MADE IN NEVADA: Washoe County Wine

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WASHOE COUNTY, Nev. (KOLO) -- Nevada Sunset Winery is Washoe County's first modern-day winery. You can find it at 415 East 4th Street, Suite B in Reno.

Nevada Sunset Winery co-owner Alynn Delisle holding a bottle of wine she just produced at 415 East 4th Street Suite B in Reno.

Alynn Delisle is co-owner. "I think it's very nice to have an urban winery here in Reno," she said.

Last year she produced 26,000 pounds of wine, which is 7,800 bottles, with her partner Mike Steedman.

He says people come in with all sorts of impressions.

"They're really surprised that it tastes as good as it does," Mike said.

You can find things like Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Chardonnay on the menu.

Making and serving wine in Washoe County was illegal just four years ago. It's said lawmakers wanted to give rural communities a head-start, but wine-making largely remained stagnant across most parts of the state.

Mike says he lobbied to change the law. It was eventually legalized in Washoe County in 2015.

"We need to have that flexibility to allow more wineries to move into Reno and Washoe County to get a critical mass and then we can really take off after that. We want more competition. We really work together," said Mike.

One law Washoe County Wineries must follow is to use 25 percent Nevada-grown grapes after selling 1000 cases of wine.

The problem is that there are so few mature vineyards in Nevada. A handful sprang up when when wineries were legalized in Washoe County, but it takes three years for vines to produce grapes that can be used for wine-making. Additionally, the flavor isn't quite right until the vine is four years old for white wines, and up to 20 to 30 years for some red wines.

Jason Schultz's love of wine-tasting in California prompted him to put a vineyard in his front yard at 250 Dewick Court in Sparks.

"I just put in 100 vines because I wanted to see what that was all about," he said.

He's learning through trial and error what works and what does not. Many vines have died. Others like the Frontenac, which grow red grapes, and the Frontenac Gris, which grow the white grape version of the same vine, thrive.

"I don't do anything. They're pretty much on their own. I just turn the water on. They're an amazing plant. You almost can't kill them. If they're going to grow here they're going to grow. You can bend them twist them and probably think we were murdering them. They're very strong once they're established," Jason said.

Winemakers and vineyard owners in Washoe County freely admit they can't compete with Napa-grown wine. It's the best in the world, but the homemade wine Jason makes from his grapes are award winning.

"We have our pride and joy down here, which are our double gold medals that we got from Lodi, which is about the best home wine-making competition that we sent our wine to. Excellent judges...Winemaker magazine, that's a national magazine, they have over 3,500 entrants. The first year we got a silver and bronze," said Jason.

Adrian Dyette is another vineyard owner in the Sparks area. "When it (his vineyard) first started it was just pure brush and I have tractors and the whole nine yards. I took out all the sage brush," he said.

He planted his vineyard when wineries were legalized in Washoe County hoping to capitalize on the budding industry.

"We have a lot of great sun here. Our soil is fantastic. If you look at these rocks they have a lot of good minerals in them...our vine and wine production will be outstanding once these vines get a little bit older," said Adrian.

The two barriers are the number of vineyards, there aren't enough to supply the wineries in Washoe County and many of the vineyards are too young. They need time to age.

Teri Bath is the President of Nevada Vines and Wines. "We have huge potential here. Number one, it's a young industry. It hasn't been around in Nevada that long," said Teri.

Until then, Mike and Alynn will continue to buy most of their grapes from California until they can make a product that is truly Made in Nevada, but like most good things it's just going to take time.

Nevada Sunset Winery shares its building with two other wineries, Great Basin Winery and Basin and Range Winery.