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New Mexico Wine Trails

Friday, August 28th, 2020

It’s wine grape harvest in Southern New Mexico, so it’s the perfect time to write about New Mexico wines. Harvest starts in Southern New Mexico in August and finishes in Northern New Mexico in October. New Mexico probably isn’t the first place you think of when it comes to wine. It may not even be on your radar at all. Most of us think of California and maybe Washington or Oregon when it comes to US wines. Surprising for many, you will find some amazing vineyards that fly under the radar in New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina, Minnesota and Michigan!

New Mexico’s winemaking history dates back almost 400 years, making it the oldest wine growing region in the country. Settlers from Spain first arrived in New Mexico and brought with them their skill and tradition of vineyard planting and wine making.  In 1629, Fray Garcîa de Zuñiga and Antonio de Arteaga smuggled vines out of their home country and planted New Mexico’s first grapes in a field just south of modern-day Socorro—and we are so thankful they did! The variety that was planted is currently known as the Mission grape and is still grown in New Mexico today.

After that, wine culture in New Mexico exploded, and churches all over the region began planting and cultivating their own vineyards. By 1633, New Mexican viticulture had completely taken hold. After prohibition and a major flood of the Rio Grande in 1943, the New Mexico wine tradition was almost obliterated.

In 1977, the first small commercial winery opened its doors in La Union, NM. The small, 14-acre facility produced wine from grape varietals that thrived in New Mexico’s harsh winters and blistering summers and produced a wine that was rich and flavorful. This winery was La Vina and it now holds the title of the longest continuously operating vineyard in the state.

Today, New Mexico is home to more than 40 wineries and vineyards that produce more than tens of thousands of gallons of wine annually, impacting the state’s revenue by millions of dollars.  Small wineries have opened all through New Mexico, creating three unique areas to experience wine.   From the Northern wineries around Santa Fe and Taos to the southern wineries of Las Cruces and the Tularosa Basin, the beauty of New Mexico is sure to enchant you.

Southern Wine Trail:

For the Southern New Mexico Wine Trail, Las Cruces is a great place to spend your first night. You’ll want to start in Anthony, NM at La Vina, which we already mentioned holds the title of longest continuously operating vineyard in the state. They have a large selection of wines for you to try. As you make your way back to Las Cruces, you’ll find six wineries to explore. Make sure you include Deming in your plans to check out Lescomes Family Vineyards. They have the largest grape crushing and bottling operation in the region and assist many of the wineries in the area turn their grapes into wine. As you start to make your way north into Alamogordo and Ruidoso, you need to make sure to stop into Heart of the Desert where you can not only do a wine tasting, but also learn all about pistachios. There are four other wineries in the area to explore.

Central Wine Trail:

The Central Wine Trail will take you up Highway 25 to Albuquerque, NM where you will want to stay. You will stumble upon a few wineries on your way there and nine different wineries in the area. Make sure to stop into New Mexico’s most famous winery, Gruet. They are known for their bubbly and have done some great work with the Native American community growing grapes. For something out of the ordinary, head over to Wicked Creations Winery where they specialize in chokecherry, raspberry, apricot and wild plum wines.

Northern Wine Trail:

To continue your wine adventure through New Mexico, head north into Santa Fe. You’ll find 10 wineries within easy driving distance of Santa Fe and into Taos. Make sure to stop into Black Mesa to try their selection of wines and their Bite Me apple cider. Vivac Winery is also a must to try their house-made cheese and the Pasta Nefertiti featuring their wine! If you don’t want to drive for this part, you can check out New Mexico Wine Tours for their join-in and private tours.

New Mexico’s wine trails offer a glimpse into the winemaking industry that New Mexico has perfected over hundreds of years. With a history so rich and wine so delicious, sipping your way along the New Mexico Wine Trail is sure to quench the thirst of any wine lover. One of the best things about taking the time to explore a lesser-known wine trail than California’s Napa Valley, or even the Pinot Noir fields of Oregon, is the intimate experience you’re sure to find here.  On these less-traveled wine trails, it’s possible to gain a deeper appreciation for what’s in your glass by walking among the vines, feeling the soil, and talking directly to the owners as you sip and sample your way through their delicious wine selections. If that’s not enough to entice you, then perhaps the scenic beauty that will surround you throughout your time in New Mexico’s wine country will.

Cheers!

Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.