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N.M. wines are getting attention

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s Gruet Winery’s Blanc de Noirs, a non-vintage sparkling wine, placed 43rd on Wine Spectator magazine’s just-released list of Top 100 Wines of 2011.

“It is the first wine from New Mexico ever to be included on the list,” which the magazine has compiled each year since 1988, according to Wine Spectator associate editor Tim Fish.

The wine was selected from nearly 6,000 entries representing every type of wine and every major wine-growing region in the world, says Gruet’s sales and marketing manager, Lori Anne McBride. “It puts New Mexico on the map as a recognized wine region and shows that a world class wine can come from a New Mexico winery.”

Over the years, Gruet has received many accolades for its wines, but it is not alone. Other wineries in New Mexico also have a growing list of awards and distinctions, prompting one local wine writer and a national travel writer to tout New Mexico as a force in the wine-making world.

Jim Hammond, an Albuquerque wine writer, wine teacher and author of the newly revised “Wines of Enchantment,” says that people “are just waking up to the fact that New Mexico is a great wine-making region.”

Stefani Jackenthal underscored that same sentiment in October 2011 with a piece she wrote in Budget Travel magazine that named New Mexico on the list of “10 best wine regions that you never heard of.”

According to Hammond, who blogs as the Southwestern Wine Guy, New Mexico grapes grow at a higher elevation than California grapes. Also, New Mexico’s growing season is shorter. Consequently New Mexico wines usually contain less alcohol than California wines, which also makes our wines “more food-friendly and closer in character to French rather than California wines.”

‘An outstanding wine’

Fish, who rated the Gruet wine for Wine Spectator magazine, told the Journal that he found the wine “elegant and focused, with creamy vanilla and apple aromas and rich yet crisp flavors of baked pear and cinnamon bread.”

He gave it a rating of 90 out of 100 points, “which means I consider it an outstanding wine, no easy feat for a domestic sparkling wine.”

The ranking also considered value and availability. The Gruet wine has a suggested retail price of $14, “and with 20,000 cases produced, that’s a powerful combination when paired with a 90-point rating,” Fish says. “That means many of our readers will be able to find the wine and afford it.”

Wine Spectator magazine also came out with a Recommended Sparkling Wines from the United States list for 2011. Gruet’s Blanc de Noirs also made that list in addition to its non-vintage Rose and its non-vintage Brut.

Other accolades

Plenty of New Mexico wines and wineries are receiving accolades, says Tosh Remchuk Williams, a board member of the New Mexico Vine & Wine Society, as well as a wine writer, wine judge and owner of Uncorked Sommelier Services.

About 40 wineries are in New Mexico, with several more expected to open in the next year or so. The industry has an annual economic impact on the state of about $45 million, she says.

“Wine makers have found the grapes that grow well within the different micro-climates of the state, and having those grapes has allowed them to create wines that reflect the various styles and personalities of New Mexico,” Williams says.

Williams pointed to these awards to highlight New Mexico’s rising status on the national and international wine stage, though she says it doesn’t come close to capturing the extensive list of honors:

♦ Black Mesa Winery, Velarde: Montepulciano, Silver Medal, New World Internationale Wine Competition

♦ Casa Rondeña Winery, Albuquerque: Meritage Red, Double Gold, Taster’s Guild International Wine Competition.

♦ Corrales Winery in Corrales: Muscat Canelli, Bronze Medal, Connoisseur Classic Southwest Wine Competition.

♦ Guadalupe Vineyards, San Fidel: Riesling, Gold Medal, Eastern International Wine Competition.

♦ Luna Rossa Winery, Deming: Shiraz and Tempranillo, Double Gold, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

♦ Milagro Winery, Corrales: Merlot, Medal of American Excellence, Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition.

♦ Ponderosa Winery, Ponderosa: Jemez Red, Gold Medal, Southwest Wine Competition.

♦ Santa Fe Vineyards, Santa Fe: Malvasia Bianca, Double Gold Medal, Riverside International Wine Competition.

♦ St. Clair Winery, Deming: D.H. Cabernet Sauvignon, Gold Medal, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

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