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2008 Black Mesa Winery, Petite Sirah

The Cork

The Petite Sirah was not offered for tasting because there were only six bottles left. While I wanted to grab a bottle of the Syrah, I went with the Petite Sirah for completeness sake. The sage component is certainly interesting and evocative of the New Mexican landscape.

The Bottle

2008 Black Mesa Winery, Petite Sirah
This wine is a medium+ dark cherry color. There is a slightly creamy, red nose. In the mouth there are red fruits, that are tart, along with black pepper notes that come out midpalate. There is a strong sage component. It finishes up with grapey tannins.  ** Now-2015.

Dinner at the Historic Taos Inn

The Taos Inn has served as a hotel since 1936. The hotel consists of several adobe buildings, some of which date to the late 19th century.  Originally owned by Arthur Manby, the renters Dr. Thomas Paul Martin and his wife Helen, eventually bought the buildings, turning them into the Martin Apartments.  When Dr. Martin died in 1933, Helen decided to go into the hotel business and created Hotel Martin in 1936.  In the 1940s Sam and Mary Albright bought the hotel, renaming it the Taos Inn.  In 1946 the hotel was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Street.  They added the thunderbird Taos Inn sign (the first neon sign in Taos), a restaurant, and a bar.

The Taos Inn

Last Saturday, Jenn and I dined at the Taos Inn restaurant known as Doc Martins. The winds had died down, the smoke had cleared, and the intense sun had lowered in the sky. We sat down on the patio for an early dinner. I had taken a brief look at the wine list whilst my daughter ate an even earlier dinner at the Adobe Bar.  At the bar there were three opera students and their instructor from Santa Fe were singing for the first part of the evenings music. I perused the wine list to various arias. The list is fairly broad with selections from all over the world and deep vintages for several wines from California. There is a Mexican wine, several from Washington state, a couple vintages of Heitz Trailside, and irresistible vintage port. I knew I would pass on the New Mexico selections but could not decided what to drink. I decided that I would leave it up to the sommelier.

2003 Quinta des Roques, Reserva

When we sat down for dinner, I was again tempted to just drink a bottle of port with our meal. But sanity prevailed and  I chatted with the sommelier about what we like and with complete obfuscation from my indecision about what we wanted to drink (or was it oxygen deprivation from the 7,000 feet of elevation?)  we started off with Craig’s recommendation.  He recommended the 2003 Quinta des Roques, Reserva, Dao, Portugal. He was careful to ensure we were comfortable with the wine and price range. He decanted the wine and made sure we were happy.

Jenn and I started with the Rattlesnake and Rabbit Sausage along with the Chile Relleno.

Rattlesnake and Rabbit Sausage

Chile Rellano

Craig checked on us a few times and we chatted about wine. He told us the story about Mr and Mrs. Street building a bomb shelter in the 1950s because they were afraid that Taos looked like Los Alamos from the air. The bomb shelter now serves as the wine cellar so you can often see Craig walking off into the complex of buildings then returning with bottles in his arms. There is a wine fridge on the main floor, perhaps holding more popular selections.

Jenn with our five glasses of wine

After seeing us receive our appetizers Craig kindly brought out glasses of the 2008 Gruet, Cuvee Gilbert Gruet, Pinot Noir to try. He was very excited about this new wine and thought it is a great example of New Mexican Pinot Noir. We were excited to try the wine because we had bought a bottle in Albuquerque. We did open the bottle so I’ll post a tasting note later on. He also brought out a glass of German Riesling for Jenn to drink with her Chile Rellano.

We then ate the pork and trout entrees.

Pork Entree

Trout Entree

By the time we finished our meal the winds had died down, it was a comfortable temperature, and we kept talking about drinking some port. There were selections of 1977 Gould Campbell, 1977 Grahams, along with, I believe, 1966 and 1963 Grahams. The prices were on the low-end, if not lower than, the retail listings on Wine-Searcher. Craig explained that he and the owner review the wine inventory once per month and set prices to encourage people to buy wines. They like people to drink the older bottles. Some selections that have been recently drunk up include 1999 Havens Burriquet for $45 and 1999 Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape for $90.

He checked the bomb shelter for half bottles but only found a 1988 vintage port so we settled on the 1977 Gould Campbell. We asked Craig if he could double-decant the port so we could take it back to our room. He was wary about the sediment but did a fine job of removing the cork and the sediment. He returned the bottle closed with a different cork, the original cork in one piece, a glass with the sediment, and glasses for our room.

I highly recommend the Taos Inn and picking wine off the list with the help of Craig.  The wine list alone is enough reason to dine at the restaurant.

1977 Gould Campbell

2003 Quinta des Roques, Reserva, Dao
This took a few hours to open up. Dusty flavors of leather, oak in this restrained wine. There are flavors of minerals and a light amount of blue fruits. Drying tannins in the finish.  ** Now.

1977 Gould Campbell, Vintage Port
Imported by Grape Expectations. We drank this over three nights. The first night it was expectedly showing restrained fruit and alcoholic power. It improved on the second night and was even better on the third.  Dark red fruit, spices, leather.  **** Now-2027.

Tasting Notes from La Chiripada

A Corner of the Tasting Room

The Chardonnay, Viognier, and Merlot are all well-made wines that, if poured blind, would surprise many as to their New Mexican origins. The Dolcetto stands out, as does its price.

2010 Chardonnay, $19
This wine is a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Muscat from the Mimbres Valley that was fermented and aged in Hungarian Oak. This is richly flavored with some tropical notes. The Chardonnay and Muscat are nicely blended. More national in style.  Not Rated.

2010 Viognier, $20
This wine is a blend of 90% Viognier and 10% Muscat from the Mimbres Valley. A nice wine that is not tropical like the Chardonnay. More national in style.  Not Rated.

2009 Special Reserve Riesling, $19
This wine is 100% Riesling from the Embudo Valley. This is very clear in the glass. In the mouth there are semi-sweet flavors, confections, and a good mouthfeel.  Not my style of Riesling.  Not Rated.

2009 Rio Embudo Red

2009 Rio Embudo Red, $18
This wine is a blend of 80% Leon Millot, 10% Pinot Noit, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon made from estate grapes. 90% of the grapes are from the estate with 10% from Rio Embudo. There are fresh, ripe, red fruits that have delicate flavors.  Not Rated.

2009 Rio Embudo, Red Reserve, $25
This wine is a blend of 75% Leon Millot, 20% Montepulciano, and 10% Petite Sirah. 75% of the grapes are from the estate with 25% from Rio Embudo. This is a bit richer in flavor but with tarter, red fruits than the previous wine.  Not Rated.

2009 Merlot, $26
This wine is 90% Merlot and 10% Petite Sirah from the Mimbres Valley. There is a nose of spiced red fruits. In the mouth there is gritty fruit and a little inkiness. This is a well done wine that would appeal too many. More national in style.  Not Rated.

2008 Vintner’s Reserve, $24
This wine is 55% Tempranillo and 45% Ruby Cabernet from the Mimbres Valley. Bright, red fruits with mouthfilling flavors and acidity. There are fine to medium tannins.  Not Rated.

2008 Dolcetto, $32
This wine is 80% Dolcetto and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mimbres Valley. There are dark red fruits, grippy flavors, and black red berries that morph into blue, floral fruit in the finish. Nice.  Not Rated.

2008 Winemaker’s Select Red, $24
This wine is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Shiraz from the Mimbres Valley. There is a pepper scent to the nose. In the mouth there are floral fruits and some purple flavors in the finish as fine tannins come out.  Not Rated.

The Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz Reserves

2008 Shiraz Reserve, $24
This wine is 100% Shiraz from the Mimbres Valley aged in Hungarian oak. There are immediate flavors from very fine oak. The fruit flavors are mixed with some pepper, a little raciness, and some spice.  Not Rated.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, $32
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mimbres valley that was aged in New European oak for 22 months. This sports a slightly aged nose. There are some pruned fruits to the rich, medium-bodied wine. There are red and blue fruits, fine to medium tannins that cause a drying finish. An inky aftertaste wraps things up. Perhaps this oxidized a bit as it comes across as older than its vintage. We bought a bottle of the 2005 vintage and will try it in a couple of weeks.  Not Rated.

Tasting Notes from Black Mesa Winery

Entrance to Black Mesa Tasting room

Jerry’s preference for used barrels and a restrained oak influence, clearly shows in his wines. My favorite wine was the 2007 Syrah from estate fruit, it is well made and reminds me of a Northern Rhone Syrah, I would definitely try the 2010 vintage when it is for sale. The 2009 Montepulciano is appealing and comes from good grapes. The 2008 Antelope is a good New Mexican blend.

2010 Velarde Pinot Grigio, $17
This wine is produced from five-year old estate vines which surround the winery. There is a good, rich nose, and apple-like acidity to this light-bodied wine. The body does not follow the nose. There is definite potential here if the body can be improved.  Not Rated.

Wines at the Tasting Bar

2009 Pinot Noir, $45
There are light Pinot Noir flavors, bright cherries, and acidity. I didn’t get much from this wine and it is rather expensive.  Not Rated.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, $28
A Cabernet Sauvignon nose, bright, acidic red fruit, and fine wood tannins.  Not Rated.

2008 Antelope, $28
This is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot. This is a tasty blend with black fruits complementing the red fruits. There is fresh acidity and overall better balance than the 2008 Cab. I found that many wines have brighter, red fruits with acidity so I rather enjoyed the black fruits.  Not Rated.

2008 Primitivo, $25
There are soft, earthy, dark-red flavors. It is slightly spicy and has acidity that causes the mouth to water.  Not Rated.

2007 Velarde Syrah, $25
A nose of freshly cracked black pepper. In the mouth there are pure flavors of red fruit and pepper. It is a bit fuller at the beginning then thins out a bit as a nice, acidic finish takes over. I can only imagine that the intense daytime sun and cold nights of Velarde helped produce this wine reminiscent of the Northern Rhone. It was the most deftly made wine of Jerry’s.  Not Rated.

2009 Montepulciano, $20
There are good flavors of gritty, fresh, red fruit in this light-bodied wine. There are dusty red fruits in the finish. This has a surprising depth of flavor and I can see why it won an award at the Finger Lakes.  Not Rated.

2008 Coyote, $33
There is a racy nose of tart, red fruit, black pepper and a fresh aftertaste.  Not Rated.

2008 Tempranillo, $23
I only had a sip of this wine. There is a light nose and fine tannins throughout. Jenn liked it.  Not Rated.

Black Beauty, $18
This is a blend of Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc infused with chocolate. This tastes like red with dusty chocolate. I have never liked any chocolate or berry infused wines.  Not Rated.

La Chiripada Winery and Vineyards, New Mexico

Pat and Aaron

La Chiripada is located only several miles further from Black Mesa Winery on the way to Taos.  As you continue north up Route 68 you exit east onto Route 75 for three miles to Dixon.  Nestled in Rio Embudo Valley, La Chiripada is named after the original ranch that is now the winery.  La Chiripada translates to “a stroke of luck.”  Michael and Patrick Johnson planted the first vines in 1977 and produced their first wine in 1981.  The winery was built in 1981 and they opened to the public in 1982.

Michael and Patrick, Image from La Chiripada

Half of their grapes are grown in the Rio Embudo valley and the other half are grown down in Southern New Mexico near Deming in the Mimbres Valley.  The grapes from Rio Embudo comes from both La Chiripada vineyards and those of their neighbors Jasper and Orlina Tucker, of Rio Embudo Vines. These vineyards lie at an altitude of 6,100 feet.   They flood irrigate which is traditional to New Mexico.  Pat feels that Riesling grows very well in the valley.

Pat at Entrance of Barrel Room

Pat’s son Josh now handles the winemaking.  They use a combination of Hungarian, French, and American oak.  There were some Hungarian Tokaji barrels.  They like to use barrels that are two to five years old.

Fermenting (white door) and Barrel Rooms (wooden door)

I tasted through three whites and a selections of reds.  I particularly liked the 2010 Chardonnay, 2010 Viognier, and 2008 Dolcetto.  In October 2010 they offered a number of their library wines for sale.  Pat recommended the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon as a worthy purchase.  Jenn and I will bring this bottle back home to taste.  Later this week I will post my tasting notes from the tasting room at La Chiripada.

Some of the Wine I Tasted

Black Mesa Winery, New Mexico

Signs near the entrance off of Route 68

Black Mesa Winery is located just off of route 68 in Valerde between Santa Fe and Taos. It was founded by Gary and Connie Anderson family in 1989 then bought by Lynda and Jerry Burd in 2000.  Jerry apprenticed under Rob Mommsen, the wine maker at Bellefountain Cellars in Corvallis, Oregon. Eleven years after Jerry moved down from Colorado he is now owns the third largest producing winery in New Mexico.

The Main Gate

Jerry produces some 10,000 cases per year.  A portion of this are the efforts of four other new wineries.  Jerry is continuing mentoring a small group of wineries and allows them to use his facilities to produce and age their wines.  For his Black Mesa wines,  half of the grapes come from his own estate vineyards and the other half are purchased.  Of his almost two dozen wines, he distinguishes his estate wines by including the name Velarde.  Two of his estate wines include his Pinot Grigio and his Syrah.  There are Pinot Grigio vines surrounding the winery and on the other side of Route 68 there is vineyard where his Syrah and other varietals are grown.

Pinot Grigio Vines

Jerry prefers to use 2-5 year old oak barrels.  He uses a combination of American and French oak.  He likes the American oak for the brashness and character it imparts and the French oak for the mouthfeel.  Of the American oak he prefers the tighter grain of Minnesota oak over Missouri oak.  For his lighter, Italian wines they receive 6-12 months of barrel aging.  For his bigger wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, they receive one to two years of barrel aging.  There were a handful of six-year-old barrels being used to age a white port.  All of the barrels are named to help with accounting requirements.

A Selection of Barrels

This is a particularly windy year for New Mexico.  The winds typically exist only during the spring.  Jerry did grow Cabernet Franc but said it suffered with the winds.  So after much consternation from his staff he uprooted his Cabernet Franc and planted Syrah.  Based on tasting his 2007 Velarde Syrah, he did the right thing.

The Tasting Bar

The purchased grapes come from an Italian wine grower located in the Southern Valley near Deming.  This grower has 500 acres of vineyards where he grows many different varietals.  The truck delivers grapes to several winemakers in the North Valley.  They all receive their shipment at the same time and often produce from the same parcels.  The winemakers like to get together to taste how different their wines are that are made from the same parcels.

Fermented Wine Is Loaded Into Press By Hand, Image from Black Mesa

Jerry says the South Valley harvest occurs during the first two weeks of September.  His North Valley harvest occurs during the last two weeks of September all the way through the first week of November.  This long harvest period allows him to produce a variety of wines.  He has a lot of fun producing such a large variety.  Indeed, I saw some 2010 Aglianico aging in barrel.

A Flight of Wines to be Tasted

In terms of vintages, Jerry is very excited about 2010.  Due to the weather anomalies of 2011, he expects there will be significant production of lower quality grapes.  He does not have any stock of older vintages so he is unsure about how his wines age.  He is most confident about the wines he has produced since 2006.  However, when he found a stash of 2004 Petit Sirah it sold out immediately.  He heard reports that it aged well and he still gets calls from customers asking for older vintages.

Aaron and Jerry in the Barrel Room

I will do a second post containing my tasting notes including his 2007 Velarde Syrah  and 2008 Petit Sirah.

Happy Camper IPA

The Happy Camper IPA is produced by the Santa Fe Brewing Company. The brewery was founded in 1988 using square vessels and open-top fermented from the Boulder Brewing Company. Over the years people have joined and left the brewery as it moved around. Today it 30 barrels and a bottling line. Previous beer names include Chicken Killer Barley Wine and Death-Dealing Daschaund.

Santa Fe Brewery, Image from Santa Fe Brewery (flickr)

Besides New Mexico the beer is available in at least Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas. They are not available in the Washington, D.C. area and cannot be shipped across state lines.

This beer comes in a tin can and is brewed using a super-secret formula. For those home-brewers here are some clues:

  • Malts: 2-row pale, Munich, Crystal
  • Hops: Cascade, Simcoe, Bravo, Amarillo, Summit
  • Yeast: House Ale

The packaging states, “Wiping your rear with a pine cone is about as rough as camping should get. That’s why we invented this portable IPA in a can. A hoppy, refreshing beverage that goes great with campfires, bears, granola, and mosquito repellent. Happy Camping!”

Happy Camper IPA, Image from Santa Fe Brewing Co.

Happy Camper IPA
This beer weighs in around 6.5% ABV. It has a lighter, hoppy nose. In the mouth it is a bit creamy and on the lighter side of American IPAs. The carbonation is subdued but a still little coarse. The beer comes across as refreshing with a bit of steely hops throughout. This is easy to drink in hot weather and would be a welcome addition to the DC area.