April Magazines 2018 89012 - Page 51

F or Roger Gehring, it was a crazy idea that he would do all over again. Forty years ago, he drove into the desert abyss to show his wife a parcel of land he’d just bought–400 acres on which he planned to stake his future. There were no paved roads, no well, no electricity or fences. No nothing, actually. “Where are we going?” his wife asked. Gehring rechecked his map coor- dinates to make sure he was at the right spot. Then he stopped the car. “We’re here,” he said proudly. She gazed out at the nothingness. “Why?” Grapes, he told her. It was the beginning of a near-four-decade odyssey of one man decid- ing he was not going to be told ‘no’. Now 79, the North Dakota trans- plant still operates the region’s largest grape-growing fields– grapes used to produce Gold and Silver medal winning wines. The learning curve was steep. Both Gehring and his wife, Nancy, are retired educators with more than three decades’ experience. He was a Clark County School District official and she was a second-grade instructor. The Henderson couple’s three children also became teachers. When Gehring was still in his 30s, he was already laying plans for his post-educator life. In 1978, the couple was golfing in the Amargosa Valley when a friend looked at the scrub brush and said, “Look at this godforsaken place. Who on Earth would live out here?” Well, Gehring, for one. “I liked the snow on the mountains, the isolation,” he recalls “It was beautiful.” He scouted land and found property he seemed destined to own. It was located on School Lane. The owner lived in Utah. On the drive north to make his offer in person, Gehring decided the maximum amount he was willing to pay. The owner threw out a number that was half that amount. Sold! Gehring’s School Lane Vineyard was born. At first, he considered planting pistachios. But the more research he did, the more he began to believe that the land could sustain a vineyard. People asked, “What makes you think grapes will grow in the desert?” And Gehring responded, “Because I want them to! Am I a dreamer? Yes!” April/May 2018 He hired two experts from Cornell University and the University of Minnesota to dig 12-foot holes for so-called percolation tests to deter- mine the quality of the soil. When they were done, the Minnesota professor turned to Gehring and said: “I want to buy some property. This is great for grapes. You can grow anything here.” 51