In a normal year, a December Saturday night before Christmas would be the perfect time to have dinner at D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro near Old Town. You could share a bottle of one of its homegrown wines with dinner, and then join the crowds in Old Town to take in the luminarias lining the sidewalks and walkways of the Plaza.
Of course, this is no normal year. This year, you walk into the restaurant and notice, a little sadly, that all the bright lights and decorations make the empty dining room look like the remains of a party in which the guest of honor never showed up. And then, after you get home, unpack your food and sit down to eat, you remember that it could be worse. At least restaurants like this are still up and running.
D.H. Lescombes opened in 2005 as St. Clair Winery and only last year changed its name to honor founders Danielle and Hervé Lescombes, who immigrated to the United States from Burgundy, France, with their three children in 1981. Hervé Lescombes had run the Burgundy’s Domaine de Perignon winery, and in New Mexico he found an ideal climate and soil for sustaining his love of winemaking. He established a winery in the Mimbres Valley near Deming and bottled his first vintage in 1984.
The Lescombeses grew their business significantly over the ensuing decades, eventually acquiring St. Clair Winery and opening bistros in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, a wine bar in Santa Fe and a tasting room in Deming. Along the way, Hervé turned over the day-to-day operations to his sons, Florent and Emmanuel.
As with many places around town, D.H. Lescombes has significantly pared down its menu from the pre-pandemic incarnation. Still, there’s a good variety of pub grub and diner favorites, starting with an assortment of small plates such as pot stickers, baked brie and jalapeño-bacon-wrapped shrimp.
The most expensive starter is the Signature Nosh ($19, $1 extra for gluten-free), a charcuterie board of meats, cheeses, artichokes and olives, with figs, discs of semisweet chocolate and grapes on board for sweetness. We had the gluten-free version with the crostini swapped out for a couple types of crackers. The individual components, including a buttery salami and a pungent blue cheese, were all good and they complemented one anther well. It’s pricey, but the serving was ample enough to provide leftovers.
Signature dishes run from $11 for a burger to $28 for Chilean sea bass.
Norwegian salmon ($19), a thick fillet grilled to the specified medium, was served with wild rice, a pile of thinly sliced zucchini and a grilled half of a lemon. The fish was fresh, and the smoke and sour flavors from the lemon relieved its oily richness. Pasta New Mexico ($14), the lone pasta dish on the menu, comes with pieces of sautéed chicken breast, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone and Hatch green chile in a cream sauce. We got the gluten-free version with corkscrew pasta. It was another successful dish, the pasta suitably al dente and the green chile bringing enough heat to liven up the cream sauce.
The menu’s recommendation of a bottle of Lescombes Heritage Pinot Gris ($15) with the pasta was fitting. The wine, made from the same grape as pinot grigio, has a beautiful amber color and a bit of effervescence that snaps the tongue. Its fruity, citrus flavors made it a good choice for both the pasta and the salmon.
An exemplar of cold weather comfort food, the pot roast ($14) at D.H. Lescombes is braised in merlot and served in brown gravy with celery, carrots and mashed Yukon gold potatoes. The brick-sized portion of tender, shreddable beef was excellent, rich enough to eat even without the modestly salted gravy. You could subsist on this for a week. The mashed potatoes, however, could have used a few more minutes in the hot water, as there were some undercooked chunks in them.
When I phoned in the order, I was told it would be ready in a surprisingly brisk 10 to 15 minutes. Fortunately, D.H. Lescombes’ proximity to I-40 makes it easy to get to from most parts of the city. Everything was well packaged in compartmentalized plastic containers.
You may be prohibited from enjoying a lot of our city’s holiday traditions, but you can still get takeout at D.H. Lescombes. It’s a decent consolation prize.