toast of the town
ENHANCED DESERT OF WINE
One woman's fervent quest to kick-start Nevada's grap industry.
Written by Barbara Twitchell
Photo by Candice Vivien
Teri Bath, president of Nevada Vines & Wines group and an advocate for the local wine industry, is photographed at Nevada Sunset Winery in Reno
Ever try to buy a bottle of made-in-Nevada wine at the store? Good luck with that. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.
Why is that? If you ask Teri Bath, be prepared for an involved, informative, and impassioned response — along with some rational ideas about how to fix what’s broken in our current system.
Bath has been president of the nonprofit Nevada Vines & Wines for going on five years. During her tenure, she’s expanded the group’s original mission beyond merely supporting the efforts of local backyard vintners. Now it’s an organization focused on growing a viable, statewide wine-production industry.
Despite ranking as an industry mover and shaker, Bath never has owned a vineyard or a winery, nor even worked in one. Her true passion, she says, is economic development, and she delights in applying that skill to her other passion — good wine.
Bath traces her viticulture interests to her 10-year stint as president of the Eagle Chamber of Commerce in Idaho. During that time, she helped develop Idaho’s wine industry, which included helping with the arduous process of procuring an AVA (American Viticulture Area) regional designation, an important industry appellation.
“I see Nevada as being like Idaho,” Bath says. “When I was there 15 years ago, its wine industry was struggling. Now it’s a $10 million-a-year business.”
Bath believes Nevada has the potential to develop its own wine industry. She points out that The Silver State has strong agricultural roots and climate conditions conducive to good crop production. The economy and the business sector are booming. And we have an alcohol-friendly culture.
“It just flies in the face of logic that we have so few wineries and are up against such obstacles in creating more,” Bath says.
Much of the problem dates back to some archaic Nevada laws that have severely stymied the state’s wine industry. Prime example: Until recently, Nevada’s two largest counties, Washoe and Clark, were barred from having any commercial wineries.
Bath helped spearhead efforts that successfully changed the law. Upon the passage of Assembly Bill 4 in 2015 and AB-431 in 2017, three wineries opened in Washoe County, literally doubling the number of commercial wineries in the state at the time (previously, there had only been three: one in Fallon and two in Pahrump), with more to follow, and Engine 8 Urban Winery, Sparks’ first urban winery, opened in April 2019.
It was a good beginning, Bath says, but there still are too many legal limitations on production, retail sales, and distribution. Case in point: Nevada’s three-tier system requires producers to sell only through distributors. That’s a challenge for small wineries that presently cannot get distributors to carry their products, leaving them with no commercial market other than limited sales through their own tasting rooms.
Bath believes that unifying the industry is the way forward and sees her primary role as a connector. She spent the last year crisscrossing the state in an effort to build a statewide trade association. She’s creating solidarity between northern and southern wineries and connecting local vineyards with winemakers who need Nevada grapes. And things are going well. There’s just one major piece that’s still missing.
“I think the one mistake we’ve made with past legislation is we never sat down with the distributors,” Bath says. “If we want this to be a viable industry, if we want it to create jobs and tax revenue and good wine for people to buy in Nevada, we’ve got to come to terms with the people who control the industry. We all have to come to the table.”
Reno writer Barbara Twitchell shares Teri Bath’s passion for good wine and would gladly share a nice bottle with her anytime.
To taste and/or purchase Nevada wine, head over to these local wineries:
Wineries on 4th Street
415 E. Fourth St., Ste. B in Reno, which houses three local wineries:
• Basin & Range Cellars Basinandrangecellars.com
• Nevada Sunset Winery Nevadasunsetwinery.com
• Great Basin Winery Greatbasinwinery.com
Engine 8 Urban Winery
1260 Avenue of the Oaks, Ste. 150, Sparks
775-277-6304 • Engine8urbanwinery.com
1045 Dodge Lane, Fallon • Churchillvineyards.com
For details about Nevada Vines & Wines, visit Nvandw.com.