Initially, Tom and I thought it would merely be a place to drive through to get from Texas to Arizona. However, New Mexico ultimately became a destination for us, as we extended our quick visit into a four-day exploration.
New Mexico has a fantastic adult beverage scene. Lately, I have become a fan of champagne and sparkling wine. I love that the effervescence and taste make it the perfect complement to any cuisine in addition to enjoying it on its’ own! When we were planning our trip to New Mexico, I had to include a visit to Gruet’s tasting room on our itinerary. However, we also discovered several amazing wineries and distilleries that deserve to be noticed outside of the Land of Enchantment!
Our first stop in New Mexico was Albuquerque to sample sparkling wine at Gruet. Tom and I have been to MANY wineries, and our visit to Gruet tops our list of exciting tasting experiences. Although Gruet produces a handful of still wines, the star of the show is their collection of sparkling wines. Gruet wines are all created from New Mexico grown grapes. The state’s high altitude allows the grapes to grow surprisingly well, producing a fantastic end product. Our host, Laura, was amiable and knowledgeable. Laura guided us in our experience as we went all out and did the “grand” tasting, sampling ALL 10 of Gruet’s sparkling wines. We both enjoy drier wines and Gruet did not disappoint. My favorite was 2010 Grand Rose, and Tom’s was the Blanc de Blancs 25th Anniversary. Tom and I tried two of the still wines (chardonnay and pinot noir) but prefer the sparkling variation. Although Gruet distributes wine throughout the country, the majority of the tasting room offerings can only be purchased on site. Of course, our favorites had to be included in this distinction. Because of this, we bought several bottles to take home and remind us of our fantastic sparkling wine tasting in Albuquerque!
After Albuquerque, we spent a few days exploring Santa Fe, Taos, and the surrounding area. During our adventure, we sampled some wine at Estrella del Norte Vineyard located a few miles north of Santa Fe. The beautiful grounds of the vineyard set a beautiful backdrop for lounging and sipping wine. Most of the wines I sampled were too acidic for my taste. However, one wine that completely surprised both Tom and me was the “Holy Mole,” a red chile-infused wine. Although the wine is sweet with a hint of chocolate, the spiciness helps balance the flavors. It would go great with a rich chocolate cake!
In the Santa Fe area, we also tried two distilleries. Our favorite distillery was Don Quixote. At 14 years old, Don Quixote is New Mexico’s oldest distillery. There are two tasting rooms. One is in Los Alamos. However, we went to the Pojoaque location which is situated 7 miles north of Santa Fe. Don’t let the tasting room’s run-down exterior deter you from entering. This place is a gem! Don Quixote is known for its ports and spirits. This distillery has the distinction of being the only port and sherry producer that makes their wine and brandy. Although I’m not usually a port enthusiast, I enjoyed “Mon Cherie,” their cherry port. It had an intense cherry flavor that wasn’t too syrupy sweet! Tom enjoyed both the Blue Corn Bourbon and Blue Corn Vodka. The blue corn adds a certain complexity to the character that works exceptionally well!
Santa Fe Spirits has two locations. We went to the tasting room in the city (the distillery location was closed during our stay). The tasting room has a quaint outdoor patio and a small, inviting indoor bar and seating area. We sat at the bar and tasted their five spirits (gin, two whiskeys, vodka, and apple brandy) as well as two vodka infusions (berry and jalapeño). Although the spirits were ok, we weren’t completely overwhelmed. We would recommend visiting for a pleasant, relaxing environment to sip craft cocktails made with their spirits, but not for sipping them on their own.
On our way from Santa Fe to the Carlsbad Caverns, we stopped in Roswell to visit the aliens. We also noticed a winery and decided to do a tasting with some new friends from outer space. Seriously though, Pecos Flavors Winery was yet another surprise. Located on Main Street, the winery features its’ own locally produced wine. They also sell wine, beer, and other food treats produced in New Mexico. Tom and I have had a difficult time finding a nice complex, Bordeaux style wine during our road trip. We finally found an excellent one in Roswell, NM of all places. The winery’s “Compadres” label features locally grown grapes. Tom and I were very impressed with their Cabernet Sauvignon. What a fun surprise in Roswell! We highly recommend stopping by on your next visit with the aliens!
After a fun visit to the Carlsbad Caverns, we headed out toward our next destination, Tucson, AZ. Along the way, Tom and I noticed one more winery along the highway: St. Clair Winery in Deming, NM. St. Clair is New Mexico’s largest winery, producing 70 different wines ranging from mimosas to dry reds. During our visit to their tasting room, we sampled a variety of wines. The reds were a little too acidic for our taste. However, they do produce an interesting Hatch Green Chile Wine that had nice heat and flavor. We think it would go well with a tasty New Mexican dinner.
New Mexico is a fascinating state. One of the biggest surprises for us was wine and spirits being produced locally. We learned that the high altitude produces the perfect growing environment for many of the grapes and grains needed for making tasty adult beverages. If you travel to New Mexico and are interested in tasting a locally produced drink to go with delicious New Mexican cuisine, look around the corner. We are sure you will find something great to suit your palate!
Drink responsibly but do enjoy! Contact us for your next travel needs.