Tasting an oaky wine straight from the barrel or a hoppy beer perfectly poured from the keg will always be an experience unlike anything from a can or a bottle. And, in many cases, it’s an experience worth working into your travel plans while you’re on vacation. Whether you’re enjoying an urban escape in a big city or are trying your hand at country-living for a bit, take a detour to a sprawling vineyard or find the nearest local brewery to add some fun and flavor to your getaway.
We’ve searched for the best winery and/or brewery in every state to put together a list of places you just can’t miss. These are places where the ambiance is unbeatable, and more importantly the craft brews and aged wines are award-winning. Our list will lead you to the best wineries and breweries across the United States, so you’ll have no excuse not to go for a tasting on your next trip. Take a look:
SOUTHWEST WINES IS A FAMILY-OWNED WINERY located in New Mexico. The company was founded by Hervé Lescombes, who ran a winery in Burgundy with his father before planting in the U.S. in 1981. Southwest’s brands include St. Clair Winery, Soleil Mimosa, D. H. Lescombes, Blue Teal Vineyards and Voluptuous. I recently spoke to Florent Lescombes, Hervé’s son and a sixth-generation winemaker who manages the winery’s operations. Click here to Read more.
St. Clair Winery of Deming, NM, held their annual St. Clair Winefest in early October, with proceeds benefitting Deming & Luna County Cancer Support for the fifth year in a row. The local non-profit provides a variety of support to cancer patients in the community. They also provide outreach services for general education, early detection, screening programs and general cancer awareness.
“We provide transportation assistance to cancer patients within Deming and Luna County” explains Patient Advocate, Joanna Costilla. “We have vans that we offer to transport patients to and from out-of-town appointments at no charge. We also have a voucher program that can also help defray the cost of gas for qualifying patients who drive themselves.”
They also have a fully-stocked cancer resource library and provide caps, wigs and prosthesis to many patients, free of charge. They also work as patient advocates, helping with billing negotiation for their clients.
The Winefest is themed with pink ribbons and decorations throughout their grounds and inside the wine-tasting room. A large portion of the fundraising stemmed from the Silent Auction, which is full of donated items from regional businesses, including St. Clair, all teaming up to support the cause.
“It’s amazing to see the support from all the local businesses that donate to the silent auction,” Costilla said. “We’re extremely grateful to St. Clair for hosting this event and the generous donation they provide. We’re also grateful to the community who continually supports the organization and our local cancer warriors.”
This year’s Winefest donation was $3,339, the largest thus far, which has been credited to both attendance and silent auction donations.
“I am proud to be a part of the St. Clair Winery Team.” explains St. Clair Tasting Room Manager, Elly Read. “We are very supportive of this wonderful organization that does so much for the community. Being a cancer survivor myself, I know firsthand how supportive they are. I was overwhelmed with the attendance for this event and I hope it continues to grow year after year.”
This year’s silent auction sponsors included: Aaron’s, Adobe Deli, Border Pest, Big-O-Tires, C. Brewka, Campos, Car Quest, Cato Fashions, Circle S Western, D. LeMarbe, Deming Arts Council, Deming Coca-Cola, Dentistry Divine Smile, Deming Orthodontics, Deming Writing Group, Deming Mineral & Rock Society, Desert Oasis, Donna Rae, Diaz Farms, El Rey Market, El Camino Real, Forghedaboutit Pizza, First NM Bank, Foxworth-Galbraith, Furniture Gallery, Heaven’s, Hofacket Law Firm, Holiday Inn Express, Irma’s, J. St. Cyr, K. Solis, Kmart, Karl’s, L. Ballinas, La Cazuela, Mango Maddie’s, Marie’s Italian Restaurant, Mimbres Valley Feed, O’Reillys, Patio Café, Peppers Supermarket, Quality Inn, Rancher’s Grill, Rio Mimbres Country Club, S. Nasewytewa, Sisbarro, Starmax, Sunrise Kitchen, Sun Valley Hardware, Tharp’s Flowers, Tinley Tee Tire, & V. Parker.
Deming & Luna County Cancer Support can be reached at (575) 546-4780
What are tartrates?
“Tartrate crystals are as natural to wine as seeds are to a watermelon.” — Ronn Wiegand, Master of Wine/Master Sommelier
Tartrates, affectionately known by industry professionals as “wine diamonds,” are tiny, crystalline deposits that occur in wines when potassium and tartaric acid—both naturally occurring products of grapes—bind together to form a crystal. Tartrates are scientifically known as potassium bitartrate, which is the same thing as cream of tartar used in cooking. They are completely harmless and natural.
Why do wine diamonds form?
Tartrates are a normal by product of wine as it ages—but if the wine is exposed to temperatures below 40°F, wine
diamonds can form within one week of a wine bottle’s exposure to extreme temperatures (think a bartender’s cold
box where beers, wines and juices are all stored at the same temperature). It is these chilly conditions that make
the tartaric acid compounds in a wine naturally combine with potassium to form a crystal.
Why does tartaric acid remain in wine?
All wine contains naturally occurring organic acids (malic and tartaric acids being the primary ones). Malic acid
can almost entirely be converted to the weaker acid, lactic, through a bacterial fermentation. Tartaric is the primary
acid we taste in all wines; it is essential to a wine’s mouthfeel and balance. Tartaric acid tends to be more stable in
wine, unless the wine is exposed to very cold temperature. Ensuring the perfect balance of these acids in a wine
while minimizing the chance for wine diamonds to form is truly where art and science converge.
What methods are used to remove tartrates?
Winemakers do employ a process called cold stabilization to remove tartrates from wine before it is bottled. Many
producers do use this technique for purely aesthetic reasons with the hopes of eliminating wine diamonds. The old
standard for cold stability in winemaking was 28°F for 10 days, which is only acceptable if you are selling a product
that is mass-marketed at a very low price. Very cold stabilization can often strip a wine of its aromas and
flavors, so we cold stabilize many of our wines to a less extreme temperature (38°to 40°F), depending on the
delicacy of the vintage. Maintaining our quality and consistency is critical to our reputation, so we don’t resort to
extreme measures of cold stability that put quality of taste at risk.
Do tartrates affect the quality of the wine?
No. Actually, the presence of tartrate crystals is viewed by many winemakers, sommeliers and academics as a sign
of quality, indicating that the wine was not over-processed. Wine crystals never impart an unpleasant taste.
How do you identify wine diamonds?
Potassium bitartrate can resemble crystallized sugar granules or crystal shards as they fuse together. They may appear as a powdery white substance at the bottom of a wine bottle. The crystals can also stick to the bottom of the cork.
How can tartrate crystals be avoided?
If possible, wines should be stored at 55 to 60°F and only chilled down to 45 to 48°F just prior to serving to mitigate the formation of crystals. When possible, wines should not be stored in refrigerators overnight.
How should I serve wine that has tartrate crystals?
If wine diamonds appear on a cork, simply wipe them away with a cloth. If their appearance in a glass is disagreeable to the consumer, decant the last quarter-bottle of wine, leaving any crystals behind. Pouring through a cheesecloth is also acceptable. Keep in mind, tartrate crystals are completely natural and harmless.
St. Clair began in 1984 in New Mexico, but its roots date back even farther. The owners, the Lescombes family, are sixth-generation French winemakers. Hérve Lescombes operated a winery, the Domaine de Perignon, in Burgundy before moving to New Mexico to expand the family legacy. Here, he first planted the seeds (literally) for St. Clair in 1981. Today Emmanuel and Florent Lescombes run St. Clair, the largest winery in the state. Emmanuel is the viticulturist, the one who oversees the growth of the grapes and the vineyard’s operations, while Florent is the manager and proprietor. As Florent says, their “passion for making great wines is only surpassed by our desire for them to be shared in good times.” – Read more here
(DEMING, NM) — Just in time for summertime cook-outs and celebrations, The Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago has released its ratings from the World Wine Championships, “U.S. Summertime Whites.” It seems like a natural fit that wines grown and crafted by St. Clair Winery in the heat of the desert southwest would be perfect to enjoy during sunny, summer days. It turns out the contest judges agreed and awarded five medals, along with point ratings, to the local New Mexico winery, including a Gold Medal and 90 point rating for their Malvasia Bianca.
“Ninety points is considered an exceptional wine,” explained Florent Lescombes, Proprietor at St. Clair Winery. “We’re so proud to be able to craft such high quality wines locally here in New Mexico.”
“So many of our aromatic white wines grow with such character and expression,” said Matt Kahl, Winemaker at St. Clair Winery. “There’s something special about growing wine grapes in the desert, the way the temperature, sunshine and soil help to build their flavor. Our winemaking techniques focus on carefully preserving that natural beauty in each varietal.”
Along with the Malvasia Bianca, St. Clair also brought home silver medals for their Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio and their D.H. Lescombes Sauvignon Blanc. Winning national awards isn’t a new thing for St. Clair Winery. In 2009 and 2011, they won the Sweepstakes Award at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, awarded to the best red and white of the entire competition.
“It’s great to be recognized,” Lescombes added. “It solidifies what we already believe to be true.”
The Beverage Testing Institute uses a dedicated and controlled tasting lab at their Chicago location. They were founded in 1981 with the objective of producing fair and impartial wine reviews for consumers.
St. Clair Malvasia Bianca is available – along with many other award-winning varieties – from St. Clair Winery’s website at www.stclairwinery.com, and at St. Clair Winery locations in Deming, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington. It is also sold at various grocery stores, liquor stores and wine shops around New Mexico. Open since 1984, St. Clair Winery also recently announced they were a food-grade certified facility. Open 7 days a week, the Deming location can be reached at 575.546.1179.
While New Mexicans have been raising a glass of St. Clair wine over the past couple of years, the staff at the winery have been raising the bar on quality.
St. Clair just received food-grade certification from ASI, a national industry group that has standards above those of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, making them the first winery in New Mexico and the Southwest to attain the designation, said Daniel Gonzales, creative director for St. Clair Winery.
“We are going to produce a higher quality of wine and respond to customer needs … more efficiently, track what goes into the product,” Gonzales said. “It also opens up a lot of doors for us.”
National stores like Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and Costco use the certification when deciding whether to carry brands in their markets, Gonzales said.
The two-year process involved analyzing the standards including everything from streamlining processes to documenting every step of the production, from procedures in the field to the time bottles are uncorked at customer’s tables, said Macaryo Argott, the company’s production manager. The initial challenge came in changing employees mindset and getting everyone to buy into the new process.
“This winery has been here a long time and it was a trial to get the old timers to jump on board. Then getting to the nitty gritty, picking up brooms and dustpans and cleaning and understanding why we were doing it.” Argott said.
General manufacturing practices, tracking product from field to glass, documenting with paperwork every step of the way and using only approved vendors were just some of the steps along the way, he said.
Ziedney Valenzona was hired to fill a newly-created quality control manager position and is in charge of monitoring standards, daily walk-through inspections, water safety supply testing and machinery cleanliness.
Landing the first such designation in the region is a point of pride to be shared by all New Mexicans, given the state’s status as the first wine-growing region in what is now the United States.
“It’s something to be proud of,” Valenzona said. “It’s not only built teamwork here but building a future for the company. They are doing great but they want to do better.”
This isn’t a new school of thought for the Lescombes family, who has a six-generation history of wine making. Hervé Lescombes started his vineyard in New Mexico in 1982, driven by his determined sense of adventure and his desire to make wine with less restriction than what was allowed in France.
“The government in France would tell you how many vines and even what varietals you were allowed to grow,” Lescombes said. “I wanted the freedom to do better and do more with what I had.”
Wineries are not mandated to be certified since wine is not regulated as a food product by the FDA.
“It is a choice we made to better ourselves for our customers,” said Florent Lescombes, vice president. “We just want to strive to be the best we can.”
St. Clair joins only a handful of wineries in the U.S. to achieve such a certification.
“Not only did the team work hard towards the certification,” Valenzona said, “but we are committed to maintaining the standards to always offer the best quality wines to our customers.”
It’s that time of the year again, when we remember what we’re thankful for. Here at GAYOT, we are most certainly thankful for great American wine. Our Top 10 Thanksgiving Wines hail from eight states — California to Colorado, New Mexico to New York — and come in a variety of styles. These exceptional wines showcase both the diversity of the American wine-growing culture and the impressive offerings that can be found the nation over. Best of all, the wines we have selected all pair wonderfully with different parts of the Thanksgiving meal. So give yourself a little more room on your belt and get ready to find the perfect bottle for everyone’s favorite November holiday.
St. Clair Winery NV Gewürztraminer
St. Clair winery is now operated by the sixth generation of French winemakers who originally ran Domaine de Perignon in Burgundy. The family began planting in New Mexico in 1981, and the winery has continued to grow ever since. The bouquet of their non-vintage Gewürztraminer displays aromas of lemon, honey and floral notes, with a sweet palate full of cinnamon, pear melon and more honey. It is the perfect companion to Thanksgiving dessert, with its flavors helping to bolster pumpkin pie or ambrosia salad.