State Profile: New Mexico Wine Country

New Mexico was one of earliest places in the country to grow grapes, which were planted by Franciscan priests in 1629 in what is now the Middle Rio Grande Valley AVA. The state’s two other AVAs are the Mesilla Valley and Mimbres Valley. In the 1880’s census, New Mexico had twice the grape acreage of New York, and was the fifth largest wine producer in what is now the United States. As in other states, New Mexico’s wine industry was destroyed by Prohibition, and didn’t rebound (slowly) until after the government sponsored a study of traditional grape varieties in 1978.

Today the Land of Enchantment has a vibrant grape and wine scene, with broad-based industry creativity and energy harnessed by Chris Goblet, Executive Director of the New Mexico Wine Growers Association. The two annual Harvest Festivals in Albuquerque and Las Cruces are immensely popular consumer events and major money makers, and the organization also administers a $1 million Vineyard Restoration Fund created by the New Mexico legislature in 2022 to rebuild the economic and agricultural roots of the New Mexico wine industry.

Noisy Waters Winery, owned and operated by Jasper Riddle, is an example of how parts of the industry have grown in recent years. The winery has grown from 5 to 80 employees at several locations across New Mexico, added a new winemaking and wedding events facility, and been recognized by the Small Business Administration with prestigious awards. They also offer a wide range of wines, from traditional vinifera varietals to Red Chile Wine and Caliente Green Chile Wine, reflecting a favorite product of New Mexico which ends up in just about everything.

Great Grapes: Tempranillo

Most commonly associated with Spain and Portugal, with large acreage also in Argentina, this hot-climate grape is well suited to New Mexico, which produces the same aromatic, robust red wines that marry well with hearty and spicy foods.