New Mexico Wine Country

(Story by Chris Goblet/Photographs by Paige Allsup and Chelsea Canon)

On a recent trip to the West Coast, I asked a sommelier at dinner if he could name New Mexico’s three American Viticultural Areas (commonly referred to as AVAs). His response was in the form of another question, “New Mexico has three AVAs?” Indeed, this little known wine fact would likely stump most Masters of Wine, but it makes for an excellent foundation for our wine tours and empowers you with a bit of wine trivia to impress your friends with.

AVA is the stateside equivalent of the European Appellation of Origin—both define a grape-growing region by geography, climate, soil conditions, history and other characteristics. Only those wines that are grown, produced and bottled inside the defined AVA boundaries are allowed to use this designation on their bottles—it’s sort of like bragging rights that a wine is guaranteed local in origin.

In last month’s issue, we began our tour of New Mexico’s wine regions by focusing on the Mesilla Valley AVA which was established in 1985 and covers 280,000 acres from El Paso to Las Cruces. This month, we focus on the Mimbres Valley AVA, the largest in size at 686,000 acres, centered around Deming and Silver City. The largest and oldest vineyards are located in this region, and grapes grown in the Mimbres Valley are used by wineries throughout the state.

Ask any resident of Lordsburg where you can find the local vineyard and you’ll likely get a quizzical look. It’s not visible from town or Interstate 10, but New Mexico’s largest vineyard, at more than 200 acres, is planted on the border of Hidalgo and Luna counties under the watchful eye of Hervé Lescombes and his two sons, Florent and Emmanuel. The vineyard is composed of two dozen varietals including those used in their limited-release Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Mourvedre, all are worth seeking out and enjoying this summer.

The best way to experience the Lordsburg vineyard, and likely meet its founder, Hervé Lescombe, is by signing up for their vineyard tour from the D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro in Las Cruces. A personalized tour ranges can last several hours and includes a visit to the vineyard in Lordsburg, the St. Clair Winery in Deming and a tasting with staff back in Las Cruces. If you’re lucky, Hervé will invite you inside his idiosyncratic hand-built home and make lunch for you and the other guests as he tells old stories of his winery in Burgundy or his home country of Algeria.

The next largest vineyard in New Mexico is owned and operated by Paolo D’Andrea and his family. Paolo arrived in New Mexico in the early ’80s to help plant the original Gruet Winery vineyard near Truth or Consequences. In the 1990s, Paolo oversaw the planting of more than 300 acres of noble grapes that include Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec. But the real treat at Luna Rossa Winery is the spectacular array of Italian vinifera grown in their vineyard. There are so many different grape varieties, some you may be familiar with and others you may not know how to pronounce, like Ribolla Gialla and Aglianico (Ree-BOHL-lah JAHL-lah and ah-L’YEE’AH-nee-koh, respectively).

One of my favorite bottles in New Mexico is called Nini, after Paolo’s grandmother, which features Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barbara, Sangiovese, Refosco, Montepulciano and Aglianico, and is aged 58 months in oak. For a mere $23, it’s one of the most affordable barrel-aged wines around. Another award-winning wine from Luna Rossa is their Negro Amaro, which is a grape almost exclusively grown in Apulia, the boot heel of Italy, but which also thrives in the warm Deming climate.

Paolo has started to turn over some of the winemaking responsibilities to his son Marco, who recently returned from wine academy in the Friuli area of Italy. Marco is in the process of producing a new sparkling wine made in the Prosecco style from Ribolla Gialla, a rare white grape from the Friuli region. Once released this summer, it will be the only Ribolla Gialla sparkling in America, another premier for the U.S. wine industry that New Mexico can brag about.

When planning your road trip through the Mimbres Valley AVA, the best place to overnight and grab a delicious meal will be the artsy-funky mountain town of Silver City. Historic hotels, like the Murray Hotel and Palace Hotel, offer excellent access to the main-street district, which is filled with restaurants, old theatres and galleries. When it’s time to sit down for a meal, I recommend the lively farm-to-fork restaurant Revel, or for more traditional eats, visit Diane’s Restaurant up the street. And I always make a point of visiting the Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery to wrap up the evening and catch up with owners Teresa Dahl-Bredine and David Crosley.

New Mexico is blessed with so many beautiful peaks and valleys, it’s hard to pick a favorite or visit them all, but I highly recommend making the trip to the bucolic Mimbres Valley and stopping by La Esperanza Vineyard and Winery to meet proprietors David and Esperanza Gurule. The vineyard is tucked into rolling golden hills on their 600-acre ranch, which has been in the family since 1906. The winery is open every weekend, or mid-week by appointment, and no matter when you visit, be sure to spend some time sitting on the porch admiring Esperanza’s gardens or listening to one of David’s stories. And bringing your own picnic from town is not out of the question.

If you’re looking for a reason to make your own southern New Mexico road trip come to reality this month, you’re in luck. The second annual Silver City Wine Festival takes place July 13-14 at Gough Park, one of Silver City’s many community parks. A dozen wineries from around the state, including all three mentioned in this article, will pour their wines as they enjoy live music from the gazebo. Festival tickets are $15 in advance, $25 at the gate, and can be purchased by visiting This annual event is low-key, never over-crowded, and there’s plenty of space to lay out a blanket in the grass and enjoy the refreshing mountain air with a glass of Gruet bubbles or one of the many reds and whites on hand.

And if you can’t make it out of town this month, but still want to try all the wines listed in this article, you can join us here in Santa Fe at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, July 6-7, for the Santa Fe Wine Festival.


Voilà! Hervé Wine Bar

(Story by James Selby / Photographs by Ramsay de Give)

You know that excitement when you discover a rather wonderful place heretofore unseen, unknown, bypassed on the corner, down a narrow side street, up a flight of stairs? One day, there it is; there you are. Serendipity is what it is.

Voilà! Hervé Wine Bar is one of those happy finds residing a block west of Santa Fe’s heart, The Plaza. Set back from San Francisco Street, through open gates of filigreed wrought iron, at the end of a long bricked walkway lined with wine barrels, it’s quite unlike anything else in Santa Fe.

Hervé Lescombes, a scion of a French multi-generational family of winemakers from Burgundy and Algiers, made his way to southern New Mexico and put down roots—and vines—in 1981. Three years later, the first vintage was bottled. Today, the St. Clair Winery in Deming has 180 acres of vineyards in the Mimbres Valley, one of only three officially designated American Viticultural Areas in New Mexico. At 4,500 feet, the high-elevation vineyards have a significant impact on the ripening process. It’s called diurnal variation. The heat of the day promotes sugar accumulation in grapes, while the cooler nighttime temperatures preserve desirable acidity, producing wines of balance and complexity. While the family produces multiple labels, their best grapes are used for D.H. Lescombes wines.

The Santa Fe project is unique for the family. Rather than using the St. Clair Winery name as do the other bistros and retail stores in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington, this had to be special. It was to honor their father, Hervé, 75, and celebrate a legacy. The Lescombes group remodeled the fallow space of what had been, over the last few years, incarnations of late night bar and music venues Milagro and Skylight, reopening with little fanfare as Hervé Wine Bar in May of 2018. Through the large carved doors, you’ll find a wood and stone tasting room as handsome as any along Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail. Stand and sample the long suit of still, sparkling and fortified wines at the copper-covered tasting bar and browse myriad retail offerings of New Mexican artisan specialty food items.

Move into the adjacent atrium “Garden Room.” Tall windowed walls define the restaurant from a warren of offices and galleries. Amid a profusion of plants, settle into leather sofas for a flight of wine, perch at a highboy for live music on a weekend, take a stool at the bar for local ales, or have a leisurely meal at a table, with a bottle of wine. A second story balcony lined with café tables overlooking the dining area is available for private events.  Look up through the lofty two-story glass and iron skylight into blue sky or moonlight and imagine yourself in the train station of a small European city, awaiting departure, a rendezvous or a stolen moment of anonymity.

While the Lescombes family isn’t defined by job titles, Hervé, who still spends time in the vineyard, has turned the day-to-day business over to his two sons. Emmanuel, 51, is the viticulturist whose watch is the cultivation of the vineyards and the harvest of grapes, while his younger brother, Florent, manages the winery operations. At a recent event in Santa Fe to launch their 2014 D.H. Lescombes Limited Release Petite Sirah and raise money for The Food Depot, Florent, 48, tall and lean, spoke with­­—what else?—a charming French accent. “My father wanted to be an artist in Paris, but with a young family, you know, he began to work in the wine business in Burgundy,” Florent said. “Still, he had the desire to create something unique. But, in Burgundy, you are restricted by rules and history so he explored. Deming and Lordsburg were along the way.”

In a banquet room off the balcony where guests sipped the Petite Sirah, inky and structured, and nibbled fine cheeses, Florent nodded toward the atrium. “It’s special when we produce something like this,” he said.  “We opened here because we aren’t known in Santa Fe. We want people to experience who we are. This isn’t just a wine bar. People don’t have to come here to drink. They may come for a coffee, meet friends before going next door to The Lensic, or just relax from shopping.”

Part of the experience—the serendipity—of Hervé Wine Bar is due to Marilyn Litton, general manager. Born and raised in Shreveport, LA, she’s a charismatic, natural host with her own version of a charming Southern accent. Marilyn brings courtesy, hospitality and humor, as well as considerable culinary and business savvy to the job. Florent describes it as, “Her touch.”

“After I graduated from high school,” Marilyn says, “I worked in a small café to get the feel and learned to make the perfect cheesecake.  Let me tell you, that ain’t easy! I got the wander bug and moved to California, until a friend offered me work in New York City. I packed my stuff and took off. That’s what you do when you’re young.” When her father became ill, she returned to Louisiana to look after him. As life allowed a few years later, she enrolled at Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. “It was a wonderful school, with excellent teachers who put the fear of God in you. I did my due diligence,” she says, “and after graduating, I was hired as an instructor.

“But I always traveled to Santa Fe whenever possible. To me, it was California meets the Wild West, laid back, great art scene and so beautiful. When a headhunter suggested a job at a hotel here, I jumped,” Marilyn says. Happy years were spent at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, followed by a successful stint with the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in Phoenix, Ariz.  Recently, having returned to Santa Fe, she spied an ad for a general manager at a new wine bar, met with the director of bistro operations for St. Clair, and was offered the job. “The family and staff were so thoughtful,” she says—and after a pause, adds, “Not something you find with corporations.”

As the remodeling began, sleeves were rolled, and myriad decisions were made collectively. “We all did tastings, thorough pairings with wine and food to get it right. When you’re new, you have no luxury to make mistakes,” she says. “We don’t serve New Mexican food, but we honor New Mexico in our own way.”  Marilyn explains, “I started researching the little guys; purveyors who needed a voice. There’s many chocolatiers, but finding one that also wholesaled was challenging. The Art of Chocolate here in Santa Fe speaks to what we do. I don’t want stuff everyone has.”  Marilyn sourced gelato from The Chocolate Cartel and bread from M’Tucci’s, both in Albuquerque. Her goat cheese comes from The Old Windmill Dairy in Estancia. “There are Southwestern influences, but our food is Mediterranean-influenced. It’s food to pair with wines,” she says.

You’ll find well-priced small plates of olives, hummus, Serrano ham, bacon wrapped dates, an array of bruschettas, soup, full-sized salads such as Niçoise and Cobb, and a selection of focaccia panini. Individually, these dishes serve as a light repast for one or to share, but in combination, any two make a filling meal. Marilyn’s culinary training comes out when she speaks of cooking with wine. “Wine doesn’t always impart flavor” she says, “but I use our Chenin Blanc in the shrimp and chorizo, and its essence jumps into that dish.” The simple pan sauce of wine, butter and parsley, along with large, sweet shrimp and piquant sausage is a pretty pair with the honeysuckle, orange zest and nutmeg notes of D.H. Lescombes Chenin Blanc. Flights are available in sets of three or four wines. Taste side by side a rosé of Syrah, redolent of fresh strawberries, a dry, citrusy Sémillon and a sassy Prosecco-styled sparkling. Pair the flight with a lime-scented Ahi tuna tartare and avocado, and vote for a winner.

Florent is correct to say their wines are not well known in certain circles. It’s a shame, and hopefully this will change now that we know what’s down the brick passageway off of San Francisco Street. You’re invited. Hervé and family await your respondez sil vous plaît.

Hervé Wine Bar is located at 139 W. San Francisco St. in Santa Fe, 505.795.7075,

David Ramey 2018 Wine & Chile Honoree

DavidRamey1(Story by Greg O’Byrne)

Where do you go next when your first winery job out the gate in 1979 is working at the iconic Château Pétrus winery in Pomerol, Bordeaux? Well, if you’re David Ramey, you go on to pioneer Chardonnay winemaking techniques in California at Simi, Matanzas Creek and Chalk Hill wineries in the 1980s, then take over as vice president of winemaking at the legendary Cabernet producer Dominus Estate in Napa Valley in 1996, and finally, in 1998 you start your own winery, Ramey Wine Cellars. And you focus on cool-climate, lushly textured Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and long-lived, detail-focused Napa Cabernets. Or at least, this is what you’d do if you were David Ramey.

Born in Seattle, Wash., in 1951, David, who now stands over 6-feet-tall, looks the part of the California laid-back farmer, casually dressed and sporting silver-white hair and a boyish smile. And he is just that, but David is also one of North America’s trailblazers—a man who, decades ago, innovated winemaking techniques in California that are common practice today. Over the past 40 years, David’s become what he humbly calls an American success story, referring to his Ramey Wine Cellars, which he founded alongside his wife Carla.

After 16 years of winemaking in Sonoma County for Matanzas Creek and Chalk Hill (and firmly establishing those wineries in the market), David spent the next six years in Napa as the winemaker at Dominus Estate and then at Girard Winery, where he helped Leslie Rudd establish Rudd Oakville Estate. One of California’s most respected winemakers, over the decades David’s helped pioneer and shape the way many wines are made today in North America, including malolactic fermentation of Chardonnay, whole-cluster pressing, the use of oxidized juice in white wine, native yeast fermentation, sur lie aging of white wine in barrel, elimination of acidification in red wine, and bottling without filtration.

While rightfully known and respected for their stunningly complex five single–vineyard Sonoma Chardonnays and two Sonoma appellation Chardonnays, Ramey Wine Cellars’ portfolio also includes three powerfully structured Napa Valley Cabernets, three Sonoma Syrahs and a new Russian River Pinot Noir.

On the morning of Sept. 27, more than 70 lucky Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta guests will meet David at his wine seminar to taste four of his single-vineyard Chardonnays from the 2015 vintage—Rochioli Vineyard, Westside Farms, Hyde Vineyard and Ritchie Vineyard—and then taste a rare set of library wines featuring four exceptional vintages of Ramey Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay: 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2013.

With his wife Carla, David will also pour their Ramey Wine Cellars wines at the SFWC Fiesta Reserve Tasting on Sept. 28. And guest chefs Dean Fearing, John Tesar, Mark Kiffin and Michael Ginor will each serve a course paired with a different Ramey wine at the Guest Chefs Luncheon and Auction, where David Ramey is honored as the SFWCF honoree of the year. The auction during the luncheon will be highlighted by an auction lot of nine magnums of Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon.

In anticipation of David Ramey’s visit to Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta this month, Local Flavor caught up with the winemaker at his Westside Farms Estate, where he has plans to build a new winery facility.GrapevinePlatt-10b

Local Flavor: You studied science at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the early ’70s, so how did you get into wine?

David Ramey: I hated science and was no good at calculus so I studied American literature instead and along the way learned to love wine. Then after graduating, I was driving through the Mexican desert and had an epiphany that winemaking had the same aesthetic appeal for me as literature, so I went back to [the University of California,] Davis for a Masters degree in Enology.

LF: What a great time to be at U.C. Davis.

DR: Yes, there were a lot of liberal retreads at U.C. Davis back then—Cathy Corison, John Kongsgaard to name a couple.

LF: Your first winery job after graduating U.C. Davis in 1979 was working at Christian Moueix’ iconic Petrus winery in Pomerol. What did you learn about making red wine from winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet, and how does this translate into your Ramey Napa Cabernets?

DR: Well, nobody really works at Ch. Petrus—you work for Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix, which is a rather large firm based in Libourne, in Pomerol.  I most definitely learned the classic Bordeaux way of making wine, which applies equally to all the Bordelaise varieties, whether Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot. It was my first exposure to native yeasts, and to not acidifying red ferments, which was all the rage in California, as was egg-white fining. We make wine the same way today, with minor modifications.

LF: Was there a similar learning experience making Cabernet for Christian Moueix at his Dominus Estate winery in Napa?

DR: A continuation of the same—and what a pleasure to be able to continue working with Jean-Claude, one of the great gentlemen of the wine world.

LF: What are some of your favorite Bordeaux producers?

DR: Moueix, of course; Lynch-Bages and Pichon Baron, which I believe are still owned by the Cazes family; [Chateau] Haut-Brion, though I can’t afford it any more.

LF: Favorite Napa Cabernet producers?

DR: Chappellet; Duckhorn [Vineyards]; Mondavi; Spottswoode [Winery]; Shafer [Vineyards]; Rudd [Oakville Estate]; Dominus—classic producers that don’t yet cost an arm and a leg.

LF: In the early ’80s when you started making Chardonnay at Simi Winery for Zelma Long, were today’s common practices of malolactic fermentation and ageing white wine on the lees in barrel techniques unfamiliar to most California winemakers?

DR: You bet!

LF: How does whole-cluster pressing and native yeast fermentation show up as flavors and characteristics in your Sonoma Chardonnays?

DR: Whole cluster pressing, which I developed in California, came from a goal of minimizing grape tannins in the juice, so the wine would be more delicate, less ponderous. Native yeast fermentation gives a slightly more complex aroma, slightly lower tannins, due to a longer fermentation—effectively yeast fining—and better integration of oak compounds, as does native bacteria for malolactic fermentation.

LF: The cool climate of the Sonoma Coast is obviously part of a great terroir for your Chardonnays. Do you have other favorite Sonoma Chardonnay producers?

DR: HdV [Hyde de Villaine] from the Hydes, who are arriving shortly for our annual tasting and lunch; Rochioli [Vineyards and Winery]; Gary Farrell [Vineyards and Winery]; Dutton-Goldfield; Morgan [Winery]; Au Bon Climat.

LF: Favorite Burgundy producers?

DR: My trainee from Chalk Hill in 1993, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey; [Domaine] Roulot; [Maison Joseph] Drouhin; I don’t buy as much Burgundy as I used to.

LF: Wow, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, he worked for you at Chalk Hill! His white Burgundies are so in demand today, and must-buys for many sommeliers. Like you in Sonoma, he is a qualitative leader in Burgundy.

DR: Great wines that express their place.

LF: What do you think of the current fashion of the matchstick aroma in Chardonnay developed from slightly reduced élevage in barrel?

DR: Great question! It’s an artifact of the cellar, just like Brett, VA, aldehyde or any other sulfide. The matchstick character is a disulfide which can be created by putting juice into a sulfured barrel or fermenting on heavier grape solids. I don’t mind a little bit, but it shouldn’t dominate—it’s not terroir, it’s a winemaking overlay. They’re just backing off from an infatuation with this in Australia. One doesn’t make Burgundy elsewhere by introducing reductive notes.

LF: I understand you are fond of Tuscan wines? I enjoy a lot of Chianti Classico and Brunello. You?

DR: As to Tuscan wines, I’ve pretty much migrated to Brunello—must be something about Sangiovese Grosso. I particularly have little patience for “super Tuscans.” During our visit there, the Cabernets and Merlots couldn’t match the native Sangiovese for complexity and texture.

LF: What does a typical night around the dinner table at home with your wife Carla look like in terms of what wines are being opened?

DR: Dinners and lunches at chez Ramey feature a large variety of wines—among whites, Assyrtiko, Fiano, Kerner, Vermentino, Verdicchio, Gewurztraminer from Alsace and Navarro—and Carla’s favorite, Chardonnay, unsurprisingly, often Ramey.  She doesn’t appreciate Brunello the way I do, so if I’m working on a bottle of that, we might open a bottle of Syrah, Cabernet or Pinot for her. Not that I don’t drink those, too!

LF: Are you excited about your children, Claire and Alan, working with you and the winery now?

DR: A dream come true! But there was never any pressure.

LF: What does the future of Ramey Wine Cellars look like?

DR: Well, we hope to get our winery built at Westside Farms in the not too distant future, but the permitting process is arduous.

LF: When was the last time you were in Santa Fe?

DR: June, 2016.

LF: Do you have favorite restaurants in Santa Fe?

DR: Definitely! 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar is my favorite go-to hangout; Arroyo Vino [Restaurant and Wine Shop], because Brian hosted us for a great wine dinner there; The Compound; Geronimo—Shaun [the sommelier] visited us here in June; and La Casa Sena. Plus, I’m sure we’ll discover more this trip!

LF: What are you looking forward to during Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta as this year’s honorary winery?

DR: Chiles and Chardonnay, of course! Perhaps not the best match, but we’ll figure out a work-around…

LF: I understand you are fond of hiking?

DR: That’s Carla’s and my exercise and mental floss regime.

LF: Any 14ers in your near future?

DR: Not at my age!

LF: What does your desert-island meal look like?

DR: First course, smoked salmon and avocado with toasted sesame oil and Chardonnay; second, small portion of bucatini Bolognese with Brunello; main, cassoulet with Gigondas; then, d’Affinois cheese with Alsatian Gewurztraminer.

Red Wines of the Italian Alps

Blanc de Morgex from Bon Appetit / Alamy Stock Images

Blanc de Morgex from Bon Appetit / Alamy Stock Images

(Story by Tom Hill / Photos by Susan Clough)

Some of the most spectacular, rugged mountains in the world are located across the northern tier of Italy, bordering France, Switzerland and Austria. When one thinks of such magnificent scenery, skiing and climbing usually come to mind first. If the afterthought is wine, whites are usually the first we think of. But in fact, some of Italy’s greatest reds come from the narrow valleys framed by these towering peaks. Join us as we tour the areas of the Valle d’Aosta, the Valtellina of Lombardy, and the Alto Adige (or Sudtirol)/Trentino. These provinces provide only a tiny fraction of the red wine production in all of Italy, so they can be difficult to find. Many of the terraced vineyards are perched on steep slopes where one misstep in the vineyard could land you a thousand feet below in the piazza of a village. The viticulture here can only be described as “heroic.”

Many of the reds from these areas come from grapes with names that may be unfamiliar even to wine lovers. These reds have a certain degree of commonality in that they display a somewhat earthy/loamy character not unlike a well-seasoned compost pile. They often lack the high-toned aromatics found in reds from more southerly areas of Italy, and they show a degree of rusticity in their flavor profile that matches well with hearty Alpine cuisine.

Valle d’Aosta
This region is, by a large margin, the tiniest wine producer in all of Italy, with mostly whites. The workhouse red here is the indigenous Petit Rouge. Mostly, it’s the major grape in blends that rely on other varieties to flesh out the palate. Like some other regions in Italy, there’s a movement afoot to revive many of the obscure indigenous varieties that have fallen out of favor. Mayolet, Cornalin, Vuillermin, Fumin and Vien de Nus are occasionally bottled alone, but generally go into blends dominated by Petit Rouge, as are the more common Gamay, Dolcetto, Freisa and Pinot Noir varieties.

The bulk of the Aosta wines come from a broad valley harboring the Dora Baltea River, bisecting the region’s mountains in a northwest to southeast swath. The vineyards creep up from the valley’s floor to the base of the very precipitous mountains. Toward the southeast, where the Valle opens into the Piedmont foothills, the blends are dominated by the Nebbiolo grape. Pure Nebbiolos are rare because the rugged growing conditions produce very lightly colored wines. Freisa, Neyret and Pinot Noir are frequent blending partners.

The cuisine here is definitely un-Italian, pasta being uncommon; instead, it resembles mountain cuisine from Switzerland or Germany—dairy products abound. The Fontina cheese is the most famous product. These rugged, somewhat rustic reds pair well with this hearty food…not for calorie-counters.

The Valtellina of Lombardy

Image by Susan Clough

Image by Susan Clough

Lombardy is a vast province that grows a multitude of wines, mostly white—and the best Lombard wines are from the Valtellina. This is an east-west running valley, extending westward from the northern reaches of Lake Como on the east toward the stunning, glacial Stelvio National Park, and dominated by towering peaks on the Swiss border. Here the wines are almost exclusively red, made from the famed Nebbiolo grape, known locally as Chiavennasca. In the Valtellina, the Nebbiolo shows a more hearty, rustic character than you find from the high-toned, perfumey wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, yet without the fearsome tannins those often show.

The vineyards here are primarily south-facing, overlooking the winding Adda river. They’re perched on preposterously steep terraces that were created hundreds of years ago and in constant need of repair. Oftentimes, helicopters are employed to facilitate the grape harvest.

The basic, most common wine is Valtellina Rosso, which must be 80-percent Nebbiolo and has no minimum aging requirement. The next step up is the Valtellina Superiore, aged a minimum of 24 months, or 36 months for the Riserva. These must come from the crus of Grumello, Inferno, Sassella, Valgella and the rare Maroggia—all superior sites. Above this level is a wine known as Sforzato (or Sfursat) di Valtellina. This is a passito wine made from the best lots of grapes that are laid out on trays to dry in the attics of the winery for three to four months, in a process similar to the making of Amarone della Valpolicella. This concentrates the sugars and flavors to produce a dry wine that often exceeds 15-percent alcohol, a late-harvest Nebbiolo if you will. These are often on the expensive side.

Again, the Valtellina cuisine tends to be hearty. Pizzoccheri di Teglio pasta, made from buckwheat flour, is the region’s most famous dish. Bitto cheese is made from mostly cow’s milk after the herds have been moved to the high mountain pastures in summer. It’s often aged for more than 10 years and rivals Parmigiano in character.

Cured meats are common in the Valtellina. Bresaola, made like prosciutto, but from beef, is easily the most famous. Slinzega, made from horsemeat (or venison), is also highly regarded and uniquely flavorful. The Valtellina is also the source of Italy’s famed Carrera marble, the quarries of which are spectacular.

Alto Adige/Sudtirol
The Alto Adige (Sudtirol in German) is nestled against the Swiss/Austrian border, in the heart of the Dolomites range of the Italian Alps. Once part of Austria, it has a very strong Germanic culture, and the wines, mostly white, reflect that influence. Winegrowing takes place in a large Y-shaped valley with the town of Bolzano centered where the Adige and Isarco rivers merge.

Traveling north into the narrow Valle Isarco, you find more of the vineyards perched on steep hillside plots high above the Isarco River. Because of the difficulty of ripening red varieties at altitude, they’re often trained on the Trentino pergola system. This brings the grape canopy onto a horizontal plane between the rows of grapes, maximizing the leaf exposure to sunlight and increasing photosynthesis to hasten ripening.

Here, the two primary indigenous red grapes are the Vernatsch or Schiava (Trollinger in Germany) and Lagrein, with smaller plantings of Pinot Nero and Cabernet varieties. The Schiava wines tend to have a lighter Pinot-ish character, while the Lagrein shows more plummy, dark cherry traits, both overlain with that classic Alpine loamy, rustic character. And although rare, they also make a lovely dessert wine from the Rosa Muskateller grape that has slightly muscatty,
rose-petal aroma.

Because of the Austrian influence, the cuisine tends toward hearty German foods, tempered by a lighter Italian touch. Again, cured meats abound. Speck, made from lightly smoked pork and cured for several months, is the most famous.

Image by Susan Clough

Image by Susan Clough

The province of Trentino is often lumped together with the Sudtirol, but the terrain is not nearly as rugged. As the Adige River rushes into Trentino, there are fewer vineyards located on steep mountain hillside and more on the rocky plains of rivers flowing down from the surrounding mountains.

On the north edge of Trentino, near the town of Mezzolombardo, is the broad Campo (plain) Rotaliano. Here, the red grape variety is Teroldego, related to Syrah. It makes a wine full of blackberries, some like a blend of Syrah and Zinfandel, but not nearly as earthy and rustic as the reds to the north.

One producer towers above all others: Elisabetta Foradori, widely regarded as the master of Teroldego. Elisabetta farms her vineyards bio-dynamically and ferments/ages her wines in large clay amphorae known as tinajas.

A bit further south, before the terrain flattens out onto to the Verona plains of the Veneto, the most interesting red is from the Marzemino grape. This is Mozart’s favorite wine, as noted in his opera Don Giovanni. These lighter reds have an ethereal cherry, strawberry fragrance that is very beguiling.

As would be expected, the cuisine here is one of traditional German fare transitioning into more classic Mediterranean flavors.

Many of these wines are so scarce that they can be difficult to find, but are definitely worth seeking out. Arroyo Vino Restaurant & Wine Shop, Kokoman Fine Wines, and Susan’s Fine Wines and Spirits are the best local sources. Some recommended producers available here in New Mexico are:

Sudtirol: Kaltern, St.Michael-Eppan, Cantina di Caldaro, Kettmeir
Valtellina: Nino Negri, a fairly large industrial-level producer
Trentino: Lechthaler Teroldego
Val d’Aosta: none. Enoteca Vino Nostro ( in San Francisco is a particularly good source.

Laura Crucet, of Pig+Fig cafe in White Rock, will be hosting a tasting of some of these wines June 14. Call the restaurant for information and reservations.

The Mighty Buzz

(Story by Mia Rose Poris)


Spring is a comin’ and so is the heat. The 30th annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, March 2 – 4, brings the spice to the Duke City. The event, held at Sandia Resort and Casino, boasts more than 1,000 products—from hot to BBQ, from award-winners to first launches, from near and far—to taste or take home. Highlights this year include “Dr. BBQ” Ray Lampe and renowned BBQ cooking show host and Chef Rick Browne, plus the 505 Food Fights, contests that pit New Mexico chefs against each other to benefit New Mexico Kids Matter, a volunteer advocacy group that works in the court system to provide a caring and consistent adult to focus on the well-being of a single child in foster care. And Fiery Foods Show Founder Dave DeWitt will debut his new book, First Skin 500 Squirrels: The Eyewitness History of Barbecue. Visit to check out the Food Fights chef line-up.

If your tongue’s a-tingling from various spicy sauces, hit up High and Dry Brewing to put out that fire. High and Dry, which touts great beer, small batches, conversation and food trucks (could one ask for anything more?), opened its doors at 529 Adams St. NE last month in the Highland neighborhood. A Feb. 12 Facebook review raves, “Great family atmosphere, great beer and really is a place for everyone! It was so nice to see families and furry friends at the brewery today!” Check them out on Facebook or at

Speaking of high and dry…the University of New Mexico is looking to be a lot less dry in the near future, due to last month’s approval of a $650,000 taproom project, according to a Feb. 14 UNM press release. This month, representatives will present the proposal to the Higher Education Department, before construction commences in the summer. In the release, Chris Vallejos, associate vice president of Institutional Support Services at the university, said the addition of the taproom is part of recent initiatives to make the campus a “destination university.” Watch for an August opening in the Student Union Building.

There’s yet more news in the realm of brews in the Que, too: Award-winning La Cumbre Brewing Company is opening a Westside taproom on the corner of Coors Boulevard and Montaño Road, next to the Sprouts Farmers Market. As of press time, opening dates were yet to be announced, but if you’re dying for a taste of some of that Elevated IPA (and beyond) straight from the source, head to 3313 Girard NE; they open at noon—

And word has it the old Albuquerque Brewing Co. spot at 8620 Pan American Freeway NE, is soon to be home to Ninja Fitness Academy. From cold beer to hot bods, right? In the genre of the TV competition American Ninja Warrior, Ninja will incorporate “training styles like obstacles, rock climbing, and weight lifting,” according to the gym’s website, along with “all the tools to have fun, and stay healthy.” Burn off that beer, baby, just in time for summer—look out for an April opening.

And from beer to beans, in the land of caffeine, Rio Grande Boulevard is soon to be home to Cutbow Coffee Roastology, the culmination of the 25-plus years experience of a nationally renowned artisan coffee roaster and New Mexico native, Paul Gallegos. “Coffee lives and breathes, especially while being roasted,” the Cutbow website reads, and so do the trout from which came Cutbow’s name. A portion of proceeds from every bag of coffee sold is donated to the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance, which works to assure quality water in some of Paul’s father’s favorite fishing holes. Cutbow Coffee Roastology is located at 1208 Rio Grande Blvd. NW. When open, the roastery/tasting room/coffee bar will hold public cuppings every Friday at high noon.

Another new addition to the culinary the scene—Isleta Resort & Casino’s Embers Steakhouse has a new chef! A warm welcome to Executive Chef John-Pierre Vincent, who “brings to the Embers kitchen an unparalleled zest for cooking, fostered by a childhood spent helping his French grandmother prepare nightly meals,” according to a press release. The Venezuela native—he speaks five languages!—worked in fine-dining establishments as well as world-renowned, even Michelin-rated locations across Europe and the U.S. We’re thrilled he’s made New Mexico home, and look forward to visiting with Chef John-Pierre at Embers for their fine cuisine and awesome views of the Bosque. For reservations, call 505.244.8288.

WEBGMCherie-04Congratulations to Cherie Montoya and her local staple, Farm  & Table restaurant! Last month, the beloved, local field-to-plate eatery was featured on The Travel Channel show Food Paradise in an episode in homage to sumptuous steaks, vegetables and farm-to-table restaurants. We’re proud of Cherie and the folks at Farm & Table for keeping it local while reaching the globe. Visit and

Should your evening of March 3 be open, and if you’ve been hankering to hunker down in some Old Hollywood Glamour (that’s the theme), The New Mexico Philharmonic’s Red Carpet might just hit the spot. The sixth annual gala benefits the NMPhil and the Young Musician Initiative, and Delphia and her Deltones provide the tunes. You’ll dance, you’ll bid at the silent auction and you’ll feast and sip wine…and all for a great cause. Tickets go for $150; visit at

 We’ll end our visit to the Que with a dabble in dessert and coffee. March 17 and 18 bring to town the Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest, a festival dedicated to, well, chocolate, and coffee and gourmet foods galore, of course! The event brings to Expo NM the finest chocolatiers, coffee roasters, candy makers, bakers, breweries, wineries and beyond, plus live entertainment, professional cooking demos and a zone for the kiddos with free activities. Delightfully delicious. Visit for more info.


WEBJG_01This just in, folks—breaking news on the Santa Fe culinary scene: According to multiple sources in the know, Chef Colin Shane left his position at Arroyo Vino toward the end of February for a position at a swank and trendy Nappy Valley/Sonoma-area restaurant, though lips are closed as to which one. And the departure falls amidst the James Beard Award finals, to boot—see below; Colin was named a semifinalist in the “rising star” category. Arroyo Vino Restaurant Manager Brian Bargsten, who was in the middle of negotiations as of press time, did not confirm who the new chef might be…We’ll be excited to see who steps into Colin’s legacy. And the very best of luck in your California endeavors, Chef!

Of only two cities across the globe, Santa Fe was recognized in the Best Food/Beverage Destination Experience category in the annual FoodTrekking Awards, which were introduced by The World Food Travel Association in 2015 to recognize the excellence of food experiences afforded to customers and visitors by industry stakeholders. The capital city’s nomination was inspired by the success of the Santa Fe Margarita Trail, which highlights 31 tequila cocktails offered by various restaurants and bars around town. You can pick up a Margarita Trail passport at a TOURISM Santa Fe visitor center or at a participating restaurant. Visit for the complete list of the FoodTrekking awards.

And many a-bravo to our James Beard Award semifinalists for doing it yet again! Chef Colin Shane was named in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category for his role at as executive chef at Arroyo Vino (a position he’s since left; see above), and Chef Martín Rios of Restaurant Martín was named in the Best Chef Southwest category. Both talented chefs were named in these categories last year, too. On March 14, we’ll learn who the finalists are…so visit then; and the winners will be chosen in May. Fingers crossed, and congratulations to both chefs!WEBJGMartin-Rios-EDIT

Last month marked the 24th annual Souper Bowl, presented by the Food Depot, a local food bank that works to create “healthy, hunger-free communities in Northern New Mexico.” This year, folks sampled delicious soups from beloved local chefs who competed for Best Soup in four categories—Cream, Savory, Seafood and Vegetarian, not to mention the coveted Best Soup category. Every year, local businesses sponsor the event and restaurants donate their time and talents…and hundreds of gallons of soup. Drum roll, please, for the winners…Best Overall Soup and Best Savory Soup: Nath’s Inspired Khmer Cuisine, Chef Kim Nath Nau, Chicken Tom Yum Soup; Best Seafood Soup: Chef Andy Barnes, Dinner For Two, Lobster Bisque; Best Vegetarian: Chef Antonio Quintana, Kingston Residence of Santa Fe, Cold Pistachio Soup; Best Cream Soup: Chef Ahmed Obo, Jambo Café, Curry Roasted Garlic & Coconut Cream Bisque. Last year’s Souper Bowl served some 160,000 meals that might otherwise been missed. So if you missed this year’s Bowl, mark your calendars for 2019.

And every Monday this month, you’ll find Chef Kim Nath Nau of Nath’s Inspired Khmer Cuisine at Milad Persian Bistro. If you didn’t get a chance to try her winning soup at the Souper Bowl, you won’t want to miss checking out her pop-up dinner creations (and if you did try the soup, you know what we mean). Chef was born in Cambodia, and while she grew up surrounded by Khmer—or ethnic Cambodian, cooking—her Thai great grandmother was a restaurateur, and her Vietnamese grandmother cooked for festivals in Buddhist temples. Her inspired Thai-Khmer fusion dinners are held March Mondays from 5:30 till 9:30 p.m. Visit the Wednesday prior to the dinner to see that week’s menu and make reservations. See you there!

A couple months ago, we buzzed that Beestro, formerly on Marcy Street, had closed its doors…and to stay tuned for its reopening. Well, they’re back! “We’ll bee opening in the Plaza Galeria at 66 E. San Francisco St., in the former Subway,” reads a Jan. 26 mailing list email from Greg Menke, Devon Gilchrist and the whole Beestro team. “We’re shooting to open mid March of 2018.” Stop by mid-March and the doors of the beloved sandwich shop just might bee open. “On your next walk to the plaza stop by our new building, Plaza Galeria. Many years ago, the building was a JC Penney. And long before that (1760-1859) it was the site of Chapel of the Lady of Light. A plaque, left of Native Jackets display windows, commemorates the Chapel,” the Beestro folks say. Such cool stuff. We’ll bee there.

Let’s take a little stroll to the Baca Street-area Railyard District, with its contemporary architecture and old-school neighborhood feel, where there’s a fresh addition in the hood. Not far from Counter Culture and Undisputed Fitness, Opuntia, located at 922 Shoofly St., is an awesome spot to relax, sip tea, nibble avocado toast(!) or get some work done. More next month!—as one Jan. 11 Yelp review puts it, “the atmosphere is super zen.” Serving a variety of teas and treats (from savory sandwiches and salads to breakfast fare), Opuntia, which means prickly pear, also offers what they call botanical curiosities. A Dec. 3 Facebook review puts it like this: “Ok, my new favorite spot! This space is absolutely gorgeous, calm, botanical curiosities captivating….” If you haven’t paid them a visit, stop on by for a relaxing reprieve. Visit or check out their Facebook page.

Over by the tracks, two East Coasters have settled happily in at the Railyard Artisan Market every Sunday, with their gorgeous, delicious pastries—gluten free!—and savories, to boot. “We also have a wide range of vegan options to make our food accessible to all groups,” Matthew and John of Drift & Porter tell us in an email. “Drift,” they explain, signifies “the ‘drifter in all of us,’ the ‘one with no roots.’” And “Porter” symbolizes the “’server,’ not only to ourselves and the community, but to the grand universe…” Stop by and say hi to these two sweeties and pick up a treat on Sunday. Your taste buds will thank you.

WEBGMarks-L-Olivier-06Oh la la, L’Olivier! The World’s Greatest French Dinner is coming to town… Seriously. Dubbed the greatest such dinner, Goût de France is “a fun celebration of the vitality of French cuisine, forging ties between chefs around the world,” according to a press release. In restaurants across the globe—150 countries—on March 21, France is on the menu, and L’Olivier was the sole New Mexico restaurant chosen to participate. The menu features an aperitif with a starter, two main courses, a cheese platter or a dessert, accompanied by French wines and champagnes. Inspired by Auguste Escoffier, who launched the Dîners d’Épicure initiative in 1912, Goût de France involves international chefs and embassies to serve French-style dinners on the same day in various cities all over the world. Call L’Olivier at 505.989.1919 to make reservations or for more information.


Did you know? Earlier this year, TripAdvisor named Taos (along with the City Different) among 2018’s top destinations. The reasons? Well, top among them are its events—Music on the Mesa festival, to name a fun one—and Taos Pueblo, Georgia O’Keeffe and the glorious Rio Grande Gorge Bridge…not to mention a growing and inspired culinary scene. Hey, Taoseños, what makes Taos the delicious, special place it is for you? Where’s your favorite spot for a drink, a bite, a stroll, a view? Buzz us on Facebook.

The Twelve Wines of Christmas

Emeritus-Hallberg-Ranch-Pinot-Noir__15894.1422574729The 12 days of Christmas are rarely celebrated as such, but 12 is indeed, it just so happens, the usual number of bottles in a case of wine. With enough people on our holiday lists, and plenty of parties and family get-togethers to attend, why not put together that unusual case of wine…to have on hand, just in case? And the timing is perfect, as new labels, releases and categories of wines continue to make their way into New Mexico shops and cellars. This holiday dozen selection includes wines you’re not likely to find on the grocery store shelf, but you should be able to get them from your favorite local, independent retailer, and if they don’t carry it, they can get it by special order. So here we go. Whether you’re thinking Christmas or Hanukkah; New Years or mere Monday; “what’s new?” or what’s classic; house-gift or holiday; we’ve got just the Twelve Wines of Christmas for you.

Pinot Noir is gaining steadily in popularity as a special event and dinner wine. It can show joyous fruit or sophisticated restraint. The grape must grow in a cool climate to maintain its acidity and bright, cherry-like fruit and Green Valley is the coolest sub-region of the famed Russian River. Brand new to New Mexico is Emeritus Vineyards Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir 2014. It’s estate bottled; the grapes are grown in a dry farmed vineyard on the famous Gold Ridge soil in Green Valley. Because the grapes are dry farmed, the berries mature earlier and the resulting alcohol content of the wine is lower. This wine has a crisp California appeal without being “over the top” and is a good choice for that friend looking for “what’s new?” Continue reading