We are the sixth generation of French winemakers whose family’s lineage has spanned 3 continents. Our father Hervé Lescombes ran the successful Domaine de Perignon winery in Burgundy, France. He was drawn to New Mexico due to its similar climate to his native Algeria. In 1981, he made his first plantings. Later in 1984, his first vintage was bottled.
Over the past few years, my brother Emmanuel and I have taken over managing the business while our father spends his time enjoying the vineyard from his on-site home and wine cellar he built himself. My brother Emmanuel is the Viticulturist, and oversees the vineyard’s operations, while I manage the winery. The careful balance of nature and nurturing, both in the vineyard and winery, leads each wine to its full potential. Our passion for making great wines is only surpassed by our desire for them to be shared in good times among your friends and family.
-Florent Lescombes, Proprietor & Vice-President
Our vineyard is located 47 miles west of Deming, New Mexico, at an elevation of 4,500 feet. This creates warm days and cool nights where there is often a difference between day and night temperatures of 30 degrees or more. This climate makes it possible to grow some of the best grapes in New Mexico. Our Viticulturist, Emmanuel Lescombes, manages the day-to-day operations of our vineyard, producing 7-10 tons of grapes per acre on average. We currently have 180 acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Moscato, Merlot, Zinfandel, and several other varietals. The vines are planted on 8′ x 5′ spacing which allows over 1,000 vines per acre, and also gives proper access to sunlight and water.
The harvest begins in early August and lasts through the end of September. The grapes are harvested by a high-tech grape harvester, and, on rare occasion, are hand-picked from the vine. The grapes arrive by the truckload and are dumped into a grape hopper, which conveys the fruit into the de-stemmer. Inside the de-stemmer, the clusters of grapes are separated from the stems by being struck by paddles. The loose grapes fall into the crusher which lightly breaks the skin of the grape for easier pressing. From here, white grapes are sent into the winery to be pressed, whereas red grapes are sent for fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The partially crushed white grapes are pumped in from the de-stemmer to twin 20 ton Bucher presses. Red grapes will not be pressed until 3 to 15 days after primary fermentation is complete. Our pneumatic press uses a bladder that fills with air to press the grapes against the bottom of the chamber. The pressure exerted is a gentle 30 psi. At this pressure, the skin of the grapes will not be pressed too hard, which would cause the resulting wine to have an off-taste and overly tannic properties. The juice runs through grids inside the chamber and into a pipe to be pumped directly to a storage tank. It takes approximately 2 to 3 hours to extract the juice from 20 tons of grapes. Juice from 20 tons of grapes is approximately 3,600 gallons. The grape skins and seeds are emptied from the press and conveyed outside, where it will be recycled as mulch or animal feed.
Our winery is nestled in the heart of the Mimbres Valley in Deming, located in southwest New Mexico, America’s oldest wine producing region. The winery is situated on 15 acres and has a 500,000 gallon capacity. Our winery is composed of over 50 tanks, each up to 16,200 gallons in capacity. Most of the tanks are equipped with computer controlled temperature jackets. An even temperature during fermentation and maturation ensure a consistently high-quality product. After aging in stainless steel tanks, many red wines (and a few whites) are matured in oak barrels to smooth out tannins and add character inherited from oak contact. Each oak barrel holds approximately 60 gallons, and is composed of either American or French Oak. The wine must remain in-barrel anywhere between 3 months to 2 years. and each barrel costs anywhere from $300 to $900 and last 3 to 5 years. Racking, fining and filtering is used to remove sediments that accumulate during fermentation and maturation. Delicate care is taken during every step to ensure quality, consistency and safety. Tasting panels continually sample the product to check flavor and aroma development, and lab testing is tracked to ensure the wine is crafted to its full potential.
When the wine is ready to bottle, it must be re-filtered to ensure that it is sterile. Our plate filter removes all particles larger than .35 microns (1 micron is 1/1000 of a millimeter). We also use a secondary filter, a cartridge filter, to be absolutely sure that the wine is clean and ready for bottling. A tasting panel does a final sampling to ensure the wine is of exceptional quality and something we can be proud to serve our customers. Finally, the wine is ready to be bottled! Our bottling capacity peaks at over 200,000 cases annually, and we are the only winery in the state which offers contract processing and bottling for other wineries in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. The bottling line is made up of many different pieces of equipment. First the bottles go through a bottle rinser which ensures they are perfectly clean. Next, the bottles are filled with wine. The wine is pumped from its holding tank behind the bottling line into the filler, which fills the bottles with exactly the right amount of wine. Then, the bottle is conveyed to the corker, which takes each bottle, one-by-one, compresses a cork and inserts it into the bottle. A rinser then cleans off any residue on the outside of the bottle, and the bottles are dried by warm air so that the labels can be applied. Finally the bottles enter our capping machine, which places a capsule on the top of the bottle and applies pressure to tighten it to protect the cork. The bottles then immediately enter the labeler, which spins the bottle onto a waiting set of labels. The bottles are then taken off the line, packed into cases and stacked onto pallets to be stored in our climate controlled warehouse. Every step is carefully controlled in order to protect the integrity of the wine.
We own and operate three St. Clair Winery & Bistro locations across New Mexico, located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington. Our wine-making team collaborated with our chef to create an extensive, epicurean-style menu that easily pairs with our wines. Our locations, including our tasting room in Deming, are open for wine tastings 7 days a week and have an extensive inventory of wine for bottle and case sales. Come by and enjoy a uniquely New Mexican experience and enjoy the wines that are the favorite of many!