- Robert Dolci
Bob's Blog #9 Stuff NRGV&WS Members Should Know
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
As many of you know our last NRGV&WS gathering was hosted by the Abiquiu Inn with wine generously provided by Lescombes Family Vineyards (photos below). That was the second time that we had a New Mexico winery provide wine at an event hosted by the Inn. If you recall, we had a Gruet Winery tasting at the Inn in October of 2018. In February of 2018, at Mike and Tina’s, Wines of the San Juan provided wine for tasting. In August of 2015, at Joy and Tony Colucci’s, we had a wine tasting sponsored by Anasazi Vineyards. All four were fun events with very enjoyable wines.
As mentioned in a prior blog, wines of New Mexico have had a major impact on the wine industry of the United States. Thanks to Lescombes, I got to thinking about New Mexico wines and about our obligation as members of the states Vine and Wine Society. We’re a public charity and as such we have a mission. Our mission is to help cultivate the development of the wine industry in New Mexico. Yes, that was a pun. As members of the society there are a few Vine and Wine Society, and New Mexico wine facts that we all should be aware of:
Most of our vineyards are on dry sandy soils, at very high elevations, with significant day-to-night temperature swings.
The elevation of the vineyards range between 400–6,700 feet with the majority over 4,000 feet. Many are along the Rio Grande.
Pre Covid, nearly 1 million cases of wine was produced annually.
Currently there is approximately 1,200 acres of vineyards.
By my count, there are 54 wineries.
Our Vine and Wine Society was founded in 1974. Note the date.
The Vine and Wine Society was created by two physicists John Lilley and Baron Brumley.
The Vine and Wine Society is currently composed of a Board of Directors, and three chapters. The chapters are the Northern Rio Grange, the Mid Rio Grande, and the Southern Rio Grande.
The New Mexico wine industry was reborn in 1977, approximately three years after the formation of the Vine and Wine Society.
Two wineries claim to be the “oldest” in New Mexico, La Vina and La Chiripada. Both started in 1977. More on that later.
New Mexico has three primary wine growing regions. They are the Middle Rio Grande Valley, the Mimbres Valley, and the Mesillia Valley. By designation, though not geographically, the Mesilla Valley region includes wine grapes that are grown along the Northern Rio Grande Rift in the Velarde and Dixon areas. It also includes the area between Abiquiu and Chamita along the Rio Chama.
I’ve been told that in the mid 1970s our Vine and Wine Society, in partnership with New Mexico State University, was instrumental in establishing the modern New Mexico wine industry. Supposedly in 1978 they worked with state legislators to come up with funding to conduct a government-sponsored study which encouraged winegrowers to grow New Mexican heritage grapes, and to work in collaboration with Italian, French, and Spanish wineries to make hybrid grape varieties.
La Viña Winery in La Union is credited with starting the rebirth of the wine industry in New Mexico. It was established in 1977 and they claim to be the oldest continuously running winery in the state. La Chiripada in Dixon also claims to be oldest winery in New Mexico. It also was established in 1977. I believe that La Viña produced wine before La Chiripada did. I haven't been able to confirm that.
Two late comers to the N.M. wine industry that are still around are Lescombess Family Vineyards and Gruet. Okay, they were not that late, and they both had a major impact on the industry in the early years. They both established roots in New Mexico in 1984. Pun intended. Oh, wait, maybe you didn’t catch the pun. The wine industry really started to flourish in New Mexico in the early 80s. Did you catch the more sophisticated pun? Flourish- to blossom, grow. The wine industry in New Mexico started growing like weeds in the 1980s. Sorry, I can’t help myself with the puns. Thanks in part to the Vine and Wine Society, the word got out that New Mexico was once again a very viable grape growing region and good wines could be produced. Relative to California and other wine growing regions land was dirt cheap (sorry) in New Mexico. In the 80s the competition to buy up viable land began. Between 1982 and 1983, more than 2,000 acres of vineyards were planted in the Las Cruces area alone. A couple thousand more acres were planted in the northern part of the state. Because of dryer conditions and other reasons, New Mexico currently has around 1,200 acres of vineyards.
By the way, during the early years of the Vine and Wine Society membership in large part were mere made up of the grape growers and wine makers in the state. Yes, the folks that started the wineries.
As a disclaimer I should point out that it was hard to and in some cases I was unable to fully validate some of the points that I made in this blog. Some of what I stated was gleaned over the last 8 years by talking with members of our group and with members of the State Vine and Wine Society Board of Directors. A lot of what I stated can be found online with a little digging.