Written by Daniel Gonzales • Photography by Amanda Gonzales and courtesy vineyards
The vineyards of Southern New Mexico all have unique stories and histories behind their fermented grape juice, along with gorgeous facilities situated along quiet, winding highways. While nobody knows what our immediate future will look like, supporting local businesses has become paramount to the fabric of our community, so why not shop local for wine, too? The wineries surrounding us have many different varietals and styles from which to choose. Below are a few suggestions along with some summer dishes you can pair with them. Whether you have become the next Master Chef during quarantine or decide to have one of our amazing local restaurants prepare something similar to these suggestions, my hope is that you enjoy every moment, every bite, sip, or swirl to the fullest extent.
- The Appetizer Course:
Green chile and artichoke tostadas The gewürztraminer grape has
its origins in Alsace, France, near the German border by the Rhine River. Gewürztraminer is a white wine crafted from a pink- or red-skinned grape. The wine is very fragrant with a naturally high sugar content, which gives it a sweeter taste that is balanced with light acidity. Rio Grande Winery’s expression of gewürztraminer is one that matches fantastically with the cuisine of the Southwest. Spicy foods are often difficult to pair with wine, as the capsaicin in chile can demolish the components that make a wine great. This is not the case with Rio Grande Winery’s gewürztraminer; the elevated sugar content can match up with spicy Thai food, curry, and, of course, New Mexico green chile.
The Fruit Course: Watermelon/strawberry/sage granita Rosé wines have exploded in popularity the past three to four years, with more wineries making different versions of this varietal. A wine gets its color almost entirely from spending time fermenting with the skins of the grape it is made from as only a few grapes actually have purple fruit. Summer is the perfect season to enjoy a cool, crisp glass of D.H. Lescombes Heritage rosé. This wine pairs perfectly in color and taste with strawberries and watermelon, two refreshing summer fruits.
The Salad Course: Citrus salad. Sauvignon blanc does really well in warm climates and produces a light aromatic wine that is crisp and refreshing to consume. La Viña Winery’s version of sauvignon blanc is a delightful wine to enjoy on the porch and take in one of our remarkable sunsets. Grapefruit and peach come through on the palate with this elegant wine and it pairs fantastically with a light salad, pesto pizza, and soft cheeses.
The Taco Course: Vegetarian/shrimp tacos with fruit salsa. Yes, there should always be a TACO course! Mesa Vista Winery produces a viognier that is not quite as sweet or acidic as the gewürztraminer or sauvignon blanc but is still not as buttery or oaky as a chardonnay. Mesa Vista’s viognier has great aromatics that complement a fruit salsa, as well as a soft mouthfeel that allows the delicate flavors of these particular tacos to dance seamlessly across the palate. The minerality complements the shellfish’s brininess and uplifts any vegetable with which you choose to fill your tortilla.
The Poultry Course: Roasted chicken. with rosemary mushroom cream sauce Pinot noir is a delicate-skinned grape that has a wide range of flavor pairings. Used in many sparkling wines, rosés, and, most commonly, summer red wine, pinot noir makes for a great summer wine. D.H. Lescombes Heritage pinot noir has a fantastic ruby color and bursts with red berry flavors, soft tannins, and balanced acidity. This wine goes great with many of their bistro’s dishes, and with nearly any style of meat. Spicy foods and smoked meats are choices to avoid, but otherwise, pinot noir is a very easy pairing with poultry, fish, meats, cheeses, and fruit.
The Pasta Course: Spaghetti pomodoro
The sangiovese grape is very common in many Italian wines, chianti being the most recognizable that features the sangiovese grape primarily. La Viña Winery makes a sangiovese wine that is full of fruit flavors and contains strong tannins. La Viña’s expression of sangiovese could be consumed by itself, but really comes to life with the addition of food. Make sure to use a good amount of olive oil when making this simple pasta dish, as the tannins in this wine can stand up to the acidity of the tomatoes and fats from the oil.
The Meat Course: Grilled steak and green onions
Malbec is one of the six Bordeaux grapes, but we often associate it directly with Argentina, as malbec is the primary grape grown in that country. Malbec needs a lot of sun and heat, which our region has in abundance. Mesa Vista Winery has capitalized on the natural resources of our valley and has produced a malbec that pairs fantastically with grilled meats and vegetables. This wine has great tastes of plum and blackberries, and if you feel like being indulgent, it also pairs perfectly with a bleu cheese burger!
The Dessert Course: Dark chocolate raspberry cake
Cabernet sauvignon is the most commonly planted grape in the world. This grape is thick-skinned and can be grown under pretty tough weather and climate conditions. Cabernet sauvignon is most often paired with fatty meats because of its big tannins. Cabernet sauvignon has both red and blackberry flavor profiles, and Rio Grande Winery does a great job of capturing the traditional characteristics of this wine with their version of it. I recommend trying a glass of this wine instead of coffee after the meal with your chocolate cake. It proves to be a terrific ally with the acid and sweetness of the raspberry jam along with the bitterness of the chocolate.