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.
Amaro Winery 402 S. Melendres Las Cruces (575) 527-5310 amarowinerynm.com Try the 2008 Tempranillo, an earthy wine that pairs well with New Mexican fare.
Black Mesa Winery 1502 Hwy. 68 Velarde (505) 852-2820 or (800) 852-6372 blackmesawinery.com Try the 2006 Black Mesa Port, a smoky Port-style wine with hints of dried cherry and raisins.
Casa Rondeña Winery 733 Chavez NW Los Ranchos de Albuquerque 344-5911 or (800) 706-1699 casarondena.com Try the 2007 Meritage, a Bordeaux-style blend with all the complexity of the classic French wine.
Corrales Winery 6275 Corrales Road Corrales 898-5165 corraleswinery.com Try the Muscat Canelli: crisp, sweet and peachy.
Don Quixote Winery and Distillery 236 Rio Bravo Los Alamos (505) 695-0817 dqdistillery.com Try the City Different Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel-aged, this red is dry and meaty.
Estrella Del Norte Vineyard 106 N. Shining Sun Santa Fe (505) 455-2826 estrelladelnortevineyard.com Try the 2007 Zinfandel. Jammy with rich berry flavors, this Zin is a versatile pairing.
Gruet Winery 8400 Pan American Freeway NE Albuquerque 821-0055 or (888) 857-9463 gruetwinery.com Try the 2001 Grande Reserve: A lovely sparkling wine with hints of citrus, caramel and white chocolate—a celebratory bubbly fit for ringing in the new year.
Guadalupe Vineyards 188 San Jose Loop San Fidel (505) 552-0082 guadalupevineyards.com Try the 2009 Riesling. Floral and citrusy, pair with seafood or cheese.
Heart of the Desert Tasting Room 2355 Calle de Guadalupe Mesilla (575) 647-2115 heartofthedesert.com Try the Merlot, a soft and fruity table red.
La Chiripada Tasting Room 103 Bent Taos (575) 751-1311 lachiripada.com Try the 2010 Viognier. Floral with hints of peaches and pears, this white is perfect with poultry.
La Viña Winery 4201 S. Hwy. 28 La Union (575) 882-7632 lavinawinery.com Try the Barrel-fermented Chardonnay, full of oak and tropical fruit.
Luna Rossa Tasting Room 1750 Calle de Mercado, Suite #1 Mesilla (575) 526-2484 lunarossawinery.com Try the 2004 Nini. A blend of Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese and Refosco is bold and spicy.
Matheson Wine Company 103 Rio Rancho Drive, Suite B3 Rio Rancho 350-6557 mathesonwines.com Try the Cabernet Sauvignon: massive tannins and lots of oak, for lovers of big wines.
Milagro Vineyards 985 West Ella Corrales 898-3998 milagrovineyardsandwinery.com Try the 2008 Zinfandel. Spicy, fruity and smooth, this Zin is made for holiday meals.
Ponderosa Valley Vineyards and Winery 3171 Hwy. 290 Ponderosa (575) 834-7487 or (800) 946-3657 ponderosawinery.com Try the 2007 Reserve Red, a rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
St. Clair Bistro and Tasting Room 901 Rio Grande NW Albuquerque 243-9916 stclairvineyards.com/Bistro-albuquerque.htm Try the 2007 Limited Release Cabernet Franc. From St. Clair’s D.H. Lescombes label comes this highly structured wine. Full-bodied and with a hint of violets.
Tierra-Encantada Winery 1872 Five Points Road SW Albuquerque 764-9463 or 463-1698 tierra-encantada.com Try the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc; spicy and light.
Tularosa Vineyards 23 Coyote Canyon Road Tularosa (575) 585-2260 or (800) 687-4467 tularosavineyards.com Try the Symphony, a crisp white blend with notes of herbs and wildflowers.
Vino del Corazon 235 Don Gaspar, Suite 6 Santa Fe (505) 216-9469 vinodelcorazon.com Try the Merlot. Sharing characteristics with Pinot Noir, this red is light, floral and clean.
Vivac Winery 2075 Hwy. 68 Embudo (505) 579-4441 vivacwinery.com Try the 2008 V. Syrah. Reminiscent of warm cherry pie, this red is easy on the tannins and the palate.
Wines of the San Juan 233 Hwy. 511 Blanco (505) 632-0879 winesofthesanjuan.com Try the 2008 Serendipity Merlot; elegant dark fruits, cedar and mocha.