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 V.23 No.37 | September 11 - 17, 2014 

Feature

Time for Wine

Getting your sip on in the Albuquerque area

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
In the oldest wine-producing region of the United States, harvest season is in full swing. I'm not talking about Napa Valley; I'm talking about right here in New Mexico. California may boast 90 percent of wine production in this country, but New Mexico can tout itself as the state with the oldest history of viticulture. We owe that title to the earthly work of some godly men—specifically a Franciscan friar and a Capuchín monk who planted the first wine grapes in the soil of the Rio Grande Valley back in 1629 (for more info on that, check out “A Tradition of Wine” by August March in this week’s Food section).

In the present day, much of New Mexico's grape growing happens in the southern part of the state. But that doesn't mean we can't find an excellent bottle of local wine in and around Albuquerque. Let's raise a glass to some area wineries supplying their best whites and reds to local oenophiles.

In the present day, much of New Mexico's grape growing happens in the southern part of the state. But that doesn't mean we can't find an excellent bottle of local wine in and around Albuquerque. Let's raise a glass to some area wineries supplying their best whites and reds to local oenophiles.

St. Clair Winery is one of the producers growing their grapes in southern New Mexico. But their bistro here in Albuquerque (901 Rio Grande NW) brings the final product from their vineyards near Deming right to your dinner table. Their Mimbres red makes for an approachable sweet table wine, but a flight is the way to go if you’re at the bistro and want to try a few options out.

Casa Rondeña Winery is much more than just that place where your cousin had her wedding. A trip to their winery in Los Ranchos (733 Chavez NW) sends you into the thicket of the Rio Grande bosque. Among those cottonwoods sits a bit of Spain. And it's no wonder that Spanish culture and architecture would find its way into the soul of Casa Rondeña; the man in charge, John Calvin, is not only the vintner, he's also a flamenco guitarist whose time in Spain has definitely influenced him and his business. The tasting room is open daily from noon to 7pm for your enjoyment.

For a destination a little farther off the map, head out to Placitas and pay a visit to Anasazi Fields Winery (26 Camino de los Pueblitos). There you'll find wine of a different kind. Anasazi Fields specializes in fruit wines. But don't go in expecting a lot of sweetness. Anasazi produces a dryer wine using fruits and berries with lower sugar content than many wine grapes. If the idea of wines derived from plums, apricots, peaches and cranberries appeals to you, visit their tasting room for a free tour and sampling. Maybe you’ll be intrigued by the Sangre de Puma, made with local wild cherries.

If you want to knock out a few wineries in one go, try circling the Corrales Wine Loop. Just west of the Rio Grande sits a cluster of New Mexico wineries growing grapes and producing wine out of the fertile lands of the Village of Corrales. On the southern end of the loop lies Acequia Vineyards and Winery (240 Reclining Acres Rd.). Owner Al Knight tends to the smallish vineyard and manages to produce a number of varieties from chardonnay to zinfandel and a Muscat Canelli. Traveling east along the loop you'll run into Pasando Tiempo Winery (277 Dandelion Rd.) where Chris Carpenter makes Moscato and Malvasia Bianca and a notable Spanish Dancer Syrah. Just a little farther east is Corrales Winery (6275 Corrales Rd.). Stop by for a complimentary tasting and tour. A popular choice here is the Muscat Canelli dessert wine. Completing the loop around top is Matheson Winery (103 Rio Rancho NE). Although its address technically puts it in Rio Rancho, it's still very much a part of the Corrales wine scene. On top of being the vintner, owner Mark Matheson is an enologist, having earned the title studying winemaking at the University of California, Davis. The Corrales Wine Loop is a close community of vintners, and most are open for tastings from noon to 5pm Wednesday through Sunday, but it's best to check before you go.

The lineup at Milagro Vineyards.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
The lineup at Milagro Vineyards.
Albuquerque's South Valley is home to Tierra Encantada Vineyards (1872 Five Points SW). Owner and vintner Pat Coil sources her grapes from the small local vineyard as well as from another one 50 miles south in Veguita. From that variety of grapes, Tierra Encantada has produced some award-winning wines, including the aptly named Atrisco Sunset, a dessert red similar to ruby port. You can try it yourself in the tasting room.

Proving that Corrales really is New Mexico’s wine hub is Milagro Vineyards (985 W. Ella Dr.). The winery produces a blend of reds called Corrales Red, and the blend of whites is the Corrales White. Straightforward is the way to go, I suppose. There are other varieties to try in their tasting room; just be sure to call ahead. Tours and tastings are by appointment only.

When it comes to sparkling wine, the French can keep their champagne. I’ll take a bottle of Gruet over your Dom Pérignon any day. It might surprise some people, but New Mexico is home to a well-respected sparkling wine produced here in Albuquerque. Gruet Winery (8400 Pan American NE) has earned a solid reputation for their vintage sparkling wines. The French heritage of the Gruet family lends itself well to a product that lives up to high standards.

Altogether, New Mexico churns out 350,000 gallons of wine each year with around 20 wineries throughout the state. Pretty impressive for a desert. So raise your glass—whether sparkling or still, red or white—to an excellent and bountiful harvest.

 
 

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