edible travel

DESERT MIRAGE

Dry, distant Dyer is home to a lush, family-owned farm and B&B.

WRITTEN BY JESSICA SANTINA
PHOTOS BY DAVE SANTINA

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Joyce Hartman prepares her famous waffles for breakfast at the Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast

Nestled in the shadow of Boundary Peak, the highest peak in Nevada, sits the remote outpost of Dyer, whose population hovers around 250. The unincorporated town sits along State Highway 264 in Fish Lake Valley, near one of the state’s most picturesque hot springs.

But aside from the springs, Dyer offers little to weary travelers on their way to or from adventures in the White Mountains, Death Valley, or, three hours to the south, Las Vegas. Little, that is, except for the Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast, a charming, family-run vineyard/lavender farm/guesthouse whose hospitality, numerous comforts, and delicious food and wine could make this wayside stop a destination in itself.

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The bed and breakfast sits in the shadow of the White Mountains and Boundary Peak

Growing aspirations

When Bill and Joyce Hartman purchased this 330-acre farm in Fish Lake Valley in 1971, little existed in isolated Dyer except sagebrush. But both Hartmans had come from farming families in small California towns and loved the rural way of life. By 1973, the couple were growing and selling their own alfalfa, oat wheat barley, and timothy hay under the name Alfalfa King, a company that still operates (now on 120 acres) and is run by Bill, Joyce, and son Mark.

Never content with the status quo, the Hartmans and their three sons — Fred, Mark, and Darrell — began exploring ways to expand their business. In 2007, Joyce stumbled upon a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant opportunity for farms interested in testing drought-resistant crops.

“They had a list of maybe 20 different crops to pick from, and lavender and wine grapes were on there,” Mark says. “So we wrote the grant to do a test plot of both. We wanted to help upgrade the knowledge of what you can grow out here. So far, it’s been a great success!”

In June 2009, the Hartmans planted 400 lavender plants as well as 400 vines of wine grapes in eight varietals.

The grapevines went on to be more fruitful than the Hartmans had expected — especially the Riesling, which produced 300 pounds of fruit in 2012, its first harvest year, then tripled that the next year.

Since then, the Hartmans’ vineyard has grown by another 5,300 vines of Reisling, sauvignon blanc, Malbec, and Chardonnay, the bulk of which it sells to the award-winning Pahrump Valley Winery in Pahrump. The lavender is sold in fragrant, cut bundles. Mark says his goal is to purchase an herb still that would enable the family to produce and sell more lavender oil. He also has approached Northern Nevada distillers Frey Ranch and Bently Ranch about selling the lavender to include in their spirits. And, of course, both the wine and the culinary lavender buds may be enjoyed by B&B guests.

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The Hartmans' vineyard grows Chardonnay, Malbec, sauvignon blanc,
and Reisling grapes, which the family sells to Pahrump Valley Winery

Tastefully appointed

As the Hartmans watched the increasing popularity of agri-tourism in the West, they realized they had the makings for their next venture in their own backyard. Bill built the three-room guesthouse that would become the Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast, which opened in 2013, just behind the family’s home. The guesthouse features a gourmet kitchen, a large living room and bar area, and three wine-themed guest bedrooms that afford stunning vistas of the vineyard operation, and, beyond that, the green-and-brown-dappled Fish Lake Valley and surrounding mountains. Because of its proximity to Boundary Peak as well as Death Valley, Queensland Vineyard plays host to adventuresome travelers from around the world.

Now that 81-year-old Bill has slowed his involvement, Mark oversees the family business’ sales, marketing, and production activities. He’s a generous host who is happy to pour you a glass of Pahrump Valley wine or offer insights about the local area, and he does an impressive job of promoting the B&B around the region, thanks to broadband finally coming to Dyer in 2016 (though don’t expect much of a cell signal).

Joyce oversees breakfast most days — especially her light-as-air waffles, which by all accounts are famous in the region — with help from Leticia Chaparro, the family’s longtime “co-conspirator,” according to Mark. She cleans and helps cook breakfast as well as the occasional Mexican meal, her specialty.

Locally produced food rules on this remote ranch — from the Queensland farm itself as well as from the goat farm across the street, whose milk is used to make a variety of flavorful cheeses served at Queensland, as well as an array of handmade scented lotions available for purchase; or from neighbors’ farms that provide organic chickens or produce, all from within the area or nearby California. Lucky guests who arrive during harvest time in late summer also get in on a special wine tasting. Dinners or picnics for hikers are served only upon special request, and the inn is available for weddings and other special occasions.

As the sun sets on the baking desert landscape, the air that surrounds the Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast grows cool and silent — few places on earth are quieter. Soon, millions of stars begin to appear, more than you’re likely to see in any town with more than 250 occupants. As you take a sip of chilled wine, reveling in the hospitality and tranquility of your surroundings, you may hesitate to leave for your next destination.

Jessica Santina is managing editor for edible Reno-Tahoe magazine, as well as a freelance writer and editor and an avid home cook who hopes one day to perfectly replicate Joyce Hartman’s amazing waffles.

RESOURCES

Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast
HC72 Box 8698 (between mile markers 8 and 9 on Highway 264), Dyer
888-411-3349 • Queenslandvineyardbnb.com

RECIPES

Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast Waffles
(courtesy of Joyce Hartman, co-owner, Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast in Dyer. Makes 8 to 10 waffles)

1¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 extra-large eggs, beaten
Almost 1 quart buttermilk
1 cube butter, melted

Combine dry ingredients, then stir in eggs, buttermilk, and butter. Do not overbeat. Ladle about ¼ cup batter onto waffle iron and cook until golden brown.

Lavender Pie
(courtesy of Joyce Hartman, co-owner, Queensland Vineyard Bed and Breakfast in Dyer. Makes 1 pie)

1 premade pie crust
8 ounces cream cheese
1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅓ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Whipped cream

1½ tablespoons lavender buds

Mix cream cheese, condensed milk, vanilla, and lemon juice until smooth, and pour into pie crust. Refrigerate at least 2 to 3 hours to set. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle top with lavender before serving. As an alternative to whipped cream and lavender, also try topping pie with cherry pie filling.

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