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Hidden Gems: Carson Valley and Bently Heritage Estate Distillery (Ep. 37)

This week we're shifting gears a bit, heading into an area rich with old west history. So prepare for some stories, characters, and a much more laid back feel as we enter the high desert of Carson Valley.

And when you hear that term desert, don’t let it fool you, this is very fertile land full of ranches, farmlands, incredible scenery, and the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery where I’ll take you around this state-of-the-art soil to bottle eco-system that is unlike any distillery experience I’ve had.

And this combination of stories and whiskey distilleries will be a nice segue into Travel Fuel’s Life’s brand new Whiskey Lore podcast which I’ll have more details on, at the end of this episode.

Thanks to Carson Valley

This episode would not have been possible without the sponsorship and generous amounts of time and effort put in by Heidi Saucedo and her team in Carson Valley and Jenn Boyd and her team working with Tahoe South in Nevada. As you’ll hear, I was guided around Carson Valley and Bently Ranch and the distillery by some very passionate and knowledgeable people.

And what I was most thankful for was them giving me the ability to relate all of these experiences through my own lens without any direction or oversight. So it’s time to make my way down the Kingsbury grade from Tahoe South to Carson Valley.

tahoe south ridge tahoe carson valley view

Arriving in Carson Valley from South Lake Tahoe

And what a drive it was - It’s a 9% grade down Nevada 207 to reach Carson Valley. I had a beautiful sunny day and I was ready to slow the pace down a bit. As for scenery, there was this notch in the mountain to the right and a cabin nestled inside it like the mountain was cradling it and then everything opened up to an incredible sweeping view with houses and ranches below.

Unlike Tahoe where I was on my own, on this leg of the trip I would have Heidi and Angela from Carson Valley at my side guiding me and giving me history and background on the first day. On day two Wes and Woody from Bently Ranch and Heritage Distillery would take the reins.

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Why Carson Valley?

To get a sense of the area, I asked Heidi about the different activities here and what drew people  from Tahoe. She mentioned that some people will hike down the Tahoe Rim Trail to Genoa, and then get shuttled back up.

She mentioned it was one of the top 2-3 destinations for Glider Soaring. Airplane like gliders make their way over a 25 minute ride down into the valley. Based in Minden, Soaring Nevada provides a variety of experiences, including over Tahoe.

She also said that, being 20 minutes from Tahoe, skiers looking to escape the snows and add diversity to their trips come down to golf, ride the trails on mountain bikes, or just soak in some history. Personally, I could definitely appreciate the large amounts of free parking! In other words, it was a break from the touristy side of things.

Eagles and Agriculture


One event that really captured my attention was the annual arrival of the eagles. Around the end of January, the ranchers begin their cattle birthing season, flocks of eagles swoop into feast on the cow’s afterbirth. Heidi said it was quite the spectacle seeing coyotes and eagle fighting over who gets the afterbirth. Not something you see every day.

genoa nv california trail sign

Genoa, Nevada

Location: Genoa, NV

Our first stop was the town of Genoa, where old west history was about to come alive. The town was settled in 1851 by Mormon pioneers as a trading post and rest stop on the California Trail. That was gold rush time and everyone was looking for a path to the next Sutter’s Mill. Originally known as Mormon Station, it was the first settlement in what was to become the Nevada Territory ten years later.

It was named after Genoa, Italy, but like the pronunciation of Nevada, the name was pronounced Ge-NO-a by locals and you may get reminded of that.

genoa nv snowshoe thompson statue

Snowshoe Thompson

Our first stop was the statue of Genoa’s most famous former resident Snowshoe Thompson. Snowshoe had moved from Norway to the US with his mother at age 10, then looking for adventure he rode out with the Pony Express and delivered mail between Placerville, CA and Genoa, NV - an 88 mile trek across snow-covered mountains.

Don’t let the name fool you, Snowshoe is actually considered the father of modern skiing. He wore 10 foot skis and carried a single pole in both hands. He was renowned for his ability to navigate the mountains even in the worst weather. He claimed to have never been lost, and is credited with some amazing rescues. The locals say he would ride through a pack of wolves with no issue. Sadly though, the grave maker apparently wasn’t quite as trusty with his spelling as Snowshoe was with the mail, the “p” in Thompson is missing from his headstone.

In 1960, when the Winter Olympics were in Squaw Valley they held a ceremony in his honor.

genoa nv lillian finnagan candy dance statue

Candy Dance and Mrs. Lillian Finnegan

A little further down the street is a brand new statue of Mrs. Lillian Finnegan that was erected for this year's 100th anniversary of the Genoa Candy Dance. Apparently in 1919, the ladies of Genoa said they were tired of walking home in the dark, so they held a dance to raise money for street lights. After they were installed, they realized someone had to pay to power them, so the dance has continued to this day - and the money raised still goes to powering those lights, of which 9 out of original 10 still work. In the 70’s they added a craft fair. About 40,000 people show up during the last full weekend in September and consume the two tons of candy created by volunteers.

genoa nv mormon station trading post

Mormon Station

Across the street from there is a state park for recreation of Mormon Station, where Rose Mary gave us a little bit of the backstory for the building. They had a picture of the original trading post, built in 1851, it was considered the first building built in Nevada. It served nearly every purpose for the town in it's early days. Unfortunately, in 1910 a man staying in the hotel across the street thought he had bed bugs, set his mattress on fire and burned many of the buildings in town to the ground including the trading post. The building I was standing in was recreated in the 1940s using the original plans.

The fire had a major effect on the stature of Genoa. The nearby town of Minden began in 1906 and because the railroad went through Minden, rather than Genoa, the town was no longer a center for ranchers and growth came to a halt.

I also learned a bit about the Utah War. Apparently the Mormons were pretty set on setting up their own country called Deseret. This answered a mystery that went back to childhood. We had two Mormon families that built houses behind our property and they named the road to it Deseret Drive (we used a more French pronunciation for it, incorrectly). President James Buchanan in 1857 was having none of this secession movement and it was stopped before it ever evolved. Then in October 1864, Nevada was separated from Utah and became its own state..

Rose Mary also mentioned the popularity of Wally’s Hot Springs, still in active use. It became a tourist resort in 1862 started by David and Harriet Wally. If you ask me, that would be the best place to be hanging out during the Civil War!

genoa nv courthouse musem

Genoa Museum Courthouse

I walked down to the Genoa Museum Courthouse. Built in 1865, this was the county seat, with a jail and courthouse and was the center for the Pony Express. A casualty of the 1910 fire, it was rebuilt. However, in 1916 the county seat was moved from Genoa to Minden and the courthouse became a school. By 1956 the school outgrew the building and it now stands as a museum. It’s filled with photos and artifacts from the bygone era when Genoa was in its heyday.

genoa nv charley parkhurst first woman voter

Charlie Parkhurst

A story that caught my attention was the one of Charley Parkhurst. Apparently this stagecoach driver who frequently came through Genoa spent an entire lifetime pretending to be a man. When she died, to the surprise of her friends, the truth was discovered. The interesting fact about her is, due to her deception, she may have been the first woman to vote in the United States. https://www.tanqueverderanch.com/the-disguised-life-of-charley-parkhurst/

Sierra Chef

We went a little further down the street and popped into an Italian market called Sierra Chef and had a nice chat with the owner Cynthia. They do cooking classes there, and they serve different meals every night for dinner. Cynthia said the locals call in to find out if they like what is on the menu and show up when it's something they are in the mood for. She offered us a cookie called a Pignoli, which reminded me a little bit of a sugar cookie with orange zest and pine nuts. Heidi was excited to buy a pumpkin, which she got to carry around for the rest of the journey - getting comments along the way. They were the only store where they pronounced the town name in the Italian fashion.

genoa nv genoa bar sign

Genoa Bar - Nevada's Oldest Thirst Parlor

Location: 2282 Main St, Genoa, NV 89411

The next stop was the Genoa Bar. Okay, how important was the saloon to a community? Imagine, almost the entire town burned down in 1910, but somehow this place filled with flammable liquids survived.

genoa nv no horses allowed

I heard plenty of country music beaming from inside, a doggie bowl in the doorway and a very eclectic collection of decorations on the wall, from an old dusty buffalo head to very real cobwebs in the corners. The owners Willie and Cindy weren’t in, but I hear Willie is quite the character.

genoa nv genoa bar bison head

For being one of the oldest bars surviving in the west, circa 1853, it is brimming with old west charm and some very unique features. One of which is the diamond dust mirror that came from Glasgow, Scotland and has its companion mirror. The bartender demonstrated it by shining a light on it so we could take a video (look at my Instagram story for Carson Valley on my profile). An old oil lamp hangs above the bar and on New Years they shut the power down on everything except the musicians' amps and they light all the lamps. No horses allowed sign and the doorknob was (were) around my knee level.

Bellying up to the bar I chose a corn whiskey from down the road. It was pretty aggressive whiskey, a bit young. I’d like to say it would put hair on your throat. I ordered it neat, but when Heidi saw me suffering through it, she made the suggestion that I suck it up and get some ice cubes. Good call!

genoa nv genoa bar raquel welch bra

Another feature of the bar is the safe brimming women’s bras. The story goes that Raquel Welch came into the bar and saw a bunch of bra’s hanging there. The owner asked her to add hers to the collection and she said she’d only donate hers if they took the others down. So there her’s hanging with her autographed picture right behind it.

genoa nv genoa bar safe

Plenty of other dignitaries made their way into this bar from Clint Eastwood to Willie Nelson. Teddy Roosevelt also visited here, as well as a famous drinking General and President U.S. Grant. Another frequent guest was one Samuel Clemens - better known in his later career as Mark Twain - he wrote for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in 1863. We never did figure out if Wyatt Earp had stayed there, Angela has a thing about going to bars he's visited.

gardnerville nv jt basque

J.T. Basque Bar and Dining Room

Location: 1426 US-395, Gardnerville, NV 89410

Our next stop was to be the town of Gardnerville and a restaurant called J.T. Basque. I wasn’t familiar with the Basque culture, but I’m sure I’ll get to know it better on my trip to Spain next spring. There are Spanish Basques and French Basques in a shared region around the Pyrenees mountains. In the United States, many of the Basque population were sheepherders and made their way to this region at the turn of the 20th Century, setting up boarding houses. These boarding houses served meals and became restaurants serving peasant food served family-style. They sit you down at your own table. Then you get a choice of main course. Meanwhile the bread, stew, your meal and dessert all come in waves to your table throughout the evening. And all accompanied by a nice table wine.

gardnerville nv picon punch jt basque

When we first walked in, I got to meet the co-owner, Marie Louise. She treated us to a Picon punch, a traditional Basque drink that was originally made with Picon liqueur. However, France won’t export it anymore, so a different liqueur Torani Amer has been substituted. It is an acquired taste for some, but drink enough and you get used to it. It reminded me a bit of plum.

We started with a tasty sourdough bread, Then the server came over and gave us our main course choices and I ordered a medium rare sirloin. Next, they brought us some beans and beef stew. And as for the steak, they seared it on the outside but it was lightly cooked on the inside which was a nice cook.

At the end of the meal, they brought over coffee and ice cream. Apparently there is this strange tradition of pouring some red wine into the ice cream after you’ve scooped some of the ice cream into your coffee. Not sure what the appeal of red wine in vanilla ice cream is, but the ice cream in coffee is genius.

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Before we left, I was told I could have a chance to throw a dollar bill up on the ceiling. There are hundreds of them up there. I gotta say, I was feeling a bit apprehensive. I know I’m closer to the ceiling than most, but that was just adding to the pressure. I signed it and put the date, then they put some kind of weight on it and a pin. My attempts were pretty sad. I had great instruction on form, but it just wasn’t working. I was using my old baseball techniques of watching all the way through the motion. Insider tip, don't look - use the Force Luke! I just looked straight ahead, tossed it up and it stuck.

minden nv parking lot view

Holiday Inn Express Minden

Location: 1659 NV-88, Minden, NV 89423

Big full day and headed back to the Holiday Inn Express where I was staying in Minden. I was very happy to see they had dumped the single-use plastic shampoo and body wash in exchange for dispensers. Putting it on the guest to be kind to the environment by only using towels once was sounding a bit hollow. It was good to see a hotel being proactive and doing their part to keep the environment clean.

minden nv holiday inn express cinnamon rolls

I slept very well and the next morning I was up, enjoyed a very nice continental breakfast at the hotel - oh the cinnamon rolls - and the headed into Gardnerville for some fresh local coffee. Day two was going to move from history to the discovery of Bently ranch and Bently Heritage Estate Distillery. I was excited because these were the major reasons for my trip to Tahoe and Carson Valley. Having toured over 40 distilleries in 3 countries, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical with all the hype I was hearing and it was time to see it for myself.

minden nv bently ranch irrigation

Bently Ranch

Location: 1089 Stockyard Rd, Minden, NV 89423

For a little background, in 1960 Don Bently came from Iowa with an incredible background of science and engineering. He started buying ranch land in Carson Valley wanting to take a scientific approach to a vertically integrated ranch. Vertical integration basically means they control all aspects of the farm from start to finish. By 1997 they had alfalfa fields and started a cow-calf operation selling cows to Whole Foods.

Don’s son Chris asked why they couldn’t start selling their own meat. And this resulted in the development of their own on-site butcher shop. With this vertical integration, they are able to control their own grains and cattle and make sure sustainable practices are used throughout the herd and the 50,000 non-contiguous acres of farmland.

For me, not being a farmer or very familiar with seeing ranches as part of a distillery, I was going to need some help from someone who knew the ropes. So we first met up with Woody Worthington, who does marketing for the Ranch and Distillery and he spent his morning giving us a tour around the ranch and farms.

minden nv bently ranch mountain view

He took us out to see the cattle, then talked about growing alfalfa, their greenhouse project, and their sustainability practices.

He also talked about Chris’ passion for Scottish single malt whiskey. And it was this passion that lead to some of the lands being converted over to grains so they could evolve into the spirits business, making bourbons, ryes, and single malt whiskey. It wasn't long after this, they realized that they could also create some very unique vodkas and gins.

The distillery officially opened in February 2019 under a newly formed license that Bently played a role in creating. It is Nevada’s Estate Distillery designation and it basically says 85% of the grains used in the whiskey-making process must come from the ranch. Bently goes one step further and uses 100% from their own lands.

In fact, I’m told only the really tough to grow items like the invasive Juniper Berry are brought in for their gin. An on-site greenhouse is used for all of the other botanicals.

minden nv bently ranch composting

Woody drove us by the ranches composting facility which is the largest in Nevada. He said their goal was to make sure to keep things out of the landfill and always be sustainable.

minden nv bently malting floor

Our next stop was the building where they did all of the milling. Here we attempted to have a conversation over the very loud hammer mill. They they took me in the back where they have their on-site malting floor. Very Scotland indeed - actually more so, since many Scotch distilleries have moved to outsourcing their malting process.

Then, Woody introduced me to the Bently Ranch’s General Manager Matt McKinney. I asked him, so how does a ranch suddenly go from growing alfalfa for cows to malting and distilling spirits? He said when they decided to go this direction, he went to Canada to learn all he could about milling and malting.

minden nv bently ranch oats

One of the major challenges they took on was milling oats. Most vodkas are made from potatoes or wheat but oats create a superior creamy mouth-feel for the spirits. However, they also clump up very easily during the malting and distilling process, so they have to take extra care to make sure the system doesn’t get clogged.

I asked about their water source and he said it was provided from Minden’s well #1. Actually, he said that’s where they got their name for their vodka, Source One. Their water is processed through reverse osmosis and comes from the snowy mountains.

Also knowing that a single malt whiskey could take a decade or more to mature, I asked what age statement they were aiming for on the whiskey. Matt said, “when it’s right.” I think more than any other thing I was told on this tour, that one statement spoke volumes for their commitment to doing things the right way. So many American single malts are sold too young because the companies need to get a return on their investment. That leads to an inferior product - like that corn whiskey that I had the day before I thought was going to grow hair on my tongue.

minden nv bently ranch silos

The next stop was over to the grain silos. Woody told me I could climb the ladder for a better view. One to challenge that so-called fear of heights.

minden nv bently ranch from my perch

Okay, I sort of made it! I got to the first level at least.

bently heritage estate distillery 1931 yellowstone np busses

I asked how they were going to do the tours of this ranch and distillery pair and Woody said they had two 1931 Yellowstone National Park buses they had purchased to give a limo-type experience. Very cool. Although I must admit, it was just as impressive from the seat of a pickup truck.

To add to the experience Woody pointed out a young coyote that crossing the field, I did my best to capture him on video. He said when the windrows were all cut down, the mice would lose their shelter and the coyotes would feed on them. All part of the eco-system they are training to maintain - in fact, he said that while they had a 4-cut process normally, if there was a pest problem they would cut sooner to avoid the use of pesticides.

minden nv bently ranch butcher shop

Bently Butcher Shop

Location: 1350 Buckeye Rd, Minden, NV 89423

Our next stop was the Butcher Shop, which he said was LEED-certified Gold in 2009, a certification given for their green design and environmental standards. Even more impressive, it is the only such awarded butcher shop in the entire United States. As I understand it, the main distillery building is also in consideration for this significant achievement. Again, attention to detail and showing their commitment to sustainable practices.

minden nv bently ranch butcher shop aged meat

At the Butcher shop, we saw the beef aging process. He said many were aged 21 days or longer. All of it grass-fed beef. Woody gave me some packages of their Bently Beef Jerky. It was the most tender moist jerky I’d ever had - no breaking the teeth on this stuff. And it was definitely flavorful. According to Woody, they make their jerky in 30 lb batches instead of the industry standard of 300 lb batches. Whatever the technique, this was definitely a quality product.

What was even more interesting was the beef packaging material he showed us. Rather than Styrofoam or plastic, they used a corn-based packaging that melts in water.

minden nv minden deli

Minden Meat and Deli

Location: 1595 U.S. Hwy 395 N, Minden, NV 89423

Our morning over, we headed down the road to Minden Minden Meat and Deli for lunch. They were doing a bustling business. Along the ceilings they had all of their old beer taps. I checked them out while enjoying my Reuben and pasta salad.

minden nv reuben pasta salad minden deli

Now it was time to move from ranch to distillery and our tour guide Wes.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery creamery

Bently Heritage Estate Distillery

Location: 1601 Water St, Minden, NV 89423

And my first surprise, there are actually two different distilleries here on the Minden property. First, there is the column-still facility that produces the bourbon, rye, gin, and vodka. Then, inside the Visitor’s Center is the single malt pot still facility, where Woody said we’d see a bit of Scotland’s Glenfarclas as an influence.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery column stills

Located in the old Minden Butter Mfg Company creamery building (it is on the National Historic Register of historic buildings), the main spirits facility takes on an impressive “Oz” kind of feel when you first walk in the door. The towering and glistening copper column stills rise up and sparkle with spirits shooting off like fireworks through the glass portholes. Sometimes these “oh wow” moments are hard to capture in a photo, this one worked out nicely.

bently heritage estate distillery design

Not only is this German still completely impressive, but the entire facility is meticulously designed. Even the piping that runs through the building seems to minimize space and flow in an artistic fashion across the building. We viewed the bottling line where they fill their uniquely shaped bottles and saw the sour mash fermenters where the yeast does the job of feeding off the grain sugars that are so vital in the creation of alcohol.

bently heritage estate distillery visitors center stairs

Next, we entered the Visitor’s Center that normally features a gift shop on the first floor, but they had it cleared out for an event. We walked up the stylish glowing spiral wooden staircase to the second floor where the cocktail bar and view of the single malt pot stills awaited us.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery pot still

They are serious about honoring the Scottish tradition. The pot stills looked very similar to Glenfarclas’ pot stills I’d seen in Scotland. What I love about pot stills is that unlike those long, tall column stills that are used for mass production, pot stills, with their elegant curves, create a very unique product where the flavor of the spirit is affected through the slight variations in the base, body and neck size and length of the still. When a pot still hits the end of life, the replacement needs to be a duplicate, or it will change the flavor and character of the end product. Both of their pot stills were handmade in Scotland by Richard Forsythe, a 7th generation pot still manufacturer.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery pot stills stairway

Wes said that in trying to recreate the Scottish tradition of pot stilling, they ran into a roadblock because it required direct flame heating of a pot still which is not allowed in the US, so they pressurize mineral oil to help the pot still get the amount of heat it needs to get heated to 600 degrees, the same temperature achieved with the direct flame. And something I’d not seen before, these stills are self-cleaning, which reduces safety issues.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery spirit safe

And in respecting tradition, they have a Scottish spirit safe which is totally unnecessary, since it was created to let the Scottish government measure product for tax purposes. But it definitely adds to the esthetic. It’s the first time I got to stick my nose inside of one.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery pot stills stairway

The room that houses the pot stills was built out of flour silos and the stairs built to curve into them. It’s a wonderful presentation and you can see it all from your bar stool while enjoying some of their products.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery flour mill cocktail bar

Bently's Tasting

After I stopped geeking out on the single malt facility, I had a chance to taste some product. We started with their Source One Vodka. Made of oats and wheat, it came through with that nice mouthfeel I was told about. Bottled at 40%, it was described as flavor-forward with a creamy vanilla flavor. For tasting a straight vodka, it was a soft, not harsh experience.

bently heritage source one vodka sherry cask

The second vodka we tasted was aged for a month in an Oloroso Sherry Cask - it added color to the vodka and makes it very much into something I could see sipping on its own. It pulls out the sherry characteristics out of the barrel and could be great for making an Old Fashioned. It reminds me of a light whiskey, but not a bourbon, as it doesn’t have any burn on the finish, aka the Kentucky hug.

bently heritage juniper grove gin

The last item we tried was the Juniper Grove American Dry Gin, their flagship gin featuring 5 botanicals including organic lemons and limes, juniper berries that are outsourced, coriander, angelica root, and Lime zest.

Wes said there were 2 More Gins coming out, with one featuring 10 botanicals.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery stairs up

Bently Warehouses

After the tasting, we got word we were going to be the first civilians to see the new rickhouses. Even Wes and Woody were excited to be getting a chance to do this.

minden nv bently heritage estate distillery 1931 yellowstone

But before we rode out to them, we got a chance to see one of those 1931 Yellowstone Buses they had converted into luxury coaches and painted white. These vehicles were very unique for their day. The tops can be rolled back so you can stand at any point to get a 360 view. But unlike the original configuration which consisted of bench seats, this had seating along the sides. Good news for the drivers too, they added power steering and a more modern braking system. I’ve seen them drive these in their original form and you’ve got to have some muscle to make a turn.

We reached the first of the rickhouses that they affectionately call Scotland. But it really is like Scotland, with a cool mist when you walk in the door. It is a dunnage warehouse, just like the traditional one's in Scotland and it is even climate controlled to the temperature of the Speyside area of Scotland. A dunnage warehouse only stacks barrels three high and they must have air around the barrels. We saw their experiments as well as their aged vodka and their single malt (currently some stored in Buffalo Trace barrels). When they get their first batch of bourbon finished, they will be able to reuse their own barrels for the single malt. Brilliant.

Next, we went over to the Kentucky warehouse, which definitely mimics Bardstown, Kentucky. Apparently the Blue Grass State was experiencing a bit of a heatwave as it was steamy hot in that warehouse. It was made up of a network of barrels stacked to the ceiling just like Lux Row, Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, and many other Kentucky warehouses I’ve walked through. The only thing that was missing was the smell of the angel’s share. Instead, the aroma was fresh-cut wood. We got to see them roll the first few barrels in - a lot of hot sweaty work. We were told it’s probably going to be about 2 years before tours will be able to visit. There will be a tasting area there as well, according to Wes. It was very cool knowing we’d be the last people to see this warehouse empty.

The most ingenious thing about these two warehouses is, they actually mimic the weather of these two locals in real-time. That means when Kentucky or Scotland are having unusual weather years, the same will happen in these rickhouses, creating variations in batches that will give each vintage its own special character.

If you want to see the pictures of this amazing facility (all except the rickhouses which we were told not to share) just go to Whiskey-Lore.com and click on the social media links to see what I have posted and watch for more this week.

We thanked Woody and Wes for an amazing tour and then before heading out to dinner, I was told I should visit a really knowledgeable whiskey and wine guy who owned the Battle Born Wine Shop in Garderville, so the Carson Valley team dropped me off and I had a long chat with Troy Phillips, Battle Born's owner and certified sommelier.

Battle Born Wine and Whiskey

Location: 1448 US-395, Gardnerville, NV 89410

When Troy asked me how I liked Bently, I told him how impressed I was. He said they’re basically a team of rock stars: no short cuts and everything is done with a purpose.

gardnerville nv battle born three fingers high

I took a look at his selection and we talked a lot about peaty whiskies, like my favorite Laphroaig 10 or about Irish whiskey and how adding a few drops of peated Islay whiskey would make them more smokey and add complexity. We talked Speyside scotches, the brilliant concept of Bottled-In-Bond bourbon, and I asked him for advice on Canadian whiskies, which have been a mystery to me up to this point - he pointed out a 12 year old called Three Fingers High.

gardnerville nv battle born wine tasting

Troy also does tasting classes at the shop and gave me a sample by letting my try my first Rip Van Winkle 12 year, Compass Box’s Peat Monster (a blended peaty whiskey from London) felt like I’d just smoked a cigar...touch of ash at the end, and one he wanted to introduce me to - an American Single Malt from Oregon called McCarthy’s where they bring over peated malt from Scotland to make this 3 year old whiskey. All 3 were great. I really liked the nice smoke in the McCarthy’s. It made me feel like there is definitely hope for American single malts. Even more so after having seen Bently’s operation.

While I was there, I’d been chasing a story for my upcoming Whiskey Lore podcast, trying to figure out how saloon’s really served whiskey in the old wild west days. Did they just pour shots and everyone knocked them back? Troy gave me some great leads and also dispelled some concepts that I was questioning myself. I could have talked to him for hours. It’s definitely worth stopping by his shop if you get a chance.

genoa nv pink house night

The Pink House

Location: 193 Genoa Ln, Genoa, NV 89411

The last stop of the trip was in Genoa, in a home built that was built 1855 and boasted the likes of Lillian Finnegan, the Candy Dance woman as one of its inhabitants. Known as the Pink House, it would be where I’d settle in for a nice dinner. And it’s also the place where Nevada got its statehood.

I was joined by Jan Vandermade of the Carson Valley Visitor’s Authority and Carlo Luri who helped negotiate the Estate Distillery designation for Bently as well as Angela DiLoretto who handles Carson Valley’s social media.

genoa nv the pink house cheese board

We enjoyed a nice plate of cheeses and meats to get started, and I had my first beer of the trip. We talked about Bently, the 6 year process of getting the distillery to where it is now, and about the future of the distillery.

I specifically wanted to ask Carlo about another subject I was working on for Whiskey Lore podcast, finding out about odd alcohol laws in different states and he mentioned that Nevada does not allow distilleries to outsource their whiskey from out of state, so while a lot of distilleries go to Kentucky or Indiana for their initial spirits, that can’t happen here - by law.

He also mentioned that up until 2015’s Craft Distilling Law, distilleries could not have tasting rooms or sell products from their location. With that law change, Bently could look to build out the tasting facility.

genoa nv pink house bently ranch skirt steak

When it came time to order, there were specials like Chicken Parmesan, Bouillabaisse, and I felt the need to sample a Bently Ranch Skirt Steak after touring the facility. It was flavorful and not too tough, which is good for a rare to medium-rare skirt steak. They are flavorful but can usually be a little work for the knife.

Carlo went on, talking about how restrictive the Craft Distilling law was on the output of a craft distillery, so he lobbied for a new license in 2017 for the Estate Distillery designation. Nevada’s legislature loves farming, ranching, and tourism, so it unanimously passed both houses and became an official Nevada designation.

genoa nv pink house interior

As we walked out of the parlor of this 19th Century home, I bid farewell to my new friends here in Carson Valley - a place I am sure to visit again.

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