Alibi V.19 No.47 • Nov 25-Dec 1, 2010


New Mexico in a Glass


The roots of our state’s wine industry reach deep into the past, and, like tangled vines in an ancient vineyard, many surprising tidbits are found in its unraveling. For instance, grapevines were planted in the Rio Grande valley 140 years before California broke ground on its first vineyards. And while California is considered the premier wine-producing region in the New World, New Mexico has attracted a growing interest from European vintners over the past 30 years. Now more than ever, the Land of Enchantment is becoming a formidable contender in the highly competitive arena of the world’s favorite fermented juice.

Sips of Our History

A timeline from ground to bottle

1629: Franciscan Fray Garcia de Zuniga and Capuchin monk Antonio de Arteaga plant vines just north of present-day San Antonio, N.M. Their Mission grapes are still grown today.

1633: Production begins to fulfill sacramental wine needs.

1800: Vineyards stretch from Bernalillo to Socorro and from Mesilla to El Paso, Texas.

1812: About 1,600 gallons of wine are processed annually.

1880: Nearly 1 million gallons of wine from 3,150 acres of grapes make New Mexico the fifth-largest wine-producing region in the United Sates.

1920: The 18th Amendment goes into effect on Jan. 16. Prohibition dramatically decreases wine production.

1920 to 1930: Vineyard acreage doubles despite the federal ban on alcohol’s manufacture, sale or transportation.

1926: Rio Grande flooding causes root-rot and production falls to zero.

1933: On Dec. 5, the 21st Amendment repeals the 18th. Thirteen years of Prohibition come to an end.

1943: Flooding once again destroys vineyards. Commercial winemaking all but ceases.

1978: French-American hybrid grapes revitalize the industry, and local wineries begin opening again.

2007: New Mexico boasts 38 wineries that produce 700,000 gallons each year.

Tasting Rooms and Holiday Wines

New Mexico is home to 42 wineries, so there are plenty of opportunities to pair the perfect bottle with your holiday get-together.

Stocking up on local vintages means you’ll always have a quick, thoughtful gift on hand. (It’ll express your Land of Enchantment pride more than a shellacked chile ornament ever could.) And don’t forget to hit up a few tasting rooms. You can try the wines side by side, ask questions, get a break on the price or just entertain all those pesky relatives who’ll be invading—I mean visiting—your home. Here’s a list of some of our favorite tasting rooms, along with a standout holiday wine from each. Most of the bottles listed here are $30 or less.

Be sure to check websites or call ahead for hours, as some require reservations. The wineries can also suggest retailers in your area that stock their products.

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