"I LIKE TO TELL PEOPLE I LEARNED TO MAKE WINE starting at the bottom of the bottle,” says Jasper Riddle, a longtime Ruidoso resident and owner of the Noisy Water Winery, which has expanded to six locations throughout New Mexico. The most recent, Noisy Water’s new tasting room in Ruidoso, opened in February in the lively midtown district packed with shops, restaurants, pubs, and galleries.
Inside the tasting room, customers line the semi-circular standing bar, mingling and ordering glasses of wine in the wide, light-filled room. It’s a pleasant atmosphere, with a selection of New Mexico–made products, like apple balsamic vinegar and spice blends, and seating off to the side for sampling the wine and food pairings, like a charcuterie or salsa board with Noisy Water’s moscato (sweet white) or the Demigod cabernet (dry red).
The upstairs area for wine club members shifts to dark woods, with long center-cut purple heart juniper tables and crosshatched wine shelves from floor to ceiling. Over nine months, Riddle and the Noisy Water crew have lovingly restored the two-story building, which previously housed a popular Irish pub. During the restoration, Riddle wanted to keep aspects of the old building, including its stained-glass windows. Like the story of New Mexico’s evolving wine industry and Noisy Water itself, old meets new here in surprising and delightful ways.
“We are one hundred percent New Mexico grapes in the bottle,” Riddle says. “For me, nothing is cooler than my wine being made in New Mexico with New Mexican grapes.”
Riddle’s family moved to the area in 1986 and ran a T-shirt printing business on Sudderth Drive. His parents, Rick Riddle and Mary Jo Piedmont, already had long histories with wine. Rick, who passed away in April, loved New Mexico wine and instilled that love in his son. Originally from New York, Mary Jo came from a fruit-farming family. “Every summer I would go back to help with the apple harvest,” Riddle says. “I was always around my uncles making wine and cider in the barns.”
In 2009, Riddle’s parents turned the print shop into the Cellar Uncorked wine bar (which remains open), exclusively selling New Mexico products. They fermented a few barrels of wine in the basement, but mostly featured other New Mexico wines. Jasper took winemaking classes, furthered his understanding of vineyards, and eventually led the company into the large-scale wine producer it is today, with outposts in Albuquerque, Cloudcroft, Red River, Ruidoso, and Alto, where the Enchanted Vine production facility (and tasting room) is located.
From Sudderth, the 15-minute drive north to Alto winds up mountain roads to the five-acre property, where every bottle of Noisy Water wine is made. A beautifully restored wooden barn is the centerpiece, with large, covered decks and patio tables framed by pine-covered hills rising in the background. Beside the barn and tasting area, a collection of industrial-looking buildings and garages make up the production facility. On a tour we pass bottling stations, giant vats, and halls of barrels, and I learn the correct way to concoct green chile wine (which involves infusing the wine with Hatch’s famous chiles for no less than a month).
Noisy Water now runs vineyards in Engle and Rincón and features wines ranging from chardonnay and pinot noir to more esoteric offerings like aglianico and sangiovese. But, Riddle says, the importance of a good cabernet cannot be overstated. “It’s the one everyone knows and wants to talk about,” says Riddle, who believes Noisy Water’s award-winning Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is up to the challenge. “I’d put the varietals in that bottle of cabernet up against cabernet from California or from anywhere else in the country. To me, that’s a win for New Mexico.”