New Mexico wineries prepare for winter, and a growing statewide wine industry

Sam Ribakoff
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — When a storm system brought cold temperatures, frost and a thin blanket of snow across San Juan County it threatened some agricultural crops still in the fields — but not the wine grape harvest at Wines of the San Juan.

“The snow didn’t bother us, or the early frost,” said co-owner of David Arnold. They had picked their red grapes just two days before snow fell on Monday, Oct. 28.

“It was a decent year overall,” said Arnold, “The most grapes we’ve ever harvested was 10 tons, which isn’t a lot compared to Bordeaux or Napa. This year we harvested 9.9 tons.”

Wines of the San Juan has a five-acre vineyard, half dedicated to growing white grapes, and the other half for red grapes. They buy a majority of the grapes used in their wine from vineyards in both New Mexico and Colorado.

“All year there’s work to be done,” said Arnold, noting that during the winter the grapes will be crushed, processed, fermented, and finally bottled in preparation for the spring and summer, when new wine vintages will be released.

Joshua Arnold, head winemaker at Wines of the San Juan,  holds out a batch of still-processing wine at Wines of the San Juan in Blanco on Oct. 18, 2019.

Statewide outlook is bright

While the nation's most famous wine region struggles with drought, fires and other issues, things are going well in New Mexico's burgeoning wine regions, a state trade group says.

“It was a decent year throughout the state,” said Chris Goblet, the executive director of New Mexico Wine, the trade association for wineries and vineyards throughout the state. “It was a decent weather year, especially in the southern part of the state where most of the vineyards are. And of course, we didn’t have any wildfires like California has been having.”

The Kincade fire sweeping through California’s wine producing Sonoma County has already destroyed more than 76,000 acres of land, and at least two wineries in the area according to Wine Spectator magazine.

Head winemaker at Wines of the San Juan, Joshua Arnold, pours a glass of white wine from a still processing batch of wine at Wines of the San Juan in Blanco on Oct. 18, 2019.

Goblet is adamant that the wine industry in New Mexico is growing.

“The largest wineries are getting bigger,” Goblet said, “and our small boutique wineries are staying boutique and steadily growing.”

Goblet points to two growing New Mexico wineries in particular, Gruet Winery in Albuquerque, which Goblet said exported 250,000 cases of their wine out of the state, and St. Clair Winery outside of Deming.

Closeup of grapes left on the vine at Rio Suave Vineyard in Blanco.

Destination San Juan County?

“Everything about the uniqueness of New Mexican wines has to do with mother nature; our soil, our climate, how the vines react to the elements,” Goblet said, adding that because of the state’s dry climate and high elevation, wineries across the state don’t have to use pesticides to deter bugs from destroying the fruit and the vines.

When asked how San Juan County, with its newest winery, Rio Suave Vineyard, now on the market, contributes to the state’s wine industry, Goblet noted the potential the region has for “a clustering of wineries and vineyards in a specific location” like around the San Juan River where both Rio Suave Vineyard and Wines of the San Juan are located.

“Clustering will build the industry together,” goblet went on to say, “It’ll be a destination for wine lovers, not just an outpost. It will do a lot for tourism, and the industry in general.”

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Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at

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The varieties of wine that RIo Suave Vineyard in Blanco produces.