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To get a snapshot of what’s happening in the world of wine and food, we sent out questionnaires to several experts in Albuquerque’s hospitality and sales industries.
What’s your favorite wine bar in Albuquerque? I realize that this is completely biased given that I work there, but in Albuquerque proper, it’s hard to beat the Artichoke wine and cocktail bar. Now, just outside of town, in Bernalillo on the Santa Ana reservation, is Prairie Star; definitely the best wine-by-the-glass offerings, all dispensed by an argon-propelled Cruvinet system, along with proper stemware and delectable, creative bar snacks. What are you drinking lately? It has always been and, more than likely, always will be well-made German Riesling from the Mosel, Rheingau/Rheinhessen or Pfalz regions. It’s what I crave morning, day and night, any day and every day. However, beyond that, from the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, Chateau Musar Rouge from any vintage. What’s your take on New Mexico wines? I’m continuously impressed with the wines from Milagro Vineyards, in particular their Cabernet Franc and Merlot. I’ve recently revisited some wines from Gruet. The current release of the NV Blanc de Noirs sparkling is better then it’s ever been, and their Pinot Noir 2009, I believe, is the best red they’ve produced to date. Talk about the best wine you ever tasted. It’s a toss up. 1971 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel (tasted in 2004) or 1952 Château Cheval Blanc Saint-Émilion (tasted in 2001). Do you buy wines based on price or scores? Because I’m a poor boy and spend most of my income on musical/audio equipment, my wine purchases are limited to $30/bottle and under, with a rare splurge on a luxury bottle for a special occasion. I do not buy wines based on scores. I purchase wines based on producer or importer. How do you recommend that people learn about wine? 1) Attend public tastings and taste everything that is offered as often as you can. 2) Travel to wine-producing regions and visit wineries.3) Read books by Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, Oz Clarke and Karen MacNeil.
What’s your favorite wine bar in Albuquerque? I love to stop into Vivace in Nob Hill. They have an amazing selection of well-priced wines, primarily Italian. Founder Gordon Schutte can often be found behind the bar, full of excellent recommendations. Currently they are showcasing wines from Sicily and Sardinia, such as Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, which is very affordable. What are you drinking lately? Variety is the spice of life, so why pick only one? I will say that my staple wine is Pinot Noir. It is such a soft, sexy wine. From the typically fruity varieties from Oregon and California to the drier, bolder tastes of the French and Chileans. What’s your take on New Mexico wines? Are there any you recommend? New Mexicans today seem to have sweeter tastes, but for those who prefer something a bit drier, I would recommend Vivác, La Chiripada, Casa Rondeña and Gruet. Talk about the best wine you ever tasted. A bottle of 2005 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands Échézeaux Grand Cru, Côte de Nuits once set the mood for a very romantic evening in Paris. Do you buy wines based on price or scores? Naturally, price will always be an issue in selecting wine. Today, one can find a phenomenal selection of wines at any price point. If a wine scores well in a review, then it is usually worth checking out. On the other hand, I find the best way to discover new concepts and values in wine is to attend a free tasting at your neighborhood wine shop or liquor store. And don’t be afraid to ask your local retailer for suggestions.
What’s your favorite wine bar in Albuquerque? My favorite place for a glass of wine would have to be Farina Pizzeria. The food is awesome, and they always have a new Italian wine I haven’t tried before. What are you drinking lately? I’m a big fan of Syrah these days—and not from just one region. Syrah all over the world has an amazing quality that makes you want to drink it with a big piece of meat or all by itself. What’s your take on New Mexico wines? They are getting better. Where do you buy wine? I’m a big fan of Jubilation. You will typically see me there on my days off. Talk about the best wine you ever tasted. I’ve had many great wines, but I think the setting and the people you are with can be a huge influence. The most thrilling wine I’ve had was a La Tâche [by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti] about five years ago. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but if you’re buying … Do you buy wines based on price or scores? I definitely pay attention to price so that I’m getting value, but I think scores are rather useless. You be the judge. How do you recommend that people learn about wine? I recommend to my staff the fantastic book Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly. It is a great building block and a nice reference at times. I also recommend trying new wines that aren’t familiar with you to tease the palate. Also, taste lots and lots.
What are you drinking lately? Billhook Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. I usually don’t go for California Cabs at all, but this one took me by surprise. I tend to think that California Cabs don’t provide the bang for your buck that Spanish and other imports offer. Marcello’s Chophouse pours it by the glass. What’s your take on New Mexico wines? Are there any you recommend? Yes! Gruet makes amazing juice. When I worked at Martini House in Napa Valley we poured Gruet by the glass! I remember when I first tasted it I thought, New Mexico? I am a huge fan of Milagro Vineyards in Corrales. Their Zinfandel is fabulous and rivals some of the overpriced Zins coming out of California. Talk about the best wine you ever tasted. Marcassin Pinot Noir from the barrel. When I worked for [Marcassin winemaker] Helen Turley, she let me taste the wine as it poured from the press. I will never forget that taste. Do you buy wines based on price or scores? I never look at scores. Everyone’s palate is different. I have had some of the most highly rated and expensive wines in the world, and depending on my mood or environment, I may not have enjoyed them as much as if I was in a different place. And on the opposite spectrum, some of the cheapest everyday wine can blow your mind when with the best of friends or that special someone and enjoying a perfectly matched meal. Price is incredibly important to me, though. I think wines can be so overpriced, and sometimes it seems on the verge of egotistical to think that they should command such dollars. After all, it is just old grape juice! The best way to learn is taste, taste, taste … and then taste some more.
What’s your favorite wine bar in Albuquerque? Luna Mansion. Are there any New Mexico wines you recommend? D.H. Lescombes Cabernet Sauvignon ’07. Where do you buy wine? Quarters. What’s the best wine you ever tasted? Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Do you buy wines based on price or scores? I never depend on scores; my palate (my taste) is different than everybody else.
What’s your favorite wine bar in Albuquerque? Right now, Marcello’s Chophouse. They have a vast and sophisticated collection of wines. What are you drinking lately? 2005 Westport Rivers Brut “RJR," Westport, Mass. Yes, I know: What? Massachusetts? However, this vineyard in southern Massachusetts near Buzzards Bay is producing some fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Where do you buy wine? That would depend on where you live. If they stock what I like, and if they entertain the idea of special orders, you can get what you really want. That’s a merchant that I will spend my money with. Do you pair food and wine? I do. I love the contrarian aspect of pairing food with wine. I enjoy rich food with wine that is balanced well with fruit and acidity. Do you buy wines based on price or scores? I personally spend my money wisely, like every other consumer these days. So yes, price does influence me. As for scores, I don’t put too much emphasis on them. The best place to start to learn about wine is to develop a relationship with your local wine retailer. Best wine rule: Enjoy.