Indigenous Peoples Day: Visiting New Mexican Wineries

View from Los Alamos

Thinking about Indigenous People’s Day, I was reminded of New Mexico, home to many Tribal nations.

New Mexican Gov. Lujan Grisham issued the following statement about the holiday:

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an important opportunity to honor the culture and traditions of New Mexico’s first citizens, our tribal brothers and sisters who make up such an important part of our state’s beautiful multicultural identity. Tribal nations and their peoples have made incredible and unique contributions to not only our state but this country we all love. This year, the tribal nations of New Mexico have suffered and persevered amid the pandemic and economic crisis, showing incredible resilience and strength in the face of challenging circumstances, demonstrating that we are all stronger when we look out for each other together. The state of New Mexico has not hesitated – and will never hesitate – to help protect and provide for the sovereign nations within our borders. On this Indigenous Peoples’ Day I join all New Mexicans in celebrating the indigenous nations and peoples of New Mexico and around the country and world, in lifting up the diverse traditions, cultures, languages and heritage and in committing to support the health, well-being and prosperity of indigenous people, today and every day.”

Indian Affairs Department Secretary Lynn Trujillo, a member of Sandia Pueblo, issued the following statement:

“Today we celebrate the enduring history of indigenous people in our state. As New Mexico’s first citizens, indigenous people have contributed to a diverse cultural tapestry. Our legacy of strength and resilience stands as a testament to the rich and enduring culture of our ancestors. It is these teachings that will ensure that our future-ancestors, our young people, will continue to thrive and preserve our traditions well into the future.”

While wine is not the first topic that comes to mind when I think of New Mexico, there is a flourishing industry in that beautiful state and I bet everyone has had at least one wine from New Mexico if they live in the United States. The wine I am talking about is a sparkling wine from Gruet. Their sparklers made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are very inexpensive as sparklers go and are a great idea to bring to a party. The winery was started by a brother-sister team from France, Laurent and Nathalie Gruet. They choose New Mexico because of its climate and soils.

Estrella del Norte

New Mexico has great diurnal temperature variation because of the altitude of many of the vineyards and the long hours of sunshine that the grapes get during the day followed by cool nights, the ideal combination for grape growing. Think mesas, brown and red earth tones, tumble weed, green shrubs, pueblos, adobe churches dotting the landscape, mountain peaks and rivers, chili. Remember those sand creations you made with different colored sand in the 6th grade? Kind of like that.

While Gruet is arguably the most famous winery in the state, it is by no means the only one. Another winery of note is the Casa Rondena. According to their materials, grapes were planted in New Mexico by the Spanish in the 1600s for use by the church. The mission grape was the famed grape at the time and still grows in the state. This winery is known for its red wines and is run by winemaker John Calvin. They grow French, Italian, and Spanish varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo, among others.

New Mexico Wines

Another large winery is the St Clair winery. This winery was created in 1984 by the Lescombes family. They make over 85,000 cases a year from 30 different grape varieties.

There are also numerous smaller wineries and wine trails throughout the state such as Ponderosa, Corrales and Estrella Del Norte Vineyards.

The wineries are broken up into those in Northern New Mexico, Central New Mexico and Southern New Mexico. A main website to consult for these wineries is WineCountryNM.Com. There are wine festivals in each area of the state during the Summer as this website called New Mexican wine lists.

New Mexico - Near Los Alamos
According to that site, “The rebirth of the New Mexico wine industry began in 1978. New Mexico now has 42 wineries and tasting rooms, and produces almost 700,000 gallons of wine a year.”

I like the wines I tried when I visited in 2012 although I wasn’t overwhelmed by any of them. What did and always does overwhelm me is the beauty of the landscape in New Mexico and the wonderful hospitality of the people. I found that same welcoming spirit at all of the tasting rooms I visited. What did thrill me was a wine store I found in Santa Fe called La Casa Sena. They had an amazing selection of wines and a really interesting and knowledgeable staff. It is also linked to a nearby restaurant which looked delicious but sadly I did not dine in the evening I was in Santa Fe. I definitely look forward to trying it out on my next trip.

New Mexico joined the United States in 1912 as the 47th state. If you haven’t been yet, it’s high time to you visit this glorious state and its wineries.

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