Touring And Tasting In An Unexpected American Wine Region: New Mexico

On a recent drizzly Sunday afternoon in Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico, over a bowl of spicy chili, I sat chatting about locally produced wines with pioneer New Mexico grape grower and winemaker Paolo D'Andrea and Chris Goblet, executive director of the New Mexico Wine, whose guest I would be for the coming week.

Touring and Tasting in an Unexpected American Wine Region: New Mexico Gallery

"Except for the sparkling wines of Gruet, which you can buy anywhere in the U.S., almost no one else who makes wine in New Mexico has sales outside the state," I began. "So, no matter how good your wine is, how do you expect to get a positive reputation?"

To them, the answer was obvious. If they couldn't get their wines to out-of-staters, then have the out-of-staters come visit them — not just for the wine, but for the other attractions that lure about 34 million tourists annually to New Mexico: wild beauty, skiing, art, dozens of festivals, and a reputation among food lovers as the epicenter of Southwestern cuisine. "Come for the tourism, and fall in love with our wines" was the message.         

And that's what I did for the next few days.

I spent most of my time visiting a half-dozen of the state's 50-plus wineries, both in the warmer southern part of the state, where most of the grapes are grown, and in the north, where wineries buy some grapes and grow some of their own at much higher altitudes. Along the way I also visited such geological wonders as the White Sands National Monument, ski resorts such as Ruidoso, and cultural attractions such as the homestead ranch of the late world-renowned painters Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth. Then, of course, everywhere there was marvelous food to pair with local wines.

The slogan of New Mexico Wine, by the way, is "Viva Vino" — "Long live wine." In fact that's not a bad toast — Viva Vino! Here's what I discovered while touring and tasting the New Mexican wine region.

Travel expenses for this article, including meals and wine tastings, were paid by New Mexico Wine.