For our two whites, we tried Vivac Winery and Guadalupe Vineyards. We began with Vivac Winery’s 2013 Riesling ($18), a slightly sweet, fruity wine with bright summer aromas of pineapple and cantaloupe. The Riesling’s balanced minerality complimented its refreshing acidity. This good food wine paired well with a hot chorizo & chicken “Sloppy Jose” with mole on polenta, which enhanced its sweetness. Guadalupe Vineyards’ 2011 Gewürztraminer ($30) is a floral, floral, floral wine with a rose bouquet, with grapefruit on the tongue. Typically, this would pair well with spicy Thai food. We found it paired with spicy Green Chili and Spinach Quiche, and with a Green Chili Chowder; the dishes providing the spice that is absent from the Gewürztraminer, and tamed by the wine’s cool flowers.
We paired our wines with spicy dishes reflecting New Mexico’s well founded association with Chili—red or green; sweet, chocolate, spicy mole; peppery shish kebab and sausages; and creamy cheesecake. Whether the local food influences the winemaker’s tastes, or flavors of one crop compliment another—the best pairings were New Mexico wines with New Mexico dishes.
The Occasional Wine Council enjoyed trying eight wines from five wineries in northern New Mexico. While the wineries are all northern, their wines come from vines in southern New Mexico as well. We paired each wine with a dish—most with a New Mexico flair.
Overall, we found the Rhone and Bordeaux varietals on a par with their California cousins, as were the retail prices.
Three of our wineries are located near each other between Santa Fe and Taos: La Chiripada is northern New Mexico’s oldest winery, having begun planting in 1977; Black Mesa Winery followed in 1992; and Vivac Winery began in 1999.
Our other two wineries are closer to Albuquerque: Guadalupe Vineyards began in 2000 (West of Albuquerque); and Casa Abril began in 2001, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Franciscan monks began growing wine grapes in New Mexico around 1630, just a decade after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth a continent away. By the late 1800’s, New Mexico had more land devoted to grape vines than New York.
However, flooding of the Rio Grande and Prohibition combined to almost wipe out the industry by the 1920’s. A resurgence began in the late 1970’s, and there are now over 40 wineries throughout the state, mainly in the mountainous foothills near Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Alamogordo and Las Cruces.
When you think New Mexico, do you think skiing? Georgia O’Keefe? Hatch chilies? Sunsets over red rock? John Wayne in the Rio Grande? Or, perhaps, Tempranillo, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling? Visit New Mexico's wineries, and you may find Mr. Wayne goes well with Riesling.
Vivac Winery’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($21) has a strong nose, is younger and fruitier than a typical California Cabernet. It does not demand steak, indeed it blossomed with the chili heat of chorizo. It would be a good choice for lasagna—essentially this is a Cabernet that is akin to a Sangiovese. Casa Abril’s 2012 Malbec ($32) is rich, fruitier than its Argentinian cousins, with strong flavors of currants, and a chocolate finish. There is fruit everywhere in this taste, with a cherry/chocolate mole nose. While this wine can be sipped solo, it is best with food, especially chocolate as well as our spicier chili influenced dishes.
Our reds hailed from La Chiripada (“stroke of luck” in English), Vivac (“high altitude refuge” in English), and Casa Abril (“April house” in English). La Chiripada Vintner’s 2010 Reserve Red ($24) is a blend of Tempranillo and Ruby Cabernet, with a light oakiness from Hungarian oak. Caramel on the nose, deep, red, with clove spice on the end. This is a steak wine, but is light enough to pair with Chili Quiche and sausages.
Vivac Winery’s 2009 Divino ($32) is a blend of Italian red varietals. Very dry, with aromas reminiscent of baking—think sugar cookies fresh from the oven. We found the best pairing was dessert, anything with a little caramel. Vivac Winery’s 2009 Diavolo ($41) is a full bodied blend of French red varietals. This is a lush, delicious wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with food, especially peppery dishes like shish ke bab. Full, ripe, stone fruit tastes balance the wine’s savory spices, making it both nuanced and friendly to strongly spiced dishes.
Black Mesa Winery’s Black Beauty ($12.50) is a chocolate dessert wine. You can smell the chocolate from across the room. While it smells like a chocolate kiss, it does taste like wine (unlike some chocolate infused dessert wines). Paired with fig jam and chocolates, this is a pleasant sipper for dessert.
Which wines stood out? The Council’s favorite of the night was
Casa Abril’s 2012 Malbec, closely followed by La Chiripada Vintners’ Reserve Red, and Vivac Winery’s 2009 Diavolo and 2013 Riesling.
So, neither age nor youth ruled—only some very good wines from the enchanted land.
Would age and experience or fresh youth lead to our favorite wines?
Try New Mexico Green Chili Chowder--its sweet and spicy and hot as you want it--and will go with all but the desert wines.