Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wine Country: New Mexico - St. Clair Reserve Zinfandel 2010

The New Mexico Winegrowers Association claims that New Mexico is America's oldest winemaking region.  "The first grapevines planted in what is now the state of New Mexico were brought in 1629 to Senecu, a Piro Indian pueblo south of Socorro, by Fray Gracia de Zuniga, a Franciscan, and Antonio de Arteaga, a Capuchin monk.  The cuttings brought by the missionaries were a variety of Vitis vinifera, commonly called the 'mission grape.'  This variety is still grown in New Mexico today.  Historians generally agree that the first California vines were planted in 1769 at the Mission of San Diego de Alcala."

During the late 1800s, New Mexico made enough wine to rank fifth among American states in wine production, almost a million gallons per year.  Natural flooding of the Rio Grande River so damaged many of the vineyards in the southern part of the state that before the turn of the century, New Mexico's output had cut to a trickle, and stopped altogether even before Prohibition.  The rebirth of New Mexico wine began in 1978, and the state now reports 42 wineries and tasting rooms, with annual production at around 700,000 gallons annually.

St. Clair Winery is located in Deming, New Mexico, in the Mimbres Valley wine region.  French brothers Florent and Emmanuel Lescombes have six generations of winemaking experience behind them and 120 acres of vineyards in Pyramid Valley, outside of Lordsburg.  In addition to the tasting room in Deming, they run bistros in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington.

The Lescombes were kind enough to supply a sample of their Cellarmaster's Reserve Zinfandel 2010 for this edition of Wine Country.  It sells for $16 per bottle and has a 13% abv count.

St. Clair's Zinfandel sits medium dark in the glass and offers a nose of dusty, brambly blackberry and black cherry.  Spices and a hint of licorice also get into the action.  The first sip surprises me.  It's so bold and jammy I'm literally taken aback.  Plums and blackberries are the focus of the flavors, and the mouthfeel is almost silky.  The masculine, rustic nature of this Zinfandel overshadows the elegant side, but both ends of that spectrum definitely have their say.

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