Nothing says holiday love like a good bottle of wine. It can be red, white, blush or sparkling, but try having a party without any—you'll miss that sweet, tart or bubbly grape goodness after a few rounds of Amstel Light.
And those shining bottles with the crinkly foil tops truly are the gifts that keep on giving, especially if you buy them from our local wineries.
New Mexico has a vast array of vineyards that are located in all three regions of the state: north, central and south, and the dry soil and high desert climate are ideal for producing fine vintages from the best-known grapes; Cabernet, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.
Ever since the first grapevines were nurtured here way back in the 17th century, local grape growers have produced a cornucopia of handcrafted wines that can make any holiday gathering worth waking up for.
So with around 20 vineyards and seemingly endless choices from each, how do you choose, and where do you shop? We here at the Alibi have taken the guesswork out of local wine selections, and offer you a cheat sheet of five excellent local vineyards to get you started. Happy shopping!
Arena Blanca Vineyards
Located in Alamogordo (7320 U.S. Hwy. 54/70 North), this vineyard has a sweet selection of favorites including La Luz Red ($11), Pistachio Delight ($10) and their trademark sparkling Sangria ($12). These crazy guys and gals actually peel and core the apples for their award-winning Apple Table Wine ($9) themselves, which took best of show at the state fair this year; and with this kind of dedication, it's no surprise. Their wines are available at the vineyard: (505) 437-0602, or online at www.pistachiotreeranch.com. They also offer gift boxes and baskets for the holidays, and free in-state shipping when you order a case of 12 bottles.
Blue Teal Vineyards
Located in Las Cruces (1720 Avenida de Mesilla), this vineyard and tasting room has a huge wine list under the Blue Teal label, and also a special proprietor's label, D.H. Lescombes. They feature such exotic choices as the honey-soaked Ratafia dessert wine ($17), the citrus-kissed Viognier dry white wine ($9), the Nouveau 04 Beaujolais (specially priced for now at $7.99) and the best darn port I've ever tasted—rich with blueberry and minerals ($30). Their wines are available directly from the vineyard, (866) 336-7360, online at www.blueteal.com, or at Cost Plus, Kelly's, Quarters, Wild Oats, John Brooks and Sunflower Market. And for a nominal fee they offer hand painted, personalized wine labels on any bottle.
Located in Mesilla (2641 Calle de Guadelupe), this vineyard's finest is big on instant label recognition—just look for bottles with the mysterious hot farm chick on the front. They've got some excellent selections including the papaya-scented Muscat ($6.99), the fruity and sparkling Fiesta Red ($8.99) and the ever-popular Sweet Lucy—their signature sweet red wine ($7.99). These and their other fine wines are available from the vineyard, (505) 524-2408, online at www.southwestwines.com or at Wild Oats, Kelly's, Quarters and Cost Plus. ,
Located in Tularosa (#23 Coyote Canyon Road) this vineyard has been up and running since 1989, and produces classic, no-nonsense wines like their "Barrel Select" Cabernet Sauvignon ($18), the Italian-food-friendly Proprietor's Red ($8) and their spicy-sweet Gewürztraminer ($9)—far underpriced for the quality, but I never did mind a bargain. These selections and more are available at the vineyard, (505) 585-2260, online at www.wineweb.com or at Wild Oats and Cost Plus.
Wines of the San Juan
Their tasting room is located at233 Hwy 511 in Blanco, and their wines are distinguishable by their trippy, medieval-looking labels. But Lord of the Rings references aside, they've got some seriously tasty wines. Try the passion fruit-laced Pale Morning Dun white wine ($9.50), the traditional Portuguese-style "Christmas Port" ($32.50) or their Sweet Jenner Rose—a sweet red loaded with the flavor of ripe, country cherries ($9.50). Their honeysuckle-scented Muscat blew me away at the last Bernalillo wine festival ($10.50). And these guys definitely get the award for weirdest-sounding wine name with their "Blue Winged Olive": a blend with flavors of white peaches, juniper berries and apples ($12). These and other selections are available for purchase from the vineyard, (505) 632-0879, or at the following locations: Quarters, Kelly's Liquors and Sunflower Market.
St. Clair Vineyards
Their vineyard is located in Deming (1325 De Baca Road), and their recently-opened bistro and tasting room is conveniently located at 901 Rio Grande NW. What can I say? The experts at St. Clair have produced some of the best local wines that I've ever tasted, and the bistro is putting the vineyard and their awesome wines firmly on the map. I would not be surprised to see them go national in a big way. The six-time award winning Malvasia ($7.95) is a testament to the joys of a light, sweet white wine. The Cabzin ($7.95) is spicy, oaky and rich with black currant, and the sugary Bellisimo ($9.95) sparkling wine is so delicious that I would serve it to the Man Upstairs himself—unless he's a red wine kinda guy. These and their entire list are available at the vineyard, (505) 546-1179, at the bistro, online at www.southwestwines.com, and also at Kelly's, Quarters, Cost Plus, Wild Oats and Sunflower Market.