Last Saturday was a great day, because I called a truce with work and played. After four straight days of evaluating high schools, it was a much needed break in a daunting schedule. The day was made even more fun because I “played” at something I enjoy so much—wine tasting. Now, that won’t be a surprise to those of you who follow my blogs consistently.
I didn’t realize until this last trip to El Paso, that vineyards and wineries were enjoying such amazing growth and interest, but after several conversations and a quick review of the promotional magazines of the area, I learned that numerous wineries are popping up along Highway 28, just northwest of El Paso between Canutillo, Texas, and Mesilla, New Mexico.
The first winery that my friends and I visited was Zin Valle, along the first mile or so of Highway 28. The husband and wife owners produce a portfolio of wines, some of which are made from grapes grown in the area while others come from grapes or juice brought in from other well-known grape-producing areas. Tasting here was free, and the room is beautifully appointed with a granite tasting bar and a huge window providing a panoramic view of the Franklin Mountains, which on that day had a substantial topping of fresh snow. A barrel room and cozy porch added to the ambiance, although it was certainly too cold and windy to enjoy a tasting outside.
For those of you who think it is warm in El Paso all winter—think again. The high was 42 on Saturday, and the wind showed no mercy, but the sun did shine, giving some reprieve to an otherwise brutal day of bone chilling weather to this South Texas gal.
After tasting three whites and three reds, and buying a bottle of Pinot Noir, made on-site using grapes from California, we were off to La Viña, about five miles down the highway. The Tuscany designed facility was watched over by Princess the cat who also graces the label on one of the wines.
Tastings here were five dollars, but that was worth it, especially since they throw in a souvenir glass. Although all the wines are made from locally-grown grapes and were good, most were sweeter than I like and slightly expensive, so I opted not to purchase any at this stop.
The road to the next winery took us through amazing orchards of pecan trees. I can just imagine how pretty the drive might be in any other season besides winter, because there are thousands of huge trees, some even creating a canopy over the highway for a couple of miles. A quick stop at the Stahmann Family Store gave us an opportunity to taste all things “pecan,” and to buy several pounds of freshly shelled and chopped pecans to take home for baking. (To be continued)