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

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

Seghesio Family Vineyards – 2016 Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta Honoree

ted-at-crusherThere are times when sheer hedonism influences a wine selection—no need to impress friends or drink the wine currently in demand or in style. You just want a wine that tastes good with barbecue, roast turkey, green and red chile, or any other comfort food that calls for red wine. And indeed, there’s a wine that can do that—Zinfandel. Not the pink stuff, White Zinfandel, but the wine that’s been produced in California for over 150 years. And among producers, one of the best for this varietal is Seghesio.

The Seghesio Family Vineyards’ history begins with the arrival in Sonoma in 1886 of Edoardo Seghesio. Born in 1860, Edoardo left Piedmont (Piemonte) in Northern Italy in 1886 and emigrated to Sonoma. He purchased a house and 56 acres, and planted his “home vineyard” in Alexander Valley some years later, establishing the winery’s life-long love affair with Zinfandel. The varietal was cherished by the farmers transplanted from Italy because the wine can be prolific and retains its acidity in warmer climates. In 1902, Edoardo opened the family winery. Later, he bought an additional 120 acres in Northern Sonoma, an area Italian families likened area Tuscany. There, Edoardo planted the now-oldest vineyards of Sangiovese in North America, and his business continued to thrive. Prohibition began to have its effect in 1920—of the 2,000 wineries in operation in the United States, only 100 survived. Alas, Seghesio was one of them, but it re-opened to begin a successful bulk-wine business that continued until 1993. 

Even after Edoardo’s death in 1934, his widow, Angela, continued to run the winery successfully. Finally, in 1983, the family bottled its first wines under the Seghesio name. Within 10 years, production had grown to 130,000 cases, but the portfolio lacked focus. The family eliminated all but the wines that came from grapes grown on the estate and from specific growers, eventually reducing production to 30,000 cases. Edoardo and Angela’s great-grandson, Ted Seghesio, is a fourth-generation winemaker. He and several other family members are involved in the vineyard’s day-to-day operations. Despite the sale of Seghesio to the Crimson Wine Group, one cannot help but feel it’s still very much a family business. Continue reading

Vintage Albuquerque…It’s Time to Party!

BalloonMuseumLet’s just go ahead and say it, Vintage Albuquerque ages like wine. Now, in its 25th year, the beloved Duke City event brings together local chefs and vintners from around the US, abroad and of course, right here in New Mexico. The highly anticipated celebration of food and wine, held June 22-26, celebrates and benefits New Mexico arts education programs as it dishes out world-class cuisine and wine.

This year’s wine-week begins with an opening gala in celebration of the wines from Caymus Vineyards. The evening, held at Hotel Andaluz, features Chuck Wagner, who says, “Even at Caymus, our approach to producing our top wine has evolved considerably. From the days of me by my Father’s side punching down fermenters with the simple goal of making a good wine that would sell, to today using some of those same techniques with the goal to make a top wine of our Valley. By luck I grew up in the Rutherford farmland with grapes and prunes surrounding our farmhouse. Renowned guest chef Martín Rios of Restaurant Martín creates an exclusive five-course menu to be specially paired with five select wines from Caymus Vineyards. Martín Rios, native of Guadalajara and beloved Santa Fe chef, received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America and serves up award-winning, progressive American cuisine at his City Different restaurant. The evening is a not-to-be-missed intimate taste of the best of what both a premiere vineyard and a world-class chef have to offer. Continue reading