Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Touring the St. Clair Winery in Deming

March 29, 2011
I recently had the privilege of touring the St. Clair winery with Farid Himeur, who handles national sales for Southwest Wines. He had written a very nice review of my wine book; Wines of Enchantment, but we had never met in person. That includes his tour at Gruet before joining Southwest Wines. I found him to be as amiable and knowledgeable a guide as I could have wished for. Before long it seemed we were just two wine dudes exploring the newest wines of Southwest Wines.

First off this facility is huge and expanding even as I write this. Several smaller wineries could fit inside St. Clair with room to spare. We began by tank tasting some of the whites. In tank tasting, one sidles up to a towering stainless steel tank with glass in hand, and draws off some of the liquid from a spigot. All four whites were very good, being well on their way to ready.

Many of the whites were a bit on the sweet side, but had good acidity and fruit, making them food-friendly. I particularly liked the Muscat of Alexandria, which could well be the wine Cleopatra, used to entice Marc Antony to her bed. You don’t think she did that just with her looks, do you? Liz Taylor, she wasn’t.

After tasting the whites we went into a storage room and barrel tasted the reds, beginning with a St. Clair 2010 Pinot Noir. This is not a classic grape for New Mexico as most of the great ones come from coastal areas, but this is a very impressive effort. The wine is varietally correct, which is not often the case in New Mexico, and I’ll be anxious to try it after a few months in the bottle. The 2009 Syrah was chewy, rich and loaded with dark fruit.

The 2009 Cabernet Franc was a real eye-opener, however. Echoing the flavors that made the 2007 Limited release a red sweepstake winner at the SF Chronicle wine competition, this will be a wine to queue up for. Knowing that future releases were doing well, we went into the tasting room to try some of the current releases. A cheery and enthusiastic Terri behind the counter kept us well fortified.

The one wine I’ll mention here is the DH Lescombes 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. I’d reviewed this wine here on my examiner.com blog site. I enjoyed a bottle almost a year ago, and thought it had definitely earned its gold medal. Now that it has had a year in the bottle, Farid suggested I should try it again. How right he was! I could not believe how much better it was now. The fruit seemed richer, there was definitely a lot more complexity including scents of forest floor and spice and a lush mouthfeel that made me ask for a second taste.

At $24, I’d match this against Sonoma and Napa Cabs costing twice as much, it is that good. If you’re wondering why I waited almost a month to tell you dear reader, it’s because I wanted to make sure I got my case first. Salud!

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