With landscape that’s known for its high desert vistas, and a strong connection to iconic artist Georgia O’Keeffe, New Mexico has plenty to entice visitors. But add to this the region’s equal parts historic and thriving wine scene, and there’s yet another calling card. Known as America’s oldest wine region, New Mexico Wine Country was established more than 400 years ago when mission grapes were brought over by Spanish colonists. Now, the region is home to a diverse offering of vineyards and wineries, all within easy reach of Albuquerque.
Before even stepping out of the vibrant city of Albuquerque, stop by Gruet Winery. Lauded for its award-winning sparkling wine, The Gruet family were established Champagne producers in France before being drawn to New Mexico by a climate perfectly suited to viticulture. While Gruet’s high-altitude vineyards are scattered around New Mexico, the winery – complete with tasting room – is within city limits. On the last Saturday of each month (at 2pm), visitors can join a methode Champenoise winery tour.
Northern New Mexico Wine
Twenty minutes north of Albuquerque is the village Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, home to Casa Rondeña Winery. More than just showcasing the wine they produce, Casa Rodeña focuses on music and the arts, too, hosting events influenced by vineyard founder John Calvin, who spent time playing Flamenco guitar in southern Spain. Take a walk through the vineyard and sample the wine in the Tasting Room.
The village of Corrales is also in the area, and with four wineries – Acequia Winery, Corrales Winery, Matheson Winery and Pasando Tiempo – it’s worth setting aside plenty of time to explore. All four wineries can also be taken in during the biannual Corrales Wine Loop cycle tour, taking place in August 2016.
Around an hour north of Albuquerque, on the ‘High Road to Taos’, Estrella Del Norte Vineyard is 15 minutes outside of Santa Fe. Having won awards for its wine, and with scenic vineyards amidst cottonwood trees, this is an atmospheric addition to the itinerary.
Don Quixote Distillery and Winery has garnered plenty of attention, having been featured in international publications like Martha Stewart Living, as well as on the Travel Channel and USA Today, and it can be reached from Albuquerque by travelling an hour and twenty minutes north. With spirits, ports, extracts and chocolate in addition to wine, it’s easy to spend quite a bit of time here, and despite the residential façade, distillery tours and tastings are on offer.
In northern New Mexico’s high desert – a couple of hours north of Albuquerque – Black Mesa Winery uses grapes from over a dozen vineyards around New Mexico, and the wines they make as a result have won nationwide and international awards. Even Black Mesa’s labels are award winning, having been designed by winery owner and painter Lynda Burd to represent Georgia O’Keeffe. If you stop by on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday evening, you’ll also stumble upon live music.
New Mexico’s oldest winery, La Viña is approximately four hours north of Albuquerque. With around 40 years of history, the winery and surrounding vineyards are well worth the journey, with events hosted on a regular basis, including seasonal wine festivals, picnics, and ‘Music on the Patio’ events.
Southern New Mexico Wine
Just half an hour south of Albuquerque – in the village of Los Lunas, Valencia County – Camino Real Winery has an undeniably scenic setting within the Rio Grande Valley. These surroundings make it the ideal setting for the regular events they host, as well as for their vineyard tours, which can be arranged by appointment.
Further south, around four hours from Albuquerque, Balzano Family Vineyard & Pumpkin Patch lies alongside the Pecos River, just outside Carlsbad and near to the town of Seven Rivers (settled in around 1860, this ghost town was originally a trading post). Wine tastings take place Fridays through Sundays, with UnCorked Art and Miss Janie’s Pie School classes scheduled, too.
New Mexico Wine Festival
Back in Albuquerque, Isleta Resort + Casino hosts the annual celebration of the state’s viticulture, The New Mexico Wine and Jazz Festival. Next taking place in September 2016, the event brings New Mexico’s winemakers together to showcase their vintages alongside the food of award-winning chefs.
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Have you been on a New Mexico wine tour? What did you make of the state’s thriving wine scene? Let us know in the comments section below.