New Mexico has never been on my wine map, and a late-June visit to Albuquerque and Santa Fe in 100+ degree heat confirmed that this is hardly a cool climate area. There are high desert areas of the state, however, and lack of rain is a definite plus for growing wine grapes. As vines dig deep into the rocky soil, they bring up distinctive mineral smells and flavors that are the stuff of fine wine. New Mexico, in fact, produced the earliest wines in North America, dating from 1629. And more recently, the Gruet family, owners of vineyards in the Champagne appellation of France for many years, chose New Mexico as an appropriate site for their U.S. operations. In Albuquerque last week, I was impressed by the wines I tasted at St. Clair Winery and Bistro.
2007 DH Lescombes Chenin Blanc: This wine was a pleasant surprise and one of my favorites of the tasting. I expected a sweetish, heavily oaked version of Chenin Blanc but found instead a wine more similar to a fine Savennieres from the Loire Valley. Nice apple and citrus tones, much drier than New World Chenins or most Vouvrays. Has the slightly funky aspects of Savennieres or Anjou Blanc, and I suspect this wine will get even better over the next five years.
2009 Blue Teal Chardonnay: This wine was aged in stainless steel with some oak chips. As a rule, I can live without oak chips, but I don't detect any of the cheap oakiness that usually comes with their use in inexpensive California and Australia Chardonnays. I smell and taste lime, nutmeg and a hint of vanilla. No tropical fruit and not at all heavy or blowsy. Refreshing acidity and nice citric tones on the finish.
2010 DH Lescombes Pinot Noir: Medium deep ruby color. Pinot earth, smoke, pomegranate, cherry. I get lots of black pepper on the palate--a very nice touch. Medium to light bodied but good concentration. Better than the majority of New World Pinots I have tried.
2009 Blue Teal Shiraz: I was warned that this wine might be too sweet for me, and it was. Inky color and jammy smells of sweet berries and vanilla. Blueberries, blackberries--good fruit but way too much sweetness. Made in an Aussie Barossa Valley style, but an Australian winemaker would be embarrassed by the comparison. Would make a popular wine for cocktail drinking without food.
2009 DH Lescombes Syrah: Same grape, different style. And oh what a difference! Deep and serious. Berries, cassis, black pepper and the herbal notes (juniper berries?) of a fine Northern Rhone Syrah. Also some coffee oak. Full bodied and multidimensional. This is special. More like a St. Joseph than a Hermitage, and very pleasant to drink now or later.
2008 DH Lescombes Cabernet Sauvignon: Still young and dominated by coffee oak aromas plus dark chocolate and black currants. Too oaky for me, right now. On the palate, the fruit is much more apparent. Currants and dark cherries. Full bodied and a nice combination of fruit and oak. As I was commenting that the wine was too oaky, I noticed that the flavors were still hanging in there on the back of my palate. I think this wine will be a real winner after a few years in the cellar.
These wines are not expensive. If you happen to see them in a shop or on a wine list, they are worth a try.