New Mexico Wines with Merit

New Mexico, Tasting Notes (3 Comments)

You may have been to New Mexico to enjoy their annual International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta held in Albuquerque every fall; or perhaps to trek over to the artist haven of Santa Fe, or hike the trails of Carlsbad Caverns National Park;  but have you ventured into their wine world?   Yes, really!  The world of wine is growing here and deserves to be recognized.  In the past, my experience with New Mexico wines was limited to the beautiful sparkling wines made there by Gruet Winery, which I found years ago to be impressive at first sip; and have remained high on my list for several years.  I have since had the opportunity to discover noteworthy still wines in this less touted U.S. wine region.

Milagro Vineyards and Winery tucked in the village of Corrales, just a 30 minute drive from the downtown Albuquerque, is one you should NOT miss.  Owned by Rick and Mitzi Hobson, Milagro Vineyards and Winery evolved from their desire to make the best wine from traditional vinifera grapes grown in New Mexico.   Vineyards at Milagro were originally planted in 1985.  This boutique winery produces varieties including Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Small quantities of these wines are handcrafted and aged in French oak, and Rick’s passion and talent as a winemaker glow brightly.

Milagro Vineyards

Photo:  Winemaker/Owner Rick Hobson and guests

The Hobson’s are also very animal friendly, and when you visit Milagro you will undoubtedly be greeted by their cute and friendly Boston Terriers.  They also take in and care for pot belly pigs (you will see tuxedo clad Wilbur pictured on their wine label).   Their newly opened wine tasting room is a special reflection of Rick and Mitzi, their wines and their four legged friends.  Their wine glass rack hanging in the tasting room was creatively made out of wine barrel staves by their neighbor John, who also helps out at the winery; and stunning images of their vineyards by local photographer Chuck Leopold grace the walls painted in soothing earth tones.  It’s a warm and friendly room overlooking picturesque vineyards and gardens; made even more special by Rick’s wonderfully crafted wines.  Speaking of the wines, here’s a snapshot of my favorites from Milagro:

2006 Chardonnay:  Toasty, buttery aromas leap from the glass.  A creamy texture full of delectable ripe pear and apple flavors layered with pretty oak notes and crisp acidity expand on the palate; a handsomely structured wine.  Rick treats this Chardonnay with no ML (malolactic fermentation), preserving the full character of the fruit; and his decision to age on the lees adds plenty of depth.  The long, lingering finish is lip-smackingly delicious.

2005 Old Church Road Vineyard Select Zinfandel:  Fresh berry aromas lure you in; and explode with dark berry and spiciness on the palate – wow.  Rick explains that he cuts back to one cluster per shoot for this vineyard select Zin and the focused fruit simply shines.  It is aged for 12 months in new oak barrels (Seguin-Moreau)  and then moved into neutral barrels prior to bottling.  The attractive oak integration, delightful vanilla accents and firm tannins frame the lush berry fruit and spice components; this one drinks well now and should also age divinely.

2005 Merlot: Beautifully hued,  this 21 month French oak aged Merlot opens with dark cherry, clove and pie spice aromas, and unfolds in the mouth with yummy layers of black cherry, ripe blackberry, vanilla and a delicate thread of earthiness.  Elegant with silky tannins and showcasing a purity of fruit, this Merlot, which is refined and exceedingly pleasing on the palate, crescendos with a long, persistent finish.

They also make a red table wine; Corrales Red.  This is a lovely blend that Rick bottles each year, and I look forward to tasting the next release.  To experience Milagro’s wines and new tasting room for yourself, give them a call at 505 898-3998 to set up a visit.  They are located at 985 West Ella in Corrales.

Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas is quite unique in its production of apricot, plum, cranberry, blueberry, wild cherry and other fruit based wines.  What’s really different here is their fruit wines are bone dry.  Often when one thinks of fruit wine, sweet comes to mind; but not at Anasazi.  Vintner Jim Fish also has been producing a more traditional wine from Syrah grapes; and additionally blends traditional grapes with other fruits for unique blends.  All Jim’s wines are oak aged.

Anasazi’s deeply flavored 1995 Apricot wine, made of fruit from ONE apricot tree, is a harmonious meshing of dried apricot, apple juice and a dollop of oak from entry through the long finish.  Pair this with Stilton cheese blended with apricot bits and a handful of roasted walnuts for a match made in heaven.

A multi-year tasting of Anasazi’s Syrah was an adventure!  He sometimes blends in other grapes, including Black Malvasia and Gamay into the Syrah, and each displays a personality of its own.  The 2005 is full of concentrated ripe fruit. Blackberry syrup flavors are focused on mid palate, framed with spice notes.  The 2004 was considerably more rustic, with raisiny characteristics and a definite earthiness.  The 2003 opens with fruity, peppery aromas and enters the mouth with juicy dark berry, spicy pepper and dusty notes.  Nicely balanced with a clean finish.  The 2002 has a bright fruit aroma with a dash of oak in the nose.  It boasts a viscous texture, expressive fruit and forest floor nuances, and that spicy pepper prevails on the palate with this vintage as well.  The 2001 vintage was a conundrum to my palate; both sweet and tart, and exceedingly ripe.  The 2000 vintage, which is 100% Syrah; was a jammy, full bodied powerhouse of a Syrah with a pleasant earthy quality.  The pretty bright fruit is holding exceptionally well for this 8 year old wine.  Anasazi Fields Winery is located at 26 Camino de Los Pueblitos Road in Placitas (a 40 minute drive from Albuquerque), and opens to visitors at 12 noon on weekends; or you may call to make an appointment at 505 867-3062.

My impressions here convince me once again that wines deserving merit can be and are being made throughout many U.S. regions; and what fun it is to discover them!

It’s TIME for Temecula Valley Wines

Tasting Notes, Temecula Valley

As a judge at the 2008 Temecula Valley Wine Society’s annual competition, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of remarkable wines being produced there. Temecula Valley wineries have come a long way since the nasty glassy-winged sharpshooter wreaked havoc through this California wine growing region in the late 90’s. I’m sure I am just one of many who are more than happy for the dedicated grape growers, winemakers and winery owners throughout this region who have not only persevered and bounced back, but are producing award winning wines worthy of praise … And for the satisfied consumers who are clearly enjoying the delectable fruits of their labor.

Here is a snapshot of my favorites from the competition:

South Coast Winery, Carter Estate Vineyards 2007 Gewurztraminer:  Tantalizing spicy aromatics lead to juicy mouthful of baked fresh apple laced with just enough residual sugar; delightfully balanced and uplifting on the palate and an ever-so-pleasing finish. GOLD MEDAL

Wilson Creek Winery 2007 Muscat:  Fragrant honeysuckle and floral notes waft from the glass, focused bright citrus flavors on the palate with beautiful acidity from start to finish.SILVER MEDAL (but clearly GOLD in my book.)

Callaway Vineyard & Winery Sweet Nancy NV Late Harvest  Chenin Blanc:  Floral aromas lead to a lush, rich and creamy texture full of caramel and honey notes wrapped delectably around sweet pears at the core. GOLD MEDAL

South Coast Winery NV Sparkling Syrah Ruby Cuvee:  Fragrant expression of syrah right from the start with berry notes in the nose, clean and pure fruit and a dash of sweetness on the palate, refreshingly delicious. GOLD MEDAL, Best of Class Sparkling

South Coast Winery 2007 Sans Chene Chardonnay:  This unoaked Chardonnay opens with gobs of tropical fruit in the nose. Crisp and elegant on the palate, with juicy tropical fruit flavors and a touch of lemon weaving throughout. Delicate, well balanced and lovely; awarded a SILVER MEDAL; but my vote was vociferously GOLD

South Coast 2007 Roussane:  The fresh, bright aromatics promise more, and this Roussane really delivers the goods. Fruit and spice woven together in a refined package with a pleasing touch of herbs and plenty of acidity to thrill your taste buds. GOLD MEDAL

South Coast Winery 2007 GVR White Proprietary Blend:   An artfully crafted blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussane and Viognier; hints of peach on the nose lead to a cornucopia of lemon, pear and stone fruit flavors melding together deliciously. GOLD MEDAL and Tied for Best of Class, White Wine

South Coast Winery 2007 Semillon:   Opens with inviting aromatics and a rich, unctuous entry.  Juicy citrus fruit at the core laced with alluring spice notes, and smooth as silk on the palate; this varietally distinct Semillon boasts a memorable finish.  GOLD MEDAL and Tied for Best of Class, White Wine

La Cereza Winery 2007 Pinot Grigio:  One whiff of this fresh lemon lime aromas and you are hooked on this bright, crisp and refreshing Pinot Grigio; a beautiful sipper for relaxing hot summer days.  GOLD MEDAL

Falkner Winery 2007 Riesling:    Citrus blossom aromas followed by a mouthful of juicy pears; this Riesling is beautifully balanced with generous fruit and pleasing acidity, and delicate flavors that linger through the lengthy finish.  GOLD MEDAL

South Coast Winery 2007 Grenache Rose:  The sparkling raspberry hue grabs your attention;  and inviting aromatics pull you in further into the glass.  Delightfully refreshing on the palate with delicate flavors of raspberry, pomegranate and a dash of citrus peel. GOLD MEDAL and Best of Class Rose

Stuart Cellars Vineyard & Winery 2005 Long Valley Red Meritage:   Pretty berry and cassis aromas continue to carry seamlessly on the palate, with a hint of earth and oak notes adding complexity.  An impressively structured Meritage with plenty of depth and character.  GOLD MEDAL and Tied for Best of Class, Red Wine

Thornton Winery 2005 Cabernet-Merlot Proprietary Red Blend:  A full bodied blend of Cabernet and Merlot; this well crafted wine opens with enticing fruity aromas followed by ripe wild berry and herbal flavors that dominate the palate.  Firmly structured with nicely integrated tannins.  GOLD MEDAL and Tied for Best of Class, Red Wine

South Coast Winery Wild Horse Peak Vineyards 2006 Petite Syrah:   Full throttle rendition of this ageworthy varietal.  Dense dark berry fruit aromas and vanilla notes greet the nose. Juicy blackberry flavors richly coat the palate, with expressive spice notes alongside.  Firm tannins suggest a long life; if you can wait!   GOLD MEDAL

Mount Palomar Winery NV Solera Cream Sherry:   Heavenly expressive aromatics and a velvety texture with flavors of creamy pralines and caramelized nuts dance across the palate.  A gloriously rich and satisfying finish leaves you wanting more!  GOLD MEDAL and Best of Competition SWEEPSTAKES winner

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR; saunter through the heart and soul of the Temecula Valley Wine Region and see for yourself; you’ll be glad you did.