There are enough wineries in the Albuquerque area to do your own wine tour! But it wasn’t always that way. Here’s a little history of New Mexico Wine, and then I will tell you how to do your own Albuquerque Wine Tour.
New Mexico is the first home of wine in North America. I know most people associate California with the oldest vineyards, but it is New Mexico that had the first vineyards in the northern New World. It was because of the Catholic Church.
Our state has the perfect soil and climate for growing grapes for wine, which may have prompted the first European settler in this territory, Catholic missionary monks and priests from Spain, to “grow their own”. There was a need for wine for the Sacrament, and to get wine from Mexico City and Spain was a long wait.
Whether or not the monks waited for Church approval before they began growing their own grapes in 1629 is dubious, but they did it anyway, starting in a Indian settlement in the the Rio Grande Valley near what is now called Socorro, NM. (Socorro means “help” in Spanish, and was so named because it was the first help for survival after crossing the 90 mile long Jornada de Muerto, in English – journey of the dead, a crossing through some pretty rough lands coming up from El Paso, TX along the Camino Real.)
Wine production began around 1633, and continued, in Socorro, for over 40 years. By the 1800s there were vineyards all over the New Mexico Territory, especially in the southern part of the state from El Paso to Mesilla, (where Las Cruces is today), and in the central area from Socorro to just north of Albuquerque in the town of Bernalillo.
The Rio Grande is an ever changing river, in peak years it could flood to be several miles wide in low areas before the modern day flood control dams were built. Swamplands were created and this did not bode well for the vineyards. By the early 1900s wine production dropped from a high of nearly a million gallons annually to nothing. Then came prohibition. By now the New Mexico Territory was now the State of New Mexico and commercial wine production ceased until the late 1970s.
After this resurgence in the 70s, there has been a steady increase in the number of commercial wineries in all regions of New Mexico, and we are proud to once again to share our wine with the rest of the world. The US, has been slow to come around, but least the Europeans know a good thing. After an extensive search the Gruet family of France chose New Mexico as home for their vineyards and their award winning wines are know throughout the wine world. Many other vineyards are up and coming as well, including the southern New Mexico wineries of the D.H. Lescombes family. (See St. Claire Bistro).
We are lucky to have four wineries from the southern region represented under one roof with a wine tasting room and restaurant. It is St. Claire Bistro, in the Old Town area. I like to tour the other vineyards in Albuquerque first and end up at St. Claire for a meal or a nosh with the tasting.
I have created a Winery Tour Google Map to do a self guided wine tour in the Central Region, mostly in and north of Albuquerque. It is best not to do it all in one day unless you have a designated driver. New Mexico is not tolerant of DWI in any way, and even though the legal limit is .08, they have no trouble arresting you if the count is lower on a trumped up driving violation.
Day one – My suggestion is to start at the Gruet Tasting room, move into the North Valley to Casa Rondeña, (great red wines), and then end up at St. Claire, (wines of the DH Lescombes 4 family vineyards in southern NM), for lunch or dinner.
Day two – You can head north of Albuquerque to the Village of Corrales. In the 1700s Corrales wines were so prized they were being shipped back to Spain. My first choice from a few nice wineries in Corrales is Milagro. Some of the Corrales Vineyards including Milagro, are by appointment only, so you will need to call ahead. Don’t do too much tasting in Corrales though, because the next two vineyards on my list are a bit of a drive.
30 minutes north of Albuquerque in the Village of Placitas is Anasazi Fields. They make fruit wines and grape/fruit blends. I LOVE their wines. You may also see petroglyphs on the property. You will then move on up toward the Jemez to the Ponderosa Vineyards. This is a spectacular drive through some of the prettiest canyons in Central NM. I am really fond of Ponderosa’s wines too. The make a table wine – Jemez Red – that is not too sweet, not too dry, but just right. My Goldilocks wine.
If you stay with us at the Adobe Nido Bed and Breakfast, I may be bribed, with a bottle of wine from any of these fine New Mexico Wineries, to be your designated driver. No, really!
I know the best things to do in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!