I have always enjoyed drinking wine, but I went from passive consumer to passionate enthusiast when I met Bernd Maier, winemaker extraordinaire and owner of Amaro Winery. Bernd opened his winery in 2009, but when you look at how much time he spent in the wine industry prior to that, you have to ask, “What took you so long?”
Bernd comes from a long line of vineyard keepers—or what we today call viticulturalists. His family has been operating vineyards in Germany since the 1400s. Bernd went to university in Freiburg, Germany where he studied winemaking (enology) and viticulture. In 1984, he moved his wife and son, Benjamin, from Baden, Germany to New Mexico and began planting vineyards in the Albuquerque area. In 1989, Bernd moved to Las Cruces and began a diligent search for Old and New World grapes that would be suitable for the climate and soil of the Mesilla Valley. It was a search that he still continues today.
Bernd is an expert on climate, terroir, and grape varieties. He is always seeking new and better ways to grow grapes, care for his vines, and make wine that reflects the character of the Mesilla Valley AVA. He has shared his knowledge with many of the winemakers in New Mexico. Almost every winemaker I have met across the state knows the name, Bernd Maier, and has a story to tell about him.
In 2006, Bernd became New Mexico’s first Extension Viticulture Specialist and NMSU vintner, but in 2009 he did something he’d always wanted to do—he opened a winery! His innumerable contributions to the New Mexico wine industry did not go unnoticed and in 2010 he received the New Mexico Vine and Wine Society’s Distinguished Service Award.
Amaro winery is named after the Negroamaro grape variety which is grown almost exclusively in Puglia, Italy. Interestingly, Amaro does not make a Negroamaro wine. If you want to try some, though, I recommend purchasing a bottle from Luna Rossa Winery. As far as I’m aware, Luna Rossa is the only winery making a Negroamaro varietal. But, I digress…
Amaro Winery is located at the intersection of Melendres Street and Amador Avenue in Las Cruces. The winery is the place where Bernd works his magic and, after a long morning in the vineyard, he can be found tinkering with his wines to get them exactly as he wants them. Bernd always says, “What happens in the winery stays in the winery,” So I dare not say any more about that. Bernd’s wines have won state and national recognition year after year and, when you taste any of them, you will know why. Bernd has wines for every palate, and I can guarantee that every single wine he bottles is sheer perfection.
The Tasting Room
The tasting room is located right off Melendres Street in front of the winery. The management of the place has changed hands several times and it is now operated by Bernd’s second wife, Xiao. The tasting room has struggled to have an identity compatible with Bernd’s premium wine offerings and has still not quite found its place among the tasting rooms of New Mexico. Since Covid, Xiao has focused on making the location more appealing to young people. Amaro supports a number of young adult kickball teams, the local chess club, and other under-40 organizations in town. There is live music, karaoke, and salsa dancing on the weekends, along with paint and sip nights, vendor markets, food trucks, and other activities.
One enhancement to the location was the installation of a large, covered patio with misters in the summer and heaters in the winter. A stage, dance floor, and Edison lights create a great urban beer-garden vibe that can be enjoyed year-round. Bernd began making Sangria for consumption in the tasting room and it has rapidly become their best seller followed by offerings of several New Mexico craft beers and tequila from Little Toad Creek. Sadly, the wines of Amaro don’t make the top 3 list of popular beverages consumed on the property.
I always say that every bottle of wine tells a story and Amaro wines have great stories to tell. Unfortunately the only person at Amaro who can tell them is Bernd!—and he has some doozies. If you’re lucky enough to be at Amaro on an evening when Bernd is hanging out at the bar, you’ll get some great stories. People love it when Bernd is in the building! Nonetheless, Amaro isn’t quite a tasting room, but it isn’t quite a bar. It is still trying to find its identity.
I can’t say enough about the quality of Amaro wines, but of course, I have my favorites. Here are my recommendations:
Dry Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Durif
Dry White: Chenin Blanc Dry
Sweet White: Malvasia Bianca, Gewurztraminer
Rosé: Cruces Sunrise—the most popular of all the wines, and Cruces Sunshine—a dry version of the Sunrise.
Dessert Wines: Angelica (red) and Fino (white). I don’t typically like anything sweet, but the Fino is great!
All of the wines can be purchased in the tasting room and it is the only place that I know of where you can get them. There is an advertised discount for purchasing at their location, but you need to ask for it or you won’t get it. Wines can be purchased on-line, but the wine list isn’t kept current, and for some reason it’s easier to purchase bitcoin on their website than wine. If you know what you want, I recommend calling to see if they can ship something that isn’t on the website. You can also call for pickup. They’ll usually bring it out to the car if you let them know you’ve arrived.
Amaro wine is some of the best wine I’ve ever had. Bernd is a master winemaker. The disconnect between the winery, the quality of Bernd’s award-winning wines, and the tasting room is a challenge for many wine-loving locals to reconcile. Personally, I would go there to purchase wine because it is definitely worth the trip. However, I’m too old to find the bar scene appealing. When I want a glass of wine, I want to relax and have conversations with friends. Nonetheless, Amaro’s urban location in the industrial district of Las Cruces is unique, and is definitely worth visiting at least once.
Address: 402 S. Melendres Street, Las Cruces, NM
Phone: (575) 527-5310
Hours: Wednesday – Friday 3:00 – 11:00, Saturday 1:00 – 11:00, Sunday 1:00 – 6:00
The hours may change seasonally, so I recommend calling before you go.
Until next time….