When you hear "wine country," what’s the first place that comes to mind? There’s Napa Valley in Northern California, of course, and there’s lots of wine tourism in major producers like France, Spain, and Italy. But some of the best (and longest running) wine production is happening right here in the American Southwest. Originating more than 400 years ago and surviving Prohibition, floods, and harsh winters, the winemakers in New Mexico are dedicated to their craft.
Today, the wine industry in New Mexico is thriving, with more than 40 vineyards and wineries throughout the state. Whether you’re a connoisseur or a newbie taster, you’ll find something to please your palate—in terms of both wine and adventure—in New Mexico’s wine country. Here are a few pairings to try the next time you’re in the Land of Enchantment.
1. Boulder in Northern New Mexico
The high desert of Northern New Mexico is chock-full of top-notch bouldering. Check out the Nosos area, just outside La Madera, where the quartzite boulders are considered the best quality rock in the state. There’s also the Posos area in Carson National Forest, which, thanks to its 9,000-foot elevation on the Jarita Mesa, stays cool even in the summer. Ortega West is a little more difficult to find, but your payoff is infinite quartzite boulders and cliff bands. Bring along a copy of New Mexico’s first bouldering guidebook for all the beta you’ll need.
To wind down après-climb, head to some of Northern New Mexico’s best wineries. The award-winning [Black Mesa Winery](blackmesawinery.com/) bottles its wines right in Velarde and offers tours throughout the week. There’s also Vivác Winery (from a Spanish term meaning "high-altitude refuge") in Dixon, and their tastings can include wine flights that are perfectly paired with truffles, chocolates, or cheese. La Chiripada Winery & Vineyard (whose name means “a stroke of luck”) in the Embudo Valley has been around for 35 years and offers 20 varieties of wine.
2. Explore the Bottomless Lakes
There’s so much more to the Roswell than aliens. Head to Bottomless Lakes State Park, which contains a series of sinkhole lakes created by a collapsed limestone reef and reaching depths of up to 90 feet. The deepest lakes are the beautiful blue Lazy Lagoon and Lea Lake, where you can swim, canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, lounge on the beach, and even scuba dive. There are a couple short hiking and biking trails, and the park has more than 30 campsites if you want to stay for a weekend.
When you’re done exploring, continue with the "bottomless" theme and head to Pecos Flavors Winery in Roswell, home of the Compadres Cabernet as well as a delicious new bistro. Or continue the tour by heading 40 minutes south to Artesia, where you can try out the Cottonwood Winery, a no-frills, mom-and-pop winery that also sells local salsas and jellies.
3. Ski in Taos
The Taos Ski Valley has come a long way from its humble start in the mid-1950s. Originally a budget ski area pioneered by a Swiss-German skier, Taos is now a bucket-list ski destination, complete with lodging, dining, and shopping opportunities. The area sees about 300 days of sunshine annually, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the snow’s no good: Taos gets somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 inches of snow each season. With half beginner/intermediate and half advanced/expert terrain, there’s something for everyone at Taos.
After a day on the slopes, drive through gorgeous Carson National Forest to the actual town of Taos, where you can park the car and get to winery-hopping. In addition to La Chiripada Winery and the award-winning Black Mesa Winery, both with locations right in Taos, the nationally famous Doc Martin’s Restaurant at the Historic Taos Inn has a huge selection of wines and a killer menu to boot. (It’s also won Wine Spectator’s "Best of" Excellence Awards more than 25 times.)
4. Camp on the Dunes
Southern New Mexico is home to the largest gypsum dunefield on earth at White Sands National Monument. Surrounded by mountains and nestled in the Tularosa Basin, you’ll feel like you’re on a completely different planet. Backpackers will need to hike at least a mile to a backcountry site by following the orange trail markers with a spade symbol. While you’re in the park, hike the 5-mile Alkali Flat Trail along the edge of the ancient Lake Otero or sled down the powdery dunes on a plastic snow saucer.
The basin is also home to numerous wineries, as it’s long been an agricultural community. After your overnight adventure, make for the wine garden at Tularosa Vineyards (just half an hour away from the monument), or Dos Viejos Winery, where you’ll be able to take in more views of the dunes.
5. Fly Fish on the San Juan River
The San Juan River is home to the kind of legendary fly fishing that keeps anglers coming back season after season. Thanks to its consistent year-round temperatures and constant flow of nutrients below the Navajo Dam, San Juan trout grow to epic proportions. Bring some small flies and get ready to fall in love with the northern New Mexico desert.
When you’re ready for a little après-fishing, stick to the theme at Wines of the San Juan in nearby Blanco, whose labels feature a rendering of the river, vineyards, and a whimsical trout. Try the Blue Winged Olive, whose namesake fly, the blue-winged olive nymph, is likely in your tackle box.
This list is just a sampling of the many adventures (and many wineries!) that can be experienced in New Mexico. Check out the complete list here to plan your next trip through the Southwestern wine country.
Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.