A TRIO OF MONKS sitting in front of wooden wine barrels toast our arrival at Casa Rondeña Winery, in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. Located near the tasting room door, the painted tiles nod to the industrious friars who smuggled vines from Spain in the 1600s, making New Mexico the oldest winemaking region in the country.
After weather disasters and Prohibition decimated the industry here, winemaking lay dormant for 50 years. These days, New Mexico produces approximately 950,000 gallons annually from locally grown grapes—a testament to the hard work and resourcefulness of the state’s 55 wineries.
Once inside the tasting room, we order a flight of whites and reds, grab strawberries, olives, crackers, salami, and cheese from the coolers on the wall opposite the bar, and head outside under the covered patio. The benches and tables near the small, winding pond buzz with activity. A couple with a toddler lounge on the lawn near a stone fountain. Kids run through the grass near the vines.
“The word that we use in New Mexico is cariño, which means ‘speaking from the heart,’ ” says Chris Goblet, executive director of New Mexico Wine, a nonprofit that promotes the state’s wine industry. “Come into my home, try the wine that I’ve made, and experience it in this beautiful place where I live and make my wine.”
It’s easy to feel at home on the expansive Casa Rondeña property. In the 1990s, owner and winemaker John Calvin built and lived in what’s now the stately 1629 Club. We wander the grounds taking pictures among the vines.
We find a bench by the pond, order a bottle of Serenade, a blend of riesling and gewürztraminer, and decide to linger for a few hours. The wind rustles through the olive trees as dragonflies chase one another over the water. When the bartender walks around collecting glasses and making last call, there’s not much left in our bottle.
It’s been the kind of day Goblet and New Mexico Wine hope everyone experiences here. “We want people to come to New Mexico wineries and say, ‘That was so much fun. I can’t wait to go to the next one,’ ” he says. Hopefully, this month’s “¡Viva el Vino!” cover story
helps you find the way. ¡Salud!