SANTA FE, N.M. — The curtains and black paper have been removed from the windows, and stage area and dance floor have been replaced with a lounge to dine and sip on local wines.
What used to be Santa Fe’s only nightclub, Skylight, was recently transformed into Hervé, a downtown wine bar whose operators are hoping to attract both locals and visiting wine-lovers.
The bar, which opened May 15, is named after Hervé Lescombes, founder of St. Clair Winery and its parent company, Southwest Wines, in Deming.
The Algeria native operated a winery in Burgundy, France, before moving to New Mexico in the 1980s. Now in his 70s, his two sons run the business.
Hervé is the company’s first location in Santa Fe. The winery has a tasting room at its vineyard in Deming and bistros selling its St. Clair label in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington.
“We wanted to put New Mexico wine on the map and what better place, with the most worldly tourists, than Santa Fe?” Ryan Gage, the company’s wine program coordinator, said.
He added that the timing was finally right when Skylight became available after the nightclub closed in December.
The wine bar concept and design is a new one for the company, said Gage.
A corridor leading up to the new location is lined with outdoor seating and decorative wine barrels. There’s a retail area and wine-tasting bar, where guests can sample the day’s three-wine featured flight or four of their own selections. Adjacent to that is the main bar and seating room.
Hanging lights, and dozens of potted plants and flowers surround dining tables, leather couches and armchairs – a touch Gage said was meant to make people feel like they were in a laid-back, living room-like setting – where guests can order food and drinks.
In addition to the 15-wine list, there is a menu with what general manager Marilyn Litton called sharable, wine-friendly foods that can be a snack or a meal, including meat and cheese boards, bruschetta, salads and soups.
“Santa Fe hasn’t really had anything like this,” said Litton. “And I think it’s really wanted. A place that you can go, sit, talk, hear each other, kick back, that’s not a hotel bar and not a rowdy one. It meets the needs of a lot of different people.”
The 5,800-square-foot facility has what Litton described as a “New Orleans or European” aesthetic, with brick floors and rod iron railings. Part of the bar is meant to resemble being on location at a vineyard.
“It’s kind of that wine, winery feel,” Litton added. “The plants, (it’s like) you’re outdoors. The tasting room, you’re in a cellar. (It’s about) bringing the outdoors in.”
Hervé’s wine list is almost exclusively from its D.H. Lescombes label, which Gage called Southwest Wines’ “top tier” selection. The wines, aged in French oak barrels, are almost all semi-dry to dry. But the bar also offers sweet options. There are three dessert wines; a port and their “Kiva” from the St. Clair label; and ratafia from D.H. Lescombes.
The bar’s top sellers so far, according to Gage, are its award-winning rosé and the Mourvèdre red wine. “It’s got a little bit of a tannic start that mellows out with that fruity quality right in the middle,” Gage said of the Mourvèdre, one of the label’s limited releases. “Little bit of cherry, little bit of chocolate. It has a little bit of spice at the end and finishes with that nice oaked finish. It’s very complex.”
While most people may think of rosé as light and fruity, Gage said theirs is made in the French style, which means it’s a “little more crisp, little bit more dry” than the average bottle.
The bar also has local beers on tap, including Duel, Tractor, Boese Brothers and Boxing Bear. Litton mentioned that most of its menu and retail section come from New Mexico sources. The cheese boards are crafted from Estancia’s Old Windmill Dairy, and the coffee and truffles are from Santa Fe’s Art of Chocolate facility. Hervé also sells lavender honey made in Datil and Legacy Pecans from Las Cruces.
“Our goal was to source the smaller artisans in New Mexico that aren’t as well-distributed or highly distributed,” she said. “Or maybe don’t have distributors. Some literally deliver it themselves. We wanted to share and really bring that out to the locals.”
The wine list will primarily remain the same, with the exception of its five limited releases, which can be purchased only at the winery and its extensions. Selections like the Mourvèdre, Danielle apple cider-flavored sparkling wine and the petite sirah will stay on the menu until they run out.
Though the drink options may be some of the company’s more high-end offerings, neither Gage nor Litton wanted to label the bar itself as”upscale.”
“We want you to feel comfortable in flip flops and a T-shirt or a business suit,” said Gage. “It’s your place.”