A Nevada Winery: Churchill Vineyards

September 29, 2011 10:00 AM

A Day in Ag logoSince he was a young boy, Colby Frey knew he wanted to be a farmer. His dad is a farmer, his grandfather was a farmer and his great-grandfather was a farmer. The Frey family has been involved in Nevada agriculture for five generations, so it seemed only fitting to Frey that he be involved too.

After high school, Frey headed to the University of Nevada-Reno (UNR), where he studied business.

"I thought that I could learn anything I ever needed to about farming from my dad and the old-timers in the area," he says. "I thought that I needed to learn something about business."

While at UNR, Frey focused on his business classes but also became very interested in viticulture.

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Finding His Niche

In 1944, Frey’s grandparents bought the farm from Senator R.L. Douglass, who had acquired it in the 1800s. As long as any Frey has lived in the main house, grapevines have covered the car port. Those vines, planted decades ago, were Frey’s first clue that a winery would do well in the Churchill Valley. He decided to study viticulture and became a wine maker. After turning several fields that used to grow alfalfa into a vineyard and converting an old shop into a winery, Frey watched as his passion and sweat equity began to bear the fruit that would allow him and his wife to move back to Fallon, Nev., to grow a successful business.

They call the winery Churchill Vineyards and they are growing European Vinifera grapes. Churchill Vineyards is the only winery in Nevada that produces Nevada grown and bottled white wines. In fact, it is considered Nevada’s first Estate Winery. What also makes it unique is the Freys' commitment to help preserve the land and northern Nevada’s most valuable commodity, water.

"In this valley [Churchill Valley], we have to consider how much water a crop will use," Frey says. "We discovered that our grapevines use only one-tenth the water used to irrigate alfalfa, for example."

Frey says that one of the primary objectives of Churchill Vineyards is to work in cooperation with several other groups to discover and grow high-valued crops that consume less water.

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Becoming Diversified

Churchill Vineyards is also Nevada’s first distillery. In January 2010, the company received federal licensing and now produces vodka, brandy and single malt whiskey, all made from grain grown by Frey and his family on their ranch in Fallon.

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