Albuquerque’s Rooftop Patios

Hotel Chaco, on of Albuquerque's top rooftop spots

Hotel Chaco, on of Albuquerque’s top rooftop spots

With bright, sunny days that ease into cool, clear evenings, Albuquerque’s weather earns its much-lauded reputation this time of year. ’Tis the season for the outdoors, from shopping in plein-air farmers markets to imbibing on patios. With their lofty vantages, rooftop terraces level up the favored bar pastimes of people-watching, city-viewing and stargazing. Here are a few spots that offer a breath of fresh air. 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

Ponderosa Valley Vineyards and Winery

HK & Mary w Moses“Henry Street was good at growing grapes, good at making wine, and good at selling wine,” Ponderosa Valley Vineyards and Winery Winemaker Mark Matheson says. “Each one of those is difficult, and it’s rare for one man to possess all those skills.” Though Henry, who co-founded the winery with his wife Mary, passed away two and a half years ago, it’s fair to say his spirit of joie-de-vivre lives on in every bottle of hand-crafted, award-winning wine the winery produces—about 2,500 cases a year. Their two-dozen or so wines—reds, rosés and whites—are made from New Mexico grapes, largely grown on the eight-and-a-half acres of their vineyards in the Ponderosa Valley.

Though not on the official wine trail, the winery is accessed via N.M. 4, a route that’s been designated a “National Scenic Byway,” and with good reason. Any way you approach, either from the timeless Jemez Pueblo or the charming hamlet of Jemez Springs, the mountainous landscape with its old conifer forests, red rocks and outcroppings, holds an almost spiritual beauty. When they first decided on the location, Henry told Mary that if only one out of 100 cars making the drive for the sheer drama and magnificence of the scenery stopped to sample their offerings, their enterprise would be successful.

With two children apiece from prior marriages, Henry and Mary hitched up in 1974, bought the land for the winery in 1975, and planted the first grapevines in 1976. They were witnesses and participants in the resurgence of winemaking in New Mexico that recommenced in 1978. Continue reading

Raising the Bar with Natalie Bovis, The Liquid Muse

2015-NatalieBovis-BarHeadshot-HighRes_Doug Merriam PhotographerCould Santa Fe soon join New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New Orleans at the forefront of cocktail evolution? We certainly will, if nationally recognized mixologist Natalie Bovis, aka The Liquid Muse, has anything to say about it. With her gregarious nature and passionate dedication, it’s easy to see why Natalie is the ideal ambassador for New Mexico’s cocktail culture.

Like many kids who grow up in small towns, during her childhood in Santa Fe, Natalie yearned for the lights of the big city. So after she earned her degree in French literature and theater from the University of New Mexico, she moved to Los Angeles, where she supported her creative pursuits by working in the hospitality field. She tended bar, and later, she worked in the marketing sector of the L.A. film industry, eventually becoming a restaurant publicist in Washington DC.

Then, in 2006, she made the decision to delve into cocktail culture full-time with the launch of her website, TheLiquidMuse.com. “The best way to describe what I do is I’m sort of a conduit for cocktail culture,” she explains. In the 10 years since TheLiquidMuse.com’s launch, she has lived up to that description. The breadth and depth of Natalie’s experiences have made her one of the most sought-after voices in the industry, and she’s garnered attention as a spokesperson, brand manager and distributor liaison for a number of alcohol companies; as co-creator of the industry wellness series Mind, Body, Spirit(s); as a frequent guest on radio and TV shows; and as the author of three books of cocktail recipes, with a fourth one in the works!

In 2013, as the Liquid Muse website was growing in popularity, Natalie began to wonder what was next for her. Natalie’s mentor—New York’s Pegu Club founder Audrey Saunders—advised her to get behind the bar again.

So Natalie decided to come back to Santa Fe and tend bar at Secreto. “I was going to be here a little while,” she laughs, “but then I realized I really did want to live here.” She felt a complete reversal of her childhood desire to escape, and she continues, “Spending time here, I realized I absolutely love it, and now, you couldn’t drag me away.” Continue reading

Up Your Winter Wine Game: Splurge-worthy Bottles

wine-bottles-dec2016Ever wonder if you really need to spend a lot of money on an unusual bottle of wine? “How much is that bottle?” you ask your favorite wine retailer, and when you hear the answer, you swallow hard and you haven’t even tasted the wine yet. In addition, you may have never heard of the region or producer and that will make you hesitate as well. But then you remember your reaction when you took a sip, or watched someone else approach pure joy when they tasted a spectacular and expensive wine. That type of wine transmits a sense of place, geography, even soil, and a feeling of rarity that is special. To capture that experience in our area and buy that bottle, there are a number of local options, shops that offer that unusual bottle of wine, especially if you want to try something totally different.

The independent wine shop manager spends a large part of his or her day considering and tasting wines from every vineyard locale and price range possible. They find wines that are unusual, often expensive, but worth the money. They will carry a wine that is a “tough sell” for the ordinary wine buyer, but would put a smile on their face if someone gave them that bottle. If you ask these professionals for a wine to splurge on, this is what you would hear.

Barbara Bjorn at Susan’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Santa Fe has two unusual responses to the question, and the first, a white, is really off the grid. Her choice is the Castell d’Encus Ekam 2013. This steely wine comes from vineyards at a 3,000-foot elevation. It is mostly Riesling, a varietal you would never associate with Spain, with some Albariño. It seems incongruous until you remember that the location, the Catalan region of Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains, is not a “hot spot” in terms of weather. For a red wine, she offers, without hesitation, a Merlot in the $80 range, Hourglass Blueline Merlot 2013 from a vineyard south of Calistoga in Napa near the Silverado Trail. This response is unusual because Merlot is not a varietal that a customer will normally request, but in the right hands, made with grapes from the right soil, the varietal can produce a wine that excels. It will have a subtle softness, an elegance, and reflect that elusive character, minerality. The soil for the Blueline Vineyard is known as Cortina and is marked by decomposing volcanic ash deposited in an alluvial fan of soil from the Dutch Henry Canyon on the eastern side of Napa Valley. This vineyard transforms the often-boring Merlot grape and puts a stamp of extraordinary Napa distinction on the resulting wine. Continue reading

La Fonda, Then and Now

tony-abeyta_la-fondaThe fabled La Fonda on the Plaza has a storied past interwoven with Santa Fe’s colorful history as the country’s oldest capital and as a world-class tourist destination. Launched in the late 1800s by Fred Harvey, and a real jewel in America’s first and most famous hotel chain, La Fonda opened in 1922 on the oldest hotel corner in the U.S., occupied by one inn or another since Spanish colonists established the city circa 1610.

The fascinating story of the famed hotel, which lives and breathes its history to this day, is chronicled in a gorgeous new coffee table book, La Fonda: Then and Now. The book includes essays by Jenny Kimball, chair of the board of the investment group that owns the hotel, among those by others familiar with and connected to the hotel. Page after page of glorious photography documents life at La Fonda across nearly a century, from its décor to its illustrious guests—presidents and princesses, movie stars, spies from the Manhattan Project era and well-known artists whose work fills every nook and cranny of this grand old dame. Continue reading