Through the Years…KoKoMan

Kokoman_DSC1269It’s an all too familiar story. A person with a casual interest in wine is served that epiphany wine, a wine so good their eyes are opened to what wine is all about. And then begins that precipitous descent into the depths of wine geekdom.

One of the rules that geeks learn early on, when searching for that next epiphany wine, is not to be fooled by the appearance of a wine store. Oftentimes, the grittiest, most unostentatious of wine shops will harbor unknown wine treasures. Invariably, there is someone behind that shop who has an abiding interest and passion for fine wine. That characterization fits Kokoman Fine Wine and Liquor in Pojoaque to a T. It’s not much to look at when you enter the front door, but take that sharp turn to the left and all sorts of wine treasures are there for the taking. And the mind behind it all is none other than Keith Obermaier, a fixture on the New Mexico wine scene for a good many years. Continue reading

Balanced Beer, Balanced Life – Kaktus Brewing, Albuquerque

_DSC0095Pulling into Kaktus Brewing Co. feels like pulling up to a friend’s house, where the only plans for the evening are catching up over a beer on the back porch. Wedged between the susurrus of commuter traffic on I-25 and the Rio Grande in Bernalillo, the locale is bordered by a coyote fence bedecked with Crayola-hued doors and a prickly pear cactus mural. Nearby, royal blue chairs perch in a tree as though cast there by an artistic hurricane. The covered patio invites visitors to gather on couches and benches. Inside, they belly up to a blonde wood bar for one of the breweries craft creations. There are no TVs with baseball games blaring—an intentional choice to encourage conversation. The only background noise here is the occasional crow of a rooster.

In the greater Albuquerque area, a place saturated in good beer—there are more than 40 breweries/taprooms and counting—Kaktus is staying purposely small. Other breweries, like relative behemoths Marble Brewery and Tractor Brewing Company easily outpace the brewery’s German-made two-barrel system and 500-barrell-a-year production, but co-owner Dana Koller is unconcerned. “We want to be community based and a neighborhood place,” he says. Its vibe is friendly and eclectic, from the ambiance of its residential setting, to its neighborly values and sundry creations. Continue reading

The Root Cellar

LL The Root Cellar16The adage says it takes a village. Greg Menke, owner and chef of Beestro, The Hive Market and The Root Cellar, contends it’s not a village it takes—it’s a hive. That’s the model for effective, healthy communities—ones that renew and aid their landscape rather than deplete it—he’d like to see adopted. “The bee is really just a metaphor for how to live locally, live sustainably and give more than you take,” Greg says. And he’s taking over one storefront at a time on East Marcy Street to import it.

Greg inherited his infatuation with honeybees from his grandfather, an aeronautical engineer who studied honeybees and honeycombs, and applied those principles for lightweight strength to his work. Pouring through his grandfather’s old journals and workbooks, he found inspiration and answers to questions he hadn’t known he had. He’s come to see bees, providers of honey and beeswax for candles, as an emblem of sweetness and light, both of which are in need of spreading.

In Greg’s own work, those ideas have manifested in the form of the honey-centric businesses that have grown in recent years off the established lunch spot, The Beestro, which opened six years ago. The Hive Market, which opened in November 2015 in the former home of the Blue Rooster and the Rouge Cat, began as a holiday pop-up shop themed around “gifts from the hive.” The aim was to take a test run at the space and the idea of a store centered on honey-based products. It worked. Continue reading

Bike and Brew

Outside Santa Fe's Beer and Bike 2015

Outside Santa Fe’s Beer and Bike 2015

I’ve been asked what makes mountain biking in New Mexico special to me. For a brief question, I have a long and winding answer. My “love affair” (yes, my wife knows) with cycling began when I was given a sparkling blue Schwinn Stingray that I thought was the greatest gift of my young life. After a few weeks of toodling around with training wheels, I gradually became more confident. Then one day, with a patient father in an empty parking lot, I learned to pedal, steer and brake on two wheels. That blue bike radically expanded my childhood universe. I wasn’t limited by ploddingly slow foot travel or the whims of a parent with a car. I had my first taste of speed and freedom, so I explored.

I never lost my taste for the freedom a bicycle brings. I can’t deny that I’ve fallen prey to the temptations of the automobile. I’ve had many dalliances with the quiet speed of road cycling, and my town bike sees quite a few miles every year. But, oh the places you’ll go on a mountain bike! Not limited by pavement, a mountain bike can turn a thin dashed line on a map into a daylong or longer adventure. Continue reading

Rowley Farmhouse Ales

_mg_5514Picture a farmhouse. It’s hospitable and warm, with a pleasant aroma of earth, food, and tradition. A devoted dog naps quietly on the porch. The entire place is comfortable and casual, and when a stranger comes calling, they are graciously welcomed with a plate of homemade food and a glass of ale. The food is familiar and was grown by friends just down the road and it’s always made fresh for visitors when they arrive. The ale was made by hand, just around the back of the barn. With each bite and every sip, you slip further into calm serenity.

Now drop that slice of pastoral bliss right in the middle of Santa Fe, just off one of our city’s main thoroughfares and you have a mental picture of Santa Fe’s newest brewery. Rowley Farmhouse Ales delivers exactly what you’d expect from a farmhouse brewery, and so much more.

Beneath the rustic charm, something fascinating is in the works. Once they get up to full production speed, Rowley will be the only brewery in New Mexico to specialize in farmhouse, lambic, and sour ales. What makes that detail exciting and unique is the use of wild Brettanomyces yeast, or “Brett”. Typically this yeast is considered a contaminant, but what others seek to destroy, they embrace and celebrate. Where others see flaws, the folks at Rowley Farmhouse see complexity. They see perfection. Continue reading

Still Hungry? October 2016

applesA is for Apple. It’s also for Autumn. And Awesome, too, because that’s what sipping hard cider in the crisp chill of fall is. This month, four local cider-makers—Skarsgard Farms, New Mexico Hard Cider, Santa Fe Cider Works and Sandia Hard Cider—share with us a favorite dish, paired with a hard cider they’ve pressed from our local earth’s autumn bounty. Ah yes, A is for Artisanal-cider and Adult-beverage, too. Cheers! Continue reading