Santa Ana Vineyard

GRUET_119_klCommuters along I-25 may have noticed that acreage just north of Bernalillo has been more lush than usual the past few years as some 30 acres of grape vines take root in the high-desert foothills. The Pueblo of Santa Ana owns and manages the vineyard, making it one of only a handful of Native American tribes across the U.S. to grow grapes commercially. Tribes in California and Arizona have purchased existing vineyards, but Santa Ana is unique in growing grapes from the ground up. This year marks the second successful harvest and the release of the first wine made with the Pueblo-grown grapes—a still Rosé by New Mexico top-shelf vintner Gruet Winery.

Agriculture has been a staple of the Santa Ana people’s lifestyle for hundreds of years and their business enterprises since the 1980s. The Tamayame (the name of the Santa Ana people in their Keres language) have lived along the Rio Grande, 16 miles north of Albuquerque, since at least the 1500s. In this fertile valley, they’ve raised crops like blue corn—a treasured grain among Pueblo tribes—and their religious ceremonies are closely tied to agricultural seasons. In the 1980s, the people of Santa Ana began growing corn commercially and processing it in its own grain mill. Later, they expanded to grow plants native to the Rio Grande Valley, selling via both wholesale and retail operations.

Of course, the Pueblo’s ventures also include Santa Ana Golf Club, Santa Ana Casino and Hotel, and the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa. Joseph Bronk, the Pueblo of Santa Ana director of agriculture, places the vineyard under the umbrella of these public-facing enterprises. “Opinions on Indian gaming vary, but this has been a really complimentary facet of what the Pueblo is doing,” he says. Continue reading

Grgich Hills Estate

Mike Grgich

Mike Grgich

As this year’s Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta Honorée of the Year, second-generation Napa Valley vintner Violet Grgich visits Santa Fe at the end of the month to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her family’s Grgich Hills Estate, while hosting wine-tasting events.

Violet is the daughter of Mike Grgich, a Vintners Hall of Fame inductee who famously won the historic 1976 Paris Tasting with his Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. Born Miljenko Grgić in 1923 into a winemaking family on Croatia’s coastal region of Dalmatia, Mike moved from Croatia to the Napa Valley with a single small suitcase. In Napa, he worked at Beaulieu Vineyard for nine years alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, Mike became the winemaker at Napa’s most innovative winery, the Robert Mondavi Winery, where he made his first Cabernet for Mondavi, introducing malolactic fermentation and other methods he had developed at Beaulieu. Continue reading

In the Midnight Hours…

Nightlife-MeowWolfe-LK_MG_8232Santa Fe is notoriously known as a sleepy little town, lacking in options for late-night revelry. “They roll up the sidewalks at nine p.m.,” the joke goes. But Santa Fe is shaking off that reputation with plenty of places to shake it on the dance floor, belt out karaoke or take in a show. Believe me, there are places to have fun into the wee hours of the morning, if you know where to look.

Visitors and recent transplants to Santa Fe, here are some ideas on how to spend your midnight hours in our not-so-sleepy town!

Uniquely Santa Fe

Among the state’s most-instagrammed locations, Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return has been called a combination of children’s museum, art gallery, jungle gym and fantasy novel, but that doesn’t really capture it. It’s really something you have to see for yourself––it is truly indescribable and highly regarded as a must-see for any visitor. But here’s something you may not know about the wildly creative art installation: At night, it transforms from a child-friendly playground into a psychedelic—and much more grownup—concert venue. Meow Wolf stays open late when there’s music, sometimes as late as 2 a.m., depending on the show. You can delight in the elaborate House of Eternal Return and enjoy the current band or DJ—all sans the rug rats.

Meow Wolf: hours vary during shows; 1352 Rufina Circle, 505.395.6369,

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Cava-dreamstime_m_3777248There are many wines that make an excellent start to the meal as an aperitif.  Your wine aficionado may want to drink Champagne, but there is a good alternative that’s less expensive, especially at this time of year. When we eat outdoors, we focus on appetizers or small plates, and eat lighter foods. This is typical of the lifestyle in Spain, where they drink Cava.

Cava is a sparkling wine from Northeast Spain that has come full circle in the wine consumer’s appreciation. It was very much in fashion 20 years ago, but fell out of favor when locally produced sparkling wines, Prosecco and French Crémant, displaced it in the market. Prosecco has become especially popular, but to understand Cava it is best to describe how it differs from that Italian bubbly, and to look at the production methods of both wines.

There are seven generally recognized methods for making sparkling wines, but the two most popular methods are Champagne and Charmat (also known as “cuve close,” or Tank). Cava is produced by the Champagne method. The words Metodo Clasico or Metodo Tradicional will be found on the label of Cava as a legal reference to that method. The term “Champagne method” is not allowed on a bottle of Cava since Spain is part of the European Union, and it respects that legally protected appellation of France. So what is this special method that applies to Cava and Champagne? And how does it affect the taste of the wine? Continue reading

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