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Former NM beer ambassador gets wine gig

Chris Goblet recognizes that craft beer is all the buzz lately.

As the original executive director of the New Mexico Brewers Guild, he actually helped drive the conversation and foster the industry’s growth.

And now he’s hoping to help cast the spotlight on the state’s wine makers. Goblet — who used to refer to himself as the state’s “beer ambassador” — was recently chosen to lead the New Mexico Wine and Grape Growers Association. His tenure as the organization’s executive director began this month.

“We talk a lot about New Mexico’s craft beer industry and it’s really taken center stage for the last couple of years. What I want to do is bring some of that attention back to the wine makers, the grape growers,” he said.

There are 45 wineries across the state, including three cideries, Goblet said. While they have not cropped up with the frequency of their beer-making peers, the industry has a centuries-old tradition in New Mexico. As executive director of the association, Goblet said his goal is to “reintroduce” the public to the state’s wine.

The organization already hosts a series of high-profile events — its Memorial Day weekend festivals in Albuquerque and Las Cruces are expected to draw a total of 20,000 people — but Goblet said he may try some new events and also work with individual wineries on strategies for attracting visitors to their properties, which he said tend to be “amazing settings” in more rural parts of the state.

“I’m really excited about the concept of agritourism, harvest parties, labeling parties — really getting people to these vineyards to interact with the soil and the grapes themselves,” he said.

Goblet, who guided the Brewers Guild for four years before the board replaced him with John Gonzigian in February, said he will also work on marketing and advertising the industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded the association a $125,000 grant that Goblet said will go toward marketing efforts.

Like he did for brewers, Goblet will also lobby at the Legislature. He already has some priorities for the 2017 session, including a plan for some way-finding signs on highways that would help travelers find wineries.

“This is the ideal job for me. I’m really excited about it,” Goblet said. “When I heard about it, I thought ‘This is something that I know and I’m passionate about it.’

“I know a lot of the people who regulate the industry and promote the industry. I get to take a lot of my skill sets and just apply them to a new sector, and that’s the most exciting part.”

Sam Aragon of Las Nueve Niñas Winery, the association’s board president, said Goblet’s experience on regulatory matters made him a natural fit for the job, as does his energy and enthusiasm. The state produces some great wine, Aragon said, and Goblet can help spread the word.

“I told him ‘Let’s play.’ That’s what I want to do. He’s got the support of the board, and we’re very excited to see what kind of stuff we’re going to create,” Aragon said.