Every time I start learning about an new facet of New Mexican culture, I’m delighted by some wild, intriguing story. Looking into the northern New Mexico wine scene has been no different. It turns out, New Mexico is actually the oldest wine region in the US– older than California by 140 years. The story goes: two Franciscan monks named Fray Garcîa de Zuñiga and Antonio de Arteaga actually smuggled vines into New Mexico under a Spanish ban on grape exports– all the way back in 1629. By the turn of the nineteenth century, the Spanish glazed the riverbanks of the Rio Grande with vineyards.
That whole viticultural renaissance ground to a halt in 1920 after a series of spectacular floods on the Rio virtually scoured those vineyards off the land. Prohibition dealt the final blow after this season of misfortune. Wine production didn’t really start up again until the 1970s, it was that devastating. But viticulture in New Mexico has been growing steadily for decades… I can’t help but think that the depth of history of wine on this land must add an extra richness to every cabernet, pinot, and riesling grown here. New Mexico is nothing if not consistent in its ability to give you something to savor.
Without further ado, here are some of the best bottle shops, wine bars, and wineries within reach of our high desert outpost.
Liquor stores and bottle shops
Before you drive up the canyon from Santa Fe, stop at Kokoman Liquors in Pojoaque. This place is a special institution with a long and colorful history. Pick out the dustiest bottle you can lay your hands on and walk away with a treasure! Up here on the mesa, choice bottles can be found at The Cellar, conveniently located behind Cid’s Food Market. Medley Restaurant also has an excellent selection.
Wine bars in Taos
Barra Vino is new on the scene, created by east coast transplants Bliss Causby and Ben Collins amidst a swirl of serendipitous circumstances– like so many of Taos’ favorite businesses. Set off the beaten track among the wonderful microcosm of historic LeDoux Street, their peaceful patio makes a perfect backdrop for an evening of delicious vintage and friendly faces. As the summer heats up, stop by for a sample of their refreshing ‘frozé’- frozen rozé, that is! The Corner Office is another exciting new addition to the Plaza’s wine scene, with an offering of organic natural wines to pair with their innovative small plates. Parcht is an excellent spot to find rare and intriguing bottles from around the world– and the charcuterie boards of your dreams!
Wineries in taos county
New Mexico’s northernmost wineries can be found nestled between the forbidding but sheltering walls of the Rio Grande gorge, just south of Taos on NM-68.
Vivác Winery in Dixon combines the art and science of winemaking to create exceptional wines- and has a tasting room with famously good vibes. Their dedication to vineyard management, meticulous winemaking techniques, and commitment to quality have led to the cultivation of three distinct estate vineyards. La Chiripada Winery, a family-run establishment since 1977, specializes in traditional Spanish winemaking methods and produces award-winning wines renowned as the best in New Mexico. Down in Velarde, Black Mesa Winery’s wines and hard ciders are meticulously crafted using locally sourced grapes and apples, resulting in a diverse range of 30 wines and five flavors of hard cider. These wineries showcase the rich winemaking culture of New Mexico, where bold approaches to our unique viticultural context result in exceptional flavors.