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

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

My friend, Jim Allen

Jim Allen photoSanta Fe lost one of its larger-than-life wine figures on March 5, with the passing of Jim Allen, founder of Sequoia Grove Winery. Jim came to Santa Fe in the early ’70s as a sociology professor at the College of Santa Fe. He built his home atop a hill on Camino San Acacio and planted a small vineyard on the slope below it, mostly to hybrids like Baco Noir. He started making wines from those grapes in the early ’70s. The wines were…not very good.

About that time, Jim helped found the New Mexico Vine & Wine Society, along with John Balagna, John Lilley, Bruce Noel (Los Luceros Winery), Len Rosignana (Santa Fe Vineyards), Richard Jones and me. It was a group of mostly home winemakers who met once a month for potluck lunches, endless bottles of homemade wine and spirited camaraderie. These pioneers pushed the New Mexico wine industry to where it is now.

  About that time, Jim heard of my Los Alamos wine tasting group and started attending weekly. As he was exposed to wines from around the World, he became totally smitten by the subject. He realized New Mexico was not the ideal venue to pursue his winemaking dreams—his ambitions were far greater. Continue reading

Santa Fe and Chile Fiesta’s Gran Fondo

12063762_1192261697456536_4582515969682001099_nWrapping up this month’s week-long extravaganza of good cheer, otherwise known as The Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, will be the third Annual Gran Fondo Bike Ride. If you’re into road biking and would like to hang with a great crew of celebrity chefs, vintners and pro riders, you might want to take it easy Saturday night, as the event starts at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado at 6:30 a.m., Sunday the 25th, with your pick of 45-, 75- or (for the extra-motivated) 100-mile loops.

I recently caught up with two celeb riders to get the scoop. Tim Duncan is executive VP of sales and marketing at Silver Oak Cellars in Napa Valley. The winery, a long-time participant in Wine & Chile, was founded in 1972 by Tim’s dad and has made a name for itself producing, as reported in the WSJ, an “upfront” Cabernet Sauvignon. Tim’s been into cycling since he was a kid, and has done three centuries this year. “The most recent one was called ‘The Death Ride’ in the Sierra Mountains south of Lake Tahoe. It’s a tough one,” he says. “A hundred twenty-eight miles, and 15,000 feet of climbing, all in one day. So my buddies and I seem to think that’s fun.”

While chef and owner of The Compound, Mark Kiffin, was taking a breather between lunch and dinner in the kitchen office, we met for a talk. “I started cycling in Pebble Beach,” Mark says. “When I opened up the Inn at Spanish Bay, which was in ’87 to ’89. It was a sport I enjoyed and was pretty good at—for me.” Mark continues, revealing his great sense of humor, “It got me out of playing golf. I’m like, ‘Oh good! I can do this and I don’t have to do that any more.’ Learning to golf in Pebble Beach is like learning to ski on the top of Aspen Mountain. No pressure at all!”

Riding, it turned out, provided Mark with a much-needed release from work. “What I like about riding a bike is there’s one seat,” he explains. “When you’re in the hospitality business—and I love this business, I’ve been in it my entire life, but I go out to dinner six nights a week basically; I just want to go by myself. You have to learn, ‘Be here now.’ Stay focused. Ride your ride.” Continue reading

The BUZZ MAY 2015

Albuquerque

Everyone’s got a bucket list, right? Are one of the 100 Things to Do in Albuquerque Before You Die on yours? Local writer Ashley Biggers’ latest book comes out May 15, and she’s got a series of book signings in the Duke City this month. Albuquerque may be known for Route 66, Breaking Bad and its famous green chile, but there’s much more to know—and love—about our lively Southwestern city. Whether you’re a native looking to mark another local experience or an out-of-towner in search of a few vacation ideas, let 100 Things to Do in Albuquerque Before You Die be your guide. The book celebrates the top ways to (re)discover the city—from a trip 4,000 feet up an aerial tramway to a public art walk and a delicious meal afterwards. This guide includes places to hike, bike and paddle, and where to dine on dishes prepared by the city’s top chefs. Visit ashleymbiggers.com/events for details and to purchase the book.

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Renaissance at Black Mesa Winery

Photo compliments of Black Mesa Winery

Photo compliments of Black Mesa Winery

We make a strong effort to follow the new wineries that sprout up in New Mexico from time to time. In 1984, retired Denver dentist Gary Anderson and his wife, Connie, founded Black Mesa Winery in Velarde. I tried their first few wines, was rather underwhelmed, and pretty much wrote them off. In 2000, Jerry and Lynda Burd bought Black Mesa from the Andersons as a career to follow retirement. Over the last decade, I’ve occasionally tried their wines and thought them better than I recalled, especially the Viognier. But still, I sort of ignored Black Mesa. As a high-level wine connoisseur (sniff, sniff), I have trouble taking a winery seriously that makes a chocolate-infused wine. Or so I thought … Continue reading