New Mexico in a Glass
By Maren Tarro
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.
402 S. Melendres
Try the 2008 Tempranillo, an earthy wine that pairs well with New Mexican fare.
Black Mesa Winery
1502 Hwy. 68
(505) 852-2820 or (800) 852-6372
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
Try the 2007 Meritage, a Bordeaux-style blend with all the complexity of the classic French wine.
6275 Corrales Road
Try the Muscat Canelli: crisp, sweet and peachy.
Don Quixote Winery and Distillery
236 Rio Bravo
Try the City Different Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel-aged, this red is dry and meaty.
Estrella Del Norte Vineyard
106 N. Shining Sun
Try the 2007 Zinfandel. Jammy with rich berry flavors, this Zin is a versatile pairing.
8400 Pan American Freeway NE
821-0055 or (888) 857-9463
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.
188 San Jose Loop
Try the 2009 Riesling. Floral and citrusy, pair with seafood or cheese.
Heart of the Desert Tasting Room
2355 Calle de Guadalupe
Try the Merlot, a soft and fruity table red.
La Chiripada Tasting Room
Try the 2010 Viognier. Floral with hints of peaches and pears, this white is perfect with poultry.
La Viña Winery
4201 S. Hwy. 28
Try the Barrel-fermented Chardonnay, full of oak and tropical fruit.
Luna Rossa Tasting Room
1750 Calle de Mercado, Suite #1
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
Try the Cabernet Sauvignon: massive tannins and lots of oak, for lovers of big wines.
985 West Ella
Try the 2008 Zinfandel. Spicy, fruity and smooth, this Zin is made for holiday meals.
Ponderosa Valley Vineyards and Winery
3171 Hwy. 290
(575) 834-7487 or (800) 946-3657
Try the 2007 Reserve Red, a rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
St. Clair Bistro and Tasting Room
901 Rio Grande NW
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.
1872 Five Points Road SW
764-9463 or 463-1698
Try the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc; spicy and light.
23 Coyote Canyon Road
(575) 585-2260 or (800) 687-4467
Try the Symphony, a crisp white blend with notes of herbs and wildflowers.
Vino del Corazon
235 Don Gaspar, Suite 6
Try the Merlot. Sharing characteristics with Pinot Noir, this red is light, floral and clean.
2075 Hwy. 68
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
Try the 2008 Serendipity Merlot; elegant dark fruits, cedar and mocha.
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