Carson Valley distillery creating spirits in old world tradition

Carson Valley distillery creating spirits in old world tradition

Dain keeps patrons entertained as he mixes fun cocktails at the Bently Public House. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While produce is the norm for the farm-to-table concept, the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery is using a similar philosophy with its liquor.

“Estate” is a key word in the name of this Minden, Nevada, business. It means all the grain – wheat, corn, oats, winter rye and barley – is grown on the surrounding land owned by the Bently family. The family has 50,000 acres in the Carson Valley, with 16,000 devoted to this project.

Water, another key component to spirits, comes from a well on the property. That is fed from snowmelt.

Three of the spirits available during a recent tour. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Chris and Camille Bently are proprietors of the distillery. While they had been working on the facility for five years, the tasting room has only been open since February 2019. Gin, vodka and sherry are available now, with whiskey being about another nine years out. The first batch was laid down last fall with the plan for it being 10-years-old before the public tastes it.

The Bentlys don’t want to make ordinary spirits. They spent time in Scotland researching methods, with the desire to bring old world philosophies to the new world. This includes ingredients, machinery and how the spirits are distilled.

“Craft gin is all the rage,” guide Wes Paterson said. He said it is the fastest growing spirit in the United States. The Bentlys are tapping into this craze with three types of gin for sale.

Two of the distillery buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Brick buildings that were once used by the Dangberg ranching family are now part of the Bently estate. They are filled with copper and silver contraptions. The old creamery building that was part of the Minden Butter Manufacturing Company has been renovated and is the main distillery. The whiskey is made in a separate building on the property.

“All the spirits are designed to stand on their own, but they are also great in cocktails,” Paterson said of the Bently products.

The distillery offers tours four days a week. While I’m more of a wine and beer gal, Bently’s spirits has my taste buds evolving. At the end of the tour is the opportunity to sample some of the products they have for sale. On this particular day we indulged in Source One Single Estate Vodka; Source One Single Estate Vodka, Rested in Sherry Oak Casks; and American Dry Gin.

The old creamery is now the main distillery. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

So much information is given on the tour that it would be easy to go more than once. I learned that gin is technically naturally flavored vodka and that by law it needs a minimum of 30 percent juniper berries.

The vodka that was stored in the sherry oak casks is caramel color and tastes more like sherry than vodka. Stopping in the public house after the tour I ordered a Maple Old Fashioned. While an Old Fashioned usually has whiskey, this one was with the Source One Single Estate Vodka, Rested in Sherry Oak Casks. Wow – hard to tell it wasn’t whiskey.

Not surprisingly, all the cocktails are made with Bently boozes. No food is served – at least not yet.

The production line runs Monday-Friday, with the potential of creating 400,000 cases a year.

Bottling occurs in a side room at the old creamery. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

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Deets:

  • Website
  • Address: 1601 Water St., Minden, Nevada.
  • One-hour tours: Thursday-Sunday, 10am-5pm; $20.
  • Tasting room: Thursday and Sunday, 10am-9pm; Friday and Saturday, 10am-10pm.
  • Bently spirits are available in Nevada, California and Arizona, with the goal of international distribution.
Just completed East Shore trail captures majesty of Lake Tahoe

Just completed East Shore trail captures majesty of Lake Tahoe

Nearly three miles of paved trail are open for walkers, dogs and cyclists in Incline Village. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Breathtaking. That is one of many superlatives to describe the East Shore multi-use path that opened earlier this summer. The nearly 3-mile paved route goes from Tunnel Creek to Sand Harbor in Incline Village.

A few years ago, for a story I did for Lake Tahoe News, I had the opportunity to walk along part of what was the planned route. Even then I knew this was going to be something special. It’s so much more spectacular than anything I could have imagined.

“It is a trail that takes you someplace, but the journey is the destination,” Amy Berry, head of the Tahoe Fund, said during that excursion in 2014.

It takes a while to walk the trail because there are so many vistas to photograph. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Estimates during the planning stage were that 100,000 people would use this trail each year.

The East Shore of Lake Tahoe has some of the most dramatic scenery in the basin. This trail allows almost anyone to enjoy this slice of Tahoe that until now may have been off-limits to certain people. Before it meant seeing these views from a vehicle whizzing by on Highway 28, being on a mountain bike along the Flume Trail, dealing with the masses at Sand Harbor beach, or risking your life parking and darting across the highway to get to the water.

The pavement is 10-feet wide and built to ADA standards. There are a couple curvy and steep sections that had skateboarders using their foot as a brake, and some cyclists panting. Walking didn’t seem like any big deal.

Looking north with Highway 28 in the foreground. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Planners were able to keep 11 offshoots to the lake. This is the only place bikes are not allowed. With the lake being so high this summer, not all of those locations offer much sand to sprawl out on. Still, it’s nice to know these spots are there for those with dogs who would want to have a drink.

Major troublesome spots for dogs are the six steel-fiberglass bridges. The longest is 810 feet. This also happens to be the longest bridge in the basin. An Ohio company made the bridges. After dogs had their pads damaged from the hot surface, signs were posted warning people about the bridge temperature. At the long span and another bridge are wagons people may use to transport their canine. The Tahoe Transportation District, which oversaw the project, would not say if anything is going to be done to lessen the danger on the bridges.

Some of the bridges are so hot that local residents have left wagons to transport dogs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t go barefoot – on any surface – because of the heat, a four-legged family member shouldn’t be either. This includes asphalt and sand. At sunset the temperature wasn’t an issue.

TTD manager Carl Hasty would not say if the heat of the bridge should be a concern to cyclists’ rubber tires.

Bike racks are plentiful along the whole trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A nice attribute to the route is the abundance of bike racks, as well as the couple stations to do minor repairs, including adding air to bike tires.

The total endeavor came with a hefty price tag – $40.5 million. This was a mixture of private and local-state-federal government dollars. About half went to the trail, underpass and parking, while the other half was for environmental and highway upgrades. Considering construction was right next to the lake, this meant more environmental concerns; then there is a tunnel where the path goes under Highway 28 taking people from the mountain side to the lake side; plus, there are a multitude of granite vista areas – ideal for sitting to take in the views. Parking spaces were also added. Eliminated is all the highway parking between the two points of the trail, with this being done mostly as a safety concern.

More than half of the trail is along Lake Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Eventually it will cost to park at some locations. Tahoe Transportation District officials would not say what the fee will be or when it will be implemented. The payment portals are already in place.

For those who want to enter Sand Harbor State Park it costs $2 on foot (dogs are not allowed), while it is $10 to drive in.

While the bi-state Tahoe Transportation District was the lead agency to make the path a reality, it will be the Nevada Division of State Parks which maintains it. It took three years to build it.

Views along the trail are mesmerizing. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is the second section of the greater 33-mile Stateline-to-Stateline trail. One day it will cover the entire Nevada side of the lake, thus the reference to the state lines. The end/starting points will be Stateline and Crystal Bay. The first section was completed it 2013 with 2.2 miles that go from Rabe Meadow in Stateline to Round Hill Pines Beach.

Cyclists enjoy the scenery at one of the many granite rest stops. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The third phase is already being planned, with the comment period on the U.S. Forest Service’s draft environmental assessment document having ended Aug. 11. The documents are available online. This next section will be eight miles from Sand Harbor to Spooner Summit.

As with all the sections, it’s not just a multi-use path that is being laid down. A major goal is to eliminate parking on the narrow Highway 28 and to create parking areas that are safer. Improvements to utilities, a focus on erosion, and reducing sediment from reaching Lake Tahoe are all goals of the project.


Isla Espíritu Santo — more than swimming with sea lions

Isla Espíritu Santo — more than swimming with sea lions

Isla Espíritu Santo off the coast of La Paz is a full day of outdoor splendor. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Belly rubs. Who knew a sea lion would love one?

The baby swam around me, then stopped underwater as I stroked her stomach. It was just like petting my dog, AJ, where she can be so submissive. I had no idea how playful these wild creatures could be, or how soft they would feel.

Swimming with sea lions was one of the highlights on this particular excursion to Isla Espíritu Santo off the coast of La Paz.

In addition to being a national park, in 1995 UNESCO declared it a world heritage site and biosphere reserve. Espíritu is 15½ miles long and nearly 5 miles wide. The highest point is about 1,968 feet. It is the 12th largest island in Mexico, at more than 31 square miles. There are more than 1,000 islands just in the Sea of Cortez.

A blue-footed booby on Seagull Island. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hector, our guide with Alonso Tours, and captain Polo, were wonderful with the information they provided and skill in navigating the waters in what was a rather small panga. It was perfect for the seven tourists who hailed from Baja, Europe and the United States.

The tour is actually of three islands which make up the national park. Isla Partida is where we stopped for lunch on the beach in Ensenada Grande Bay. Just north of it at the top of the trio is Los Islotes where the sea lions were.

Even before we reached the main island, which takes about an hour to get to by crossing the San Lorenzo Channel, we cruised by Seagull Island. We were treated to the rare sighting of a blue-footed booby. Baja is a gathering place for birds from North and South America, making it a paradise for birders.

The land and water are beautiful in their own right. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Thirty-eight endemic species call Espíritu home, with 500 animals on land or water residing in the area.

The heads of a few green sea turtles seemed to bob in the water as they came up for air. Dolphins and a couple manta rays did their dances.

As we snorkeled past the sea lions, it became an underwater party with all the fish – puffers, parrot fish, trumpet fish, golden jack, balloon fish, sergeant major and more. We swam through a narrow rock passageway that led to a lovely coral reef. Here sea urchins, starfish and other creatures were nestled into the coral.

These sea lions reside here year-round. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Without a wet suit, being in the water for about 30 minutes was plenty.

We had another opportunity to swim and snorkel at our lunch stop; glad we chose to do so.

Unfortunately, we were not permitted to explore on land beyond the beach; this was a protected area. A hiking trip might have to be the next trip.

Captain Polo guides the panga through the arch. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Espíritu is mostly volcanic rock and sandstone. It’s an interesting blend with the volcanic rock appearing to be prehistoric and the yellow-red sandstone looking almost delicate to the touch. A few cacti are growing out of the rocks. Other vegetation seems to be minimal, at least from our vantage points.

Most of the trip is on the boat – which is wonderful in itself for sightseeing, then swimming with the sea lions, and the lunch stop.

Hector, the guide, brings lunch supplies from the panga. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The only negative was witnessing a worker from another boat rinsing off the lunch plates in the otherwise pristine waters. This happened with an occupied park police vessel two boats down. Back on our boat, I mentioned this to Hector, our guide, and he said everything on the plate would be natural, citing the ceviche in particular. I called him out on this, saying that isn’t what fish eat. He said in recent years there have been a lot of improvements when it comes to being ecologically mindful, like not having individual water bottles for patrons. He concluded that things like dish washing in these protected waters is the difference between how a First and Third World Country treats national parks.

Going to Espíritu requires doing so with a guide or purchasing a permit. Kayaking and hiking are also available, with multi-day excursions an option.

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