Sunday, December 10, 2023

Where in Heaven's Name?

This past week I’ve been racking up miles across the great Southwest looking for the future. The journey has taken me to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place I hadn’t been to in more than 25 years. It used to be a place I went to often, for work and for play. I even went there once for a honeymoon. So, there are plenty of good memories in that place.

This time, while on other business I managed to go to a few wine shops and restaurants. I was happily surprised to see Italian wine thriving there. Mind you, you could fit Santa Fe into one of the new developments in Dallas or Houston. But the place attracts artists, intellectual and the very well healed. Some of the folks in Santa Fe have another home in Tuscany, from the conversations I was privy to. The Italian connection is alive and well.

And the wines are exciting. In one local spot near the square, Pasqual’s. one can get a very respectable white from Etna (Tenuta delle Terre Nere) or an equally honest Nebbiolo (Vajra) from Piedmont, by the glass, under $20.

Out in the tony Las Campanas neighborhood, Arroyo Vino is a wine shop with a restaurant attached to it. From the wine shop side, one can source many a wonderful Italian red and white, both from the traditional producers as well as the crunchy granola camp. A short walk to the café and voila, many a great evening awaits.

Further up the highway, at Pueblo of Pojoaque, I stopped into a little Mexican place, El Parasol, to lunch with the locals for some good, solid Mexican food. Afterwards, I walked it off and strolled over to Kokoman Fine Wines and Liquor, where I discovered a treasure trove of Italian reds with enough age on them to be more interesting than when they were first released. I spotted a covey of  Nino Negri wines, a Sfursat Di Valtellina. 2012, for under $50, a steal, and an accompanying 2013 Nino Negri Cinque Stelle Sfursat di Valtellina for under $70, also a bargain. Matched with a nice oxtail stew with polenta, on a cold high-desert night in December, both those wines were made for the moment. Great stuff, and Santa Fe has it in droves.

With friend and colleague Eugenio Spinozzi in 1995

You might be out in the middle of nowhere, in a little café in Eldorado, and a radiant little piece of Italy and Italian wine will welcome you. It was wonderful to see and to taste as well.

In Texas, Italian wine has become successful. But it also has been fetishized at some of the bright and shiny spots in the larger cities. You can see it on Instagram, with the  sparkle ponies showing off their bottles of Monfortino or Gaja, Sassicaia or Solaia. But here in New Mexico it has undergone a more earthbound display, where wines are accessible not just to the 1%ers or the influencers. Not that one couldn’t find that in New Mexico. It just isn’t the default here.

My soul and my heart in New Mexico underwent a bit of an overhaul, hopefully for the better. Back in Texas, the politicians and the angry not-so-young men are battling over their personal Gaza’s. Enough already, it’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas time. Time to stop bickering and find a way to make peace.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the quest continues, the search for Eldorado. At least I won’t have to look far to find Italian wines I know and love. Thank Heavens for Santa Fe.



© written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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