This month, our #WinePW blogging group is exploring “Under the Radar US Wine Regions” in time both for Thanksgiving and to celebrate American democracy. Thinking about which region I wanted to write about, I immediately thought of New Mexico for a couple of reasons. First off, the state is home to a very large population of Native Americans who were the first occupants of our country. Second, it’s a region that doesn’t get a lot of attention as I think it should. The third reason is because they offer a range of wines that will work at Thanksgiving, including a lovely sparkler and lastly because for more than 20 years New Mexico has held a special place in my heart.
The sparkling wine I am referring to is one I bet everyone has had at least once but they didn’t know it was from New Mexico. 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.
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, chile. Remember those sand creations you made with different colored sand in the 6th grade? Kind of like that.
New Mexico has a very long history of grape growing with the first vines being planted by the Spanish in the 1600s for use in Catholic ceremonies and then by the Italians in the 1800s when the Jesuit priests came to the State. A huge flood in 1943 of the Rio Grande devastated vineyards that had already been hit by Prohibition in the 1929-1930. The once flourishing wine industry had to rebuild but it took many decades and it wasn’t until the 1970s that wineries started to open their doors again. Today the state has 60 wineries and tasting rooms.
The wineries can be found throughout the state from the border with Colorado to that of Texas. The wineries are broken up into those in Northern New Mexico, Central New Mexico and Southern New Mexico. Grapes tend to be international aka French, Spanish such as Tempranillo or Italian such as Vermentino, Aglianico and Nebbiolo.
The state is so beautiful with so many vistas to see and mesas and natural parks to marvel at that visiting wineries could make for a very business week of travel at least. I took the below photo from the top of the Mesa in Los Alamos.
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.
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 and have locations around the state.
I didn’t get to visit the Jaramillo vineyard when I was in New Mexico but I love their story. The pictures on the winery page, the first pictures look like my home winemaking operation and I hope to someday fulfill my dream as they have theirs. They make a huge variety of wines and I discovered them through an article I was writing about Vermentino around the World.
New Mexico doesn’t just have beautiful landscapes, interesting cities such as Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces, it also has amazing cuisine to pair with their wines.
Chile spelled with an “e” rather than and “i” is key to their foods, the red and the green ones. They add them to everything not just for the flavor but also for medicinal properties such as Vitamin C. Apparently they also have oils which help produce endorphins. I was driving up very large mesas and was frightened while there so I kept chile powder in the car to give me a jolt of power – true story – and courage to take on the heights.
We will be meeting on Twitter, Saturday, November 14th at 11:00am EDT using the #WinePW hashtag.
My fellow #WinePW bloggers will be dishing on the following topics, please join in the conversation. Our posts will all be live by Saturday at 8:00am EDT:
- Nicole from SommsTable writes “Cooking to the Wine: Acquiesce Grenache Rosé with a Glazed Stuffed Pork Loin Roast”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Mahalo Plenty! Hawaiian Sips and Nibbles
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm adds Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving by Eating and Drinking Locally
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! brings Idiot’s Grace: Explorers in the Columbia Gorge AVA
- David from Cooking Chat posts Cranberry Jalapeño Dip with New England Wine
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass suggests Raising a glass of PA Cab Franc – paired with a Philly cheesesteak
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator showcases Local Love: 6 Ventura County Wines from Local Vines paired with Watkins Beef, Ventura Fresh Fish #WinePW
- Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen shares “Is Virginia For Wine Lovers? #Winepw”
- Susannah from Avvinare.com posts about Wines from New Mexico Paired with New Mexican Style Beef Chile.