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

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

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

Go Native!

“Want something new and different? Bored with the same old? Go Native. Europe has a huge representation of indigenous grapes––read “native”––and more and more wines made from these grapes are finding their way to New Mexico.”

So you know a Cabernet is going to be perfect with ribeye or roast beef, but the beef for tonight’s meal is a marinated flank steak. Or the salmon you have planned is poached and served cool with capers, so the Willamette Pinot Noir you would normally have with grilled salmon is going to overwhelm your delicate preparation. Want something new and different? Bored with the same old? Go Native. Europe has a huge representation of indigenous grapes––read “native”––and more and more wines made from these grapes are finding their way to New Mexico. They may be single varietals or multi-grape blends. The wine press will often refer to varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as “international varieties.” They are used to make wines all over Europe and the New World, sometimes in areas that make you scratch your head for the incongruity. But Europe, especially Spain, Portugal, France and Italy all have local specialties in cuisine and wine. The wine lover is always looking for the new and different, the crazy and esoteric. New Mexico restaurants are starting to embrace these wines and specialty wine shops are stocking them on their shelves. Here are some especially unusual examples of wines in that category to be found locally, some of them arriving this spring. Continue reading

Eloisa Hosts Ontañón

Wine Dinner at Eloisa

When a restaurant announces a wine dinner, there’s an air of expectancy that food, wine and presentation will exceed business as usual, that exemplary skills and talents of a troupe of chefs, sommeliers, wineries, their representatives and dining room staffs will harmoniously assemble for one dazzling evening. Otherwise, why bother? Local Flavor chronicled the who-what-when-where-why-how of organizing one such wine dinner at Eloisa.

It began on a commonly beautiful late September day during the 2015 Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta. Cole Donald Sisson was in town as the US brand ambassador for Bodega Ontañón in Rioja, Spain. The winery is run by the 5th generation—four siblings—who come from a long line of farmers and only began exporting to the US four years ago. Even more recently, their product is to be distributed by Southern Wine and Spirits (“SWS”) in New Mexico. Before working for the winery, Cole ran the wine program for Michael Mina at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. That’s young sommelier heaven. At 34, Cole’s now part of a small import team based in Seattle, Wash.

Damon Lobato had just started as general manager and wine director for Eloisa, a stylish restaurant and bar opened by Chef John Sedlar earlier that year in a ground floor space of the Drury Plaza Hotel in downtown Santa Fe. The hotel had only begun receiving guests the previous summer after massive renovations to the historic St. Vincent Hospital. Damon, who keeps his black hair parted and wears a suit with old-world panache befitting one who once rode the rails of the Orient Express as a wine captain, was looking for a winery to do the first wine dinner in the new restaurant, when he met Cole at Wine and Chile. It was an ideal convergence of fresh starts. Continue reading