most of the visitors to the winery — Las Vegas residents or tourists taking a break from the casinos — make the 60-mile drive over the Spring Mountains on Nevada Highway 160 (take the Blue Diamond exit from I-15 on the south side of Las

Vegas). The road is four lanes most of the way now. There are concerts and other public events held on the tree-shaded grounds in good weather but the biggest event of the year is the annual Grape Stomp, held the same weekend as the Pahrump Fall Festival, which will be September 25th through the 28th this year.

I was informed by Senator Bob Beers that my list of Nevada actors was incomplete. Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays Dr. Spencer Reid on the CBS show Criminal Minds is a Las Vegas native. Adds Sen. Beers: “His mother is Marilyn Gubler, former state GOP chair, my seventh grade English teacher, and owner-operator of a Sandy Valley cowboy ranch for tourists.”

Photo courtesy USAF

The F-117A sneaking through the clouds.

And, I am corrected by my friends at the Central Nevada Museum: It wasn’t the Stealth Bomber that was tested in and around Tonopah, it was the F-117A Stealth Fighter. Now they’re being retired, and their last flight is back home to Tonopah. In May of last year six F-117A Nighthawks arrived at the Tonopah Test Range to be tucked away in their original hangars with their wings removed. Most obsolete Air Force planes go to a facility near Tucson, but some aspects of the F-117 are still classified, so they’re being kept under wraps. Eventually all 55 of the $45 million F-117As still flying will be back in their hangars at Tonopah, replaced by the F-22A Raptor.

That Museum web page, by the way, is a part of the redesigned and much improved Tonopah website which also has a section on the excellent Tonopah Mining Park.

Photo courtesy Guy Rocha

The November NevadaGram’s mention of Hobart Cavanaugh prompted an e-mail from Guy Rocha, who sent photos of Little Hobart (above), and of his father Jack (below), who was an engineer on the V&T Railroad.

Photo courtesy Guy RochaThis might surprise you: Nevada is 10th among the states for bird species diversity and 4th (tied with Oregon) for breeding species diversity. This rich inventory brings birders to our flyways and byways in search of elusive critters, and plans are being laid to attract more of them (birders, that is, not birds). Here’s a well-regarded birding site focusing on southern Nevada.

photo by Google Earth

Good Lord, look at this! The image above is from Google Earth, looking down from space at Rachel and the Extraterrestrial Highway. And there’s Colonel Sanders, staring back! It turns out that the 87,500 square foot image was created to introduce a global re-image campaign to affect more than 14,000 KFC restaurants in over 80 nations. The image consists of 65,000 one-foot square tile pieces (6,000 red, 14,000 white, 12,000 eggshell, 5,000 beige and 28,000 black) assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The logo took nearly 50 people almost three months to conceive, create and construct, including six days putting the tiles in place. The logo is an updated version, replacing the Colonel’s classic white suit with a red apron. You can see it being assembled here

“A Birding & Wildlife Viewing Trail idea makes sense along US 93,” one survey suggests. “Laughlin, Las Vegas, Alamo, Caliente, and Ely can also serve as hubs (as it is anticipated Beatty, Pahrump, and Tonopah will be able to do based on forthcoming site assessments in those regions) for numerous birding and nature tourism opportunities found by radiating outward from each community. The area along US 93 Corridor from Laughlin north to Ely is remarkably varied, highly scenic, and full of marketing opportunities.”

And if you think birdwatching lacks drama, check out the entry for Monday, January 30, 2006 on the Bird Watcher’s Digest blog.

And if you still think birdwatching is for pantywaists, try this: the Carson Valley‘s Eagles

and Agriculture event will take place Wednesday 2/20, Friday 2/22 and Saturday 2/24.

photo by Joi Davis

No it’s not an interim session of the legislature, these are eagles dining sumptuously in the Carson Valley.

On Wednesday morning, February 20, participants will have a group tour of area ranches and can observe and photograph birds of prey up close as they gorge themselves on the nutrient-rich afterbirths during the winter calving season.

On Friday evening, a Birds of Prey Lecture and Cocktail Reception will feature a wildlife biologist with his live falcon, a local falconer with his live Northern Goshawk, and another falconer with his live Ornate Hawk Eagle. And on Saturday a second group tour of area ranches will be followed by a buffet lunch and group discussion on sightings. After that, there’s an Owl Prowl (visits to nearby barns and owl habitat) & Live Bird Field Demonstration. You can buy tickets here.

photo by Joi Davis

In company with many local celebrities, The Silver City Guard performs one of its signature military maneuvers at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City: the photo op.

The Silver City Guard was called out for emergency duty in Carson City early in December, when Dayton artist Steven Saylor needed models for a painting at the Governor’s Mansion. Saylor is painting a representation of the 1909 dedication of the historic structure for its centennial in 2009.

The Guard, formed in 1860 and wiped out by Indians at the Battle of Pyramid Lake, is Nevada’s oldest military unit still under arms. Designated as Armed Rabble, its specialty maneuver is the Tactical Withdrawal. It has received unit commendations for Graceful Disengagement, and is second to none when it comes to Pell Mell Retreat and the even more demanding Running For Their Lives. The modern Guard is best known for capturing the Bi-Centennial Wagon Train on its approach to Silver City in 1976.

Quick notes from beyond the mountains:

photo courtesy Stanley Paher

Tex Rickard came to Goldfield from Nome Alaska where he had been a prominent saloonkeeper and gambler and on February 15, 1905 he opened the Northern in Goldfield. There were a dozen or more gambling tables, and Wyatt Earp was a pit boss there for a time. Three shifts of bartenders (6 to 12 men on each) sold six barrels of whisky a day over the 60-foot bar during the height of the boom. The Northern was probably the most famous saloon and gambling house in Nevada until Harolds Club opened a generation later in Reno. Tex moved on to Rawhide, Ely and New York City, taking Jack Dempsey to the heavyweight championship. Now Ruth Anderson, who grew up in Beatty before going out into the wide world, has opened a new Northern next door to the Mozart, not far from its original location. The new Northern’s bar is shorter than Tex Rickard’s, and there’s only one bartender at a time, but the elaborately carved back bar was imported from Italy and even though the formal opening was still a month away, the joint was already jumping when I stopped in on a recent December evening. The lunch menu is strong on specialty burgers (chef K’s bleu cheese burger is grilled with the cheese inside) and there are specials on the dinner menu three nights a week: pasta on Thursdays, seafood on Fridays and prime rib on Saturdays, along with steaks and other favorites, all prepared with French overtones befitting a premiere dinner house. Monthly events such as bluegrass hoedowns will help spread the word far and wide that Goldfield is still on the map and having fun.

photo by Max Winthrop

Goldfield’s new Northern is open for business with Billy Schultz behind the bar.

Ely’s Fire & Ice Festival is scheduled for January 19 and 20 at Cave Lake State Park. Last year’s event is featured on YouTube, and you can find a calendar of 2008 events in White Pine County here . . . Speaking of Ely, the Jail House Motel and Casinoacross Aultman Street from the Hotel Nevada has been acquired by the incomparable Jim Marsh, proprietor of Tonopah Station in Tonopah, the Longstreet Inn & Casino at the California border in Amargosa Valley, the Santa Fe Saloon in Goldfield and other landmark Nevada properties . . . The Aquarius Casino Resort in Laughlin is beginning nearly $20 million in room renovations in early 2008. The resort has already spent $40 million to overhaul the overall property of the former Flamingo Laughlin. The Aquarius is the Laughlin’s largest, with 1,907 rooms in two 18-story towers on 18 acres on the west bank of the Colorado River . . . Word has only reached me now that a Churchill County landmark burned down in July. The Salt Wells Villa, a brothel on US 50 some 15 miles east of Fallon, was torched early on a July morning, destroying the old trailers that comprised its workrooms.

photo by Max Winthrop

Lovelock will host a group wedding and vow-renewal ceremony to commemorate the second anniversary of Lovers Lock Plaza at 11 am on Feb. 14. Couples engaged, married, dating or otherwise are invited to join in this special Christian-based ceremony to tie the knot and lock their love behind the famous round Court House. Couples wishing to legally marry at the ceremony need a Nevada marriage license before the ceremony. A reception will be held afterward, and participants not soaring on the wings of love may take a hot air balloon ride over the town, weather permitting. Lovelock’s annual hot air balloon festival begins the next day and carries through the 17th. Registration is required and can be made here or by telephone at 775-273-7213.

View the damage here. It had been closed since 2003 on account of health and building code violations. If I remember correctly, the old pleasure parlor had been firebombed previously by the wife of a Churchill County Sheriff whose husband was spending too much time fighting crime there. Another brothel nearby, the Lazy B, also stands idle and shuttered. Still, a 2004 ballot measure that would have repealed legal prostitution in the county was voted down in a landslide . . . And if you’ve never been to Fallon, you can get a glimpse of its wonders here . . . Keith LaPaille of Minden had a queen-high straight flush in a Texas Hold Em’ game in the Carson Valley Inn Poker Room — but he knew something was up when Claudia Skaggs of Stateline kept raising him. “It was a great position to be in” thought Keith, “I knew I couldn’t lose because of the CVI Poker Room’s Bad Beat prize.” His suspicions were confirmed when Claudia showed her king-high straight flush. Two straight flushes in the same hand! The $1,000 Bad Beat prize was spread out as it is whenever a four-of-a-kind or better hand is beaten by a higher hand. $500 went to Keith, with the beaten hand and $300 to Claudia, the pot winner. The remaining $200 was shared among the other players at the table, who had dropped out early. Everyone’s a winner except the Carson Valley Inn which, if it were a person, would have got up from the table shaking its head.

Overheard at the Overland Hotel in Fallon: “So tell me what you think, Irene, is man God’s big blunder or is God man’s?”

Happy Highways,


David W. Toll

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