Wine Tasting Etiquette in New Mexico

Thursday, January 25th, 2018
wine tasting in new mexico with Heart of the Desert

Many don’t think of New Mexico as a place for wine, but in actuality, wine grapes have been grown in New Mexico since the 1600’s. Franciscan Monks brought wine to New Mexico for Holy Communion. Much has changed since those days, but wine has continued to be produced throughout the state and many varietals are available.

Wine tasting rooms in New Mexico are fairly casual. New Mexico wines tend to run a little sweeter than those of California or Washington. You will often find fun flavors such as Pistachio Rose, Burro Flats Apricot, or Hatch Green Chile wines as well as your traditional Chardonnays and Merlots. Wine tasting rooms are spread out and scattered all over the state, so you will need to carefully plan and map your route before you take off. NM True offers a good wine map of all of the wineries to help you plan your trip.

Plan before you go:

The majority of wineries are open to the general public seven days a week, but some are only open on weekends or by appointment; call ahead to ensure you’re able to go where you want. In New Mexico, alcohol may not be served before noon on Sundays, so keep that in mind when scheduling your day.

Many wineries need to make special arrangements for groups larger than eight, and some are not able to accommodate groups at all. Special arrangements may be needed for large vehicles such as limousines and tour buses, too, so make sure to call ahead.

Wine tasting with children is not recommended.

Wearing comfortable and casually elegant clothing to tasting rooms sets the tone for a sophisticated outing and is a sign of respect for wineries.

Don’t wear perfume, cologne or heavily scented lotions to tasting rooms; the scents can overwhelm the subtle aromas in wine and interfere with others’ experience.

Many wineries have special events that might be of interest and worth considering when you are planning your day; live music on the patio or a wine paired dinner are excellent additions to a day of wine tasting.

The Experience:

Remember, wineries are not bars. Although alcohol is being served, it’s a relaxed and conversational environment.

Fees to taste are standard operating procedure at many wineries, though some still offer complimentary or very low-cost tastes. Most in New Mexico range between complimentary – $10 per person. Many will waive tasting fees with a wine purchase, so be sure to inquire about such incentives.

Splurge for a reserve tasting if offered especially if you’re interested in getting to know a spot’s more rare and exclusive offerings. They may be more expensive, but a winery’s reserve is often their best wine.

Wine tastings are primarily about having fun. But for those looking to get the most from the wines, swirl it on a flat surface and take a deep sniff to pick up the “nose” of the wine, AKA aroma or bouquet. This is more prevalent in red wines. Your host should guide you on what to look for.

When tasting, hold glasses by the stem rather than the bowl; holding them by the bowl coats glasses in greasy fingerprints and can disturb the temperature of the wine.

Upon drinking, swirl the wine around in your mouth to ensure it coats all the surfaces; we pick up unique texture and flavor sensations in different parts of our mouths.

Taste white and lighter wines before heavier wines, such as bold reds, and save the sweetest wines for last. This ensures the boldest and sweetest wines don’t overwhelm the more delicate ones you sip first.

Practice Moderation:

Pacing yourself is a critical aspect of tasting. Build moderation into your day by selecting a manageable three or four wineries to visit. Incorporating activities like tours and long lunch breaks ensure you do more than just drink.

Keep tabs on how much you’re consuming. Typically, wineries dispense samples in the size of one-ounce pours. As a reference point, there are four to six ounces of wine in a typical glass; know your limit and stop when you’ve reached it.

Drink plenty of water to stave off dehydration.

Always have a designated driver.

Purchasing Wines:

If you find a wine that you really appreciate and notice the venue has a picturesque spot you would like to explore, ask about buying a glass of wine and perhaps a cheese tray to enjoy. Take a load off and relax a bit!

Purchasing wines you’ve enjoyed is a great way to take the experience home with you and make great gifts for your house/pet sitter. Alcohol shipping laws may prevent you from sending your wines home, so if you’re flying, consult your airline about weight, quantity and liquid restrictions.

Again, tasting fees may be waived or reduced if you purchase wine on your visit. Be sure to inquire about such incentives; you may find that you spend the same amount or even less than you would for a tasting by purchasing a bottle!

Most wineries have wine clubs that offer periodic shipments of wine on an ongoing basis. Besides the wines that come with memberships, benefits and perks abound. Don’t hesitate to ask about membership price, quantities shipped, when they’re shipped, and any other perks that might be included.

Tipping of course isn’t mandatory, but as with any good service, you want to reward the pourer. Servers are sharing their knowledge and love of the wine with you. What’s a proper amount? Well that all depends on how many are in your group and how spectacular their service was. A good rule of thumb is $2 per person, though $5 for a couple is highly appreciated!

With these guidelines in mind, plan for a fun outing that is sure to make many memories!

When in Southern New Mexico:

If you are in Southern New Mexico, make sure to stop into one of the Heart of the Desert tasting rooms. Wine Tasting is available at all the Heart of the Desert locations from open until close except on Sundays; New Mexico liquor laws allow for wine service to begin at noon. Tastings at all stores are complimentary. The tasting glass is $4.00 if you choose to take it home.

Sample up to five varieties to pick your favorite. Choose from 12 different selections to include: Riesling, White Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Malvasia Bianca as well as, our special blends, Royal Zinphony, Pistachio Rose, Corazon Gitano, and Viva La Roja.

We look forward to helping you decide on a selection that will match your palate, wallet and menu. Shipping is available to several states. There is a 10% discount if you purchase 12 or more bottles; mixed varietals are permitted.

Full glasses of wine are available for purchase to drink onsite. At the Alamogordo store, we encourage you to enjoy a glass on The Patio!

Cheers! Slainte! Salud! Prost! Nostrovia!

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.