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Rio Suave Vineyard, San Juan County's new winery, celebrates as it prepares to sell their wine to local businesses. Farmington Daily Times

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BLANCO – Until recently, San Juan County’s new winery didn’t have a sign, making it hard to find the place. It's six miles outside of Blanco on Highway 64, past rock formations, washes, teenagers on ATVs, horses grazing near the San Juan River and an old bridge.

To know where this place was, you had to know the Martinez family personally: Timmy and Anita, the owners, and Tim, the head winemaker.

But now, after obtaining the necessary permits to sell their wines to local stores and bars, Rio Suave Vineyard is ready to open up to San Juan County. To celebrate, on Oct. 19, the family put up a sign in order to make their winery on the San Juan River a little easier to find.

And they threw a party.

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The idea to start growing grapes to make wine started when Tim left a job in Denver and decided to move back where he grew up, his parents' farm in Blanco. Tim, who had some horticulture work experience, began working at nearby Wines of the San Juan, learning first hand from growers about which grapes grew best in Blanco’s soil, and from winemakers about the science and art of winemaking.

The fruits of their labor

With his work experience he was able to convince his parents, Timmy and Anita, to start planting grapes on their acreage next to the San Juan River.

As the vines began to produce grapes, Tim went back to school to learn enology, the study of winemaking, through VESTA, a partnership between the Missouri State University college system and the National Science Foundation that provides online classes in wine grape growing and winemaking.

Now, 10 years later, the Martinez family works, surrounded by silver industrial barrels and other pieces of winemaking machinery, bottling their signature local chokecherry wine as they ready to open to the public, and start selling their seven varieties of wine to local stores and bars starting in the first week of November 2019.

“We don’t know if it’s going to work, but it’s fun,” said Tim, “but we’re just out to make people happy I guess.”

First wine festival in the books

To celebrate their new wholesale license, Rio Suave Vineyard not only put up a sign to make their property easier to find along the back roads of Blanco, but on Oct. 19 they put on a little party, with about 50 or so local residents in attendance, seven different local vendors, live music provided by a bluegrass duo and, of course, plenty of their own wine flowing.

“I’ve known Tim for years, and I love his wine,” said Lorrie Kienast, cradling her young daughter, Juniper. “You can tell there’s such a wonderful family vibe going on here. It’s just amazing. Just coming down here you feel like you’re a part of the experience, part of the family, everyone’s so warm and welcoming.”

“New Mexico is one of the oldest winemaking regions in the country,” said Tim, referencing Spanish Franciscan Monks in the 17th century who planted grape vines around a Piro Native American Pueblo for sacramental wine for the daily Catholic mass. “We’ve learned a lot from Wines of the San Juan, they’re good friends. We’re not in competition with them, we’re in a community with them, and with other winemakers across. We’re just trying to forge a way and make a business and make a name for ourselves.”

You can contact Rio Suave Vineyard through their Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/category/Winery-Vineyard/Rio-Suave-Vineyard.

Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333 5283, or via email at sribakoff@daily-times.com.

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