By Gary Rollins
Many years ago, I enjoyed a relaxed drive through California’s Napa Valley and marveled at the miles and miles of beautiful vineyards and the big-name wineries that offered samples of their very finest wines at every intersection. It was an experience I shall never forget and I only wish that I had been able to spend more time to enjoy what has become one of the nation’s premier visitor attractions. It would take weeks to enjoy everything that magnificent place has to offer if I were to drive back and do it all over again today.
Huerfano Valley will never be confused with Napa Valley, but it may surprise you to hear about the Winos, an eclectic group of about 25 couples who drive hundreds of miles and gather together each year in La Veta when the grapes ripen in Deming, New Mexico and in other selected vineyards just south of the Colorado border. New Mexico wine has become big, big business.
And it’s on the grow in La Veta. The Winos grew through personal invitations extended by La Veta’s very own Al Clymer. That name, you will probably recognize, belongs to one of the more talented artists in the Southwest, if not all over the place. Clymer is a retired U. S. Army Colonel and he spent many years in the Napa Valley, where he learned the ins-and-outs of making good wine. He and his charming wife, Susan, live in a beautiful site where the Spanish Peaks comprise the central visual element. It is truly a vista to die for.
The key to good wine, of course, is the grapes and New Mexico is blessed with the geography and the climate to assure a healthy crop of grapes each succeeding year. There are so many different varieties of grapes that a person with Clymer’s experience is essential to the process. Making good wine is both an art and a science.
The group, which Clymer affectionately calls the Winos, with tongue-in-cheek, is now awaiting the “arrival” of the third vintage. Next week, the second half of this article will describe the wine-making process.