More and more wineries have popped up throughout New Mexico in recent years. Vintners (and retirees looking for a new pastime) are beginning to realize that not only is the state’s arid climate ideal for growing grapes, but also that the price of land per acre is a lot cheaper than out in California’s wine country. What’s more, some of them are turning out really fantastic wines. If you’ve never bought a bottle of New Mexican wine before, here’s a brief primer on just a few of the wineries that have impressed us.
As Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser mentioned in an interview, Gruet is “a real New Mexico success story.” Gilbert Gruet was making wine in Bethon, France, before a trip to the Southwest US in 1983 convinced him that southern New Mexico was the perfect location for expanding his growing and winemaking endeavors. Two of Gruet’s children moved to New Mexico to spearhead the operation in 1984, and they’ve been making award-winning wines ever since. Their Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs are delicious, especially served chilled on a hot summer day. You can find their wines available in any wine or liquor store in the city, or by visiting their Albuquerque tasting room at 8400 Pan American Freeway NE.
St. Clair Winery
St. Clair is New Mexico’s largest winery, producing over 70 different wines from their vineyard in Deming, many of which have won state and national awards. The 2015 St. Clair Bellissimo and St. Clair Chardonnay both won awards at the New Mexico State Fair Wine Competition last year, and both are exceptionally good summer wines. You can visit the St. Clair Bistro here in Albuquerque to try many of their wines—and have a fine dinner on their patio—or you can visit the winery in Deming and take a tour of the vineyard.
Wines of the San Juan
There’s a winery up in the northern half of the state, nestled in the San Juan River Valley, that regularly produces some amazing wines. David and Marcia Arnold bought the land in 1999 with a dream to make it into a vineyard, and no prior knowledge of winemaking to help them on their way. But in the past two decades they’ve honed that skill well, and have brought home several awards to prove it. Their signature Girls Are Meaner® white wine won the bronze at the New Mexico State Fair last year, and for good reason: It’s a lovely, sweet wine that pairs excellently with spicy dishes. Pay Wines of the San Juan a visit at 233 Hwy. 511 next time you’re headed north.
Sheehan is one of New Mexico’s youngest wineries, but it’s pioneered by Sean Sheehan, who worked for nearly a decade as lead winemaker for several other New Mexico wineries. It’s obvious that he knows what he’s doing, because, as the Sheehan Winery website says, “in 2017, Sheehan Winery submitted 17 wines to the New Mexico State Fair Wine Competition and won 17 Gold, Silver and Bronze awards—the most of any winery in New Mexico.” Those are pretty good stats. The grapes used in Sheehan wines are grown in Corrales and in Bosque Farms, right in our neck of the woods. Try their Coireil Rosé: a sweet and fruity wine made for sipping on warm evenings. The winery itself—which is, essentially, the Sheehans’ backyard in the Vecinos del Bosque—offers private wine tastings by appointment on Saturdays and Sundays.