Desert Wines

No, I did not spell the title of this weeks article incorrectly. This is actually a story about wine tasting in the desert. You see, last week, my wife and I took a road trip to Laughlin Air Force Base, in Del Rio, Texas. Our son graduated from pilot training, and earned his pilot wings. I must say that driving from California to Texas, there isn't much change in the scenery. Once you hit Palm Springs, it's 1,200 miles of desert, Highway Patrol cars, and Border Patrol stops. So, to break up the drive, we stopped at a few wineries along the way.

Coronado Vineyards
Our first wine stop was in Willcox, Arizona. We drove through the town, saw some winery signs, but soon discovered that Mondays are not the prime day for wine tasting in the town of Willcox. Most were closed. As we headed out of town, we made one more attempt and stopped at Coronado Vineyards. While it was over 100 degrees outside, the tasting room and gift shop were pleasantly cool. Only two other people were in the tasting room, and for $6, we tasted 12 of the 20 wines they were pouring. Coronado Vineyards serves wines from their own vineyard, as well as wines from St Clair Wines and Pillsbury Wine Company. Coronado Vineyards has been around for just under 5 years, and is located at about 4,000 feet in elevation. It's amazing that grapes can grow in this heat, but I was told that they have very cool nights (for Arizona), and the vines do go dormant in the winter. Our host told us that last winter, they even fell to 5 degrees below zero.  The wines ranged from sweet to dry, and from white to rose and red. Their tasting room is adjacent to the gift shop, and a large dining room. We were told they offer wine pairing dinners on certain weekends, and they get large turnouts. Those of you who follow my articles know that I don't rate wines, or evaluate tasting notes (I think tasting is a personal experience, and only you can decide if you like the wine you are tasting), but I will tell you that I purchased their newest releases: Voodoux (Chenin Blanc / French Colombard) and Two Heads Red (Cabernet Sauvignon / Sangioveseis), as well as a bottle of St Clair Tawny Port. Prices ranged from $10 to $17, and $26 for the port which is packaged in a ceramic bottle.

Luna Rossa Winery
At the suggestion of our host at Coronado Vineyards, we next stopped in the town of Deming, New Mexico. By this time, the temperature was well over 100 degrees outside. We found Luna Rossa Winery along the south side of Interstate 10. It was late in the afternoon, and we still needed to get to El Paso Texas, but had to stop. We were the only people in the tasting room, and our host was the sister-in-law of the winemaker. The large tasting room and gift shop are an extension of the winery. We hadn't had anything to eat in a while, so we were invited to bring in our cheese and crackers, and sit right there at the counter, and taste wine and eat cheese in the air conditioned building. The conversation turned to the vineyards. I had mentioned that the only other New Mexico wine I had tried was Gruet Sparkling Wine, and we were told that Gruet sources their Chardonnay grapes from the vineyards located just behind the building. What was really interesting was all the Italian grape varieties they were producing. As it turns out, the winemaker/owner is from Fruili, in Northern Italy. I bought some of their gold medal winning Nini (a blend of Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese and Refosco).

Val Verde Winery
After arriving in Del Rio, Texas, our son took us to the Val Verde Winery (the oldest winery in Texas). We were offered a brief tour, and history review of the winery before moving into the small tasting room. I had tried one Val Verde wine before, their Lenior (also known as Black Spanish). We were offered a small taste of each of their 10 wines. Tastings cost (with tax) $6.47 per person. We purchased their Sierra Madre (a blend of Cabernet, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese), then wandered through the small vineyard, located just behind the winery. The location of the winery is in one of the nicest areas we saw in Del Rio. Lots of history here, and worth the stop.

St. Clair Winery
Lastly, on our way back to California, we made a quick stop at the largest winery in New Mexico: St. Clair Winery. We pulled up to the large grassy area in front of the main building and walked into a large gift shop and tasting room. Here, we encountered the most people we had seen at any winery on our trip. We were offered a free tasting of a few wines of our choice, and ended up purchasing the D.H. Lescombes Syrah (the namesake of the winemaker). St. Clair is producing over 85,000 cases of 30 different varieties under the St Clair, D.H. Lescombes, and Blue Teal names.

So next time you are driving along Interstate 10, make sure to stop and try these unique desert wines. They can, and do, grow grapes in this heat, and the quality just might surprise you! Next time I drive this route, I plan on hitting a few other wineries, and also stop at one of the many pecan orchards along the way. And, remember, if you do stop...taste the wine, don't drink and drive

1 comment:

  1. Amazing post you have there. Awesome winery I love to go there if my time would allow me.