New Mexico, New Mexico, New Mexico True, Wine, Wineries

Honesty and Artistry

“Honesty and Artistry” is the philosophy of winemaker Josh Johnson of Embudo Valley Vineyards (EVV). When I’m writing about wine, I ALWAYS have a glass next to the computer for inspiration. As I write this, I’m drinking a 2021 Chardonnay from Embudo Valley Vineyards. The grape is not an estate grape, but the wine reflects everything Josh Johnson told me that he believes about winemaking. The unoaked Chardonnay is a pure expression of this international workhorse grape. The EVV Chardonnay is a pale lemon color, with light and crisp notes of apple, apple blossom, and nectarine kissed with honey. It’s fruity with a refreshing acidity and long finish reminiscent of French Chablis without the characteristic minerality of a Chablis. I’ve been told that if I like the 2021 (which I obviously do), the soon-to-be released 2022 is going to blow me away!

Embudo Valley Vineyards tasting room is in Rinconada, New Mexico, just south of Taos, and it is a must-stop location when heading up the Rio Grande River toward Taos. I visited in November 2022 as part of my “research” on high altitude wines of New Mexico. I realize that by wine-world standards, all of the Land of Enchantment could be considered “high altitude,” but I was looking for high altitude with a truly winter climate. Rinconda, New Mexico sits just above 5800 ft. with winter lows in the teens and very little rainfall.

The EVV tasting room has only been open since September 2022, but Josh’s impressive, award-winning winemaking career goes back decades. Josh’s experience with vineyards and winemaking began years before he could legally drink the fruits of his labor. At age 13 he worked in his family vineyards—La Chirapada—and by 14 was assisting his uncle, the winemaker. In 2006, he served the family winery as both head winemaker and General Manager.

Unless you’re a skier or live in northern New Mexico, you might not realize that the winters can be dark and cold in a way that can quickly bring on cabin fever. Josh, not one to be inactive and eager to learn more about the world, began traveling to New Zealand during the New Mexico winters to assist in winemaking at two award-winning, boutique wineries. His self-designed education in New Zealand’s winemaking industry was vastly different from his on-the-job training that started at age 13. Josh embraced those differences and began developing his own unique winemaking style. I have been impressed by every single wine I have tasted (and y’all know me-I’ve probably tasted them all). They are delicious, and I can absolutely taste the New World vibe in each one of them.

Josh met his love, Amanda Fox, in 2015 and were married in 2019. They are a power duo. Amanda has worked as Josh’s assistant winemaker, but her time is now spent filling orders, marketing, and running the tasting room. It may not be culturally sensitive to say, but I KNOW that back of every successful man is an amazing, talented, and beautiful woman. That is Amanda. I could have talked to her all day. She’s so sweet, but very professional and I just loved the way she would refer to Josh as “the winemaker.” When I first walked in she said, “the winemaker may be in at some point while you’re here.”  Oh my gosh, I just loved her! (I don’t know what it is about northern New Mexico, but the women are amazing—Michele Padburg, Liliana Padburg, Amanda Fox, etc. I WANT to be them when I grow up!)

I think one of the reasons I find Embudo Valley so endearing is that the philosophy of “honesty and artistry” isn’t some catchy winemaking motto. I encountered their philosophy at work before I even had my first taste of wine. Josh and Amanda were very open and transparent with me about every facet of their business. I felt so honored that they confided in me about a number of their struggles and concerns—things that don’t need to be made public even though they knew they were talking to a journalist-blogger. The artistry part isn’t just about the wine, either.  Walking into the tasting room will take your breath away. It is so beautiful, but accessible. When you walk out onto the front porch and look across at the Rio Grande, you’ll never be the same. Everything is so tastefully done and in sync with the surrounding area.  I know people go to Taos in the winter because they like snow-sports, but I am definitely going back in the summer to drink a bottle of wine on the porch—and I’m going to invite Amanda Fox to join me.

Honesty and artistry is found in every bottle of EVV wine. It is fascinating to me that there is a seamless connection between Josh Johnson, Amanda Fox, and the wine they produce. There is such purity in the EVV wines that I tasted. First of all, the colors of the wines—especially the rosés—are spectacular. There are layers of depth in the flavors of EVV wines and there are tangible textures that create a more full-bodied mouthfeel than expected. The wines were incredibly smooth with a long finish.

THE WINES

Now that I have your mouth watering, let me highlight a few of my favorites.

White Wines: There are two white varietals—Chardonnay and Viognier—as well as two white blends on the tasting menu. I’ve already expounded on the merits of the Chardonnay, so let me highlight La Bolsa White. La Bolsa is a 30% apple, 30% Vidal Blanc, and 40% Riesling. It has 3% residual sugar, so it is a sweet wine. I mention this wine because of the inclusion of apple in the winemaking. My readers know that I’m not generally into sweet wine, but I can certainly appreciate one that is well-made. La Bolsa is a rich, velvety smooth wine yet Josh has somehow found a way to retain the crisp notes of the apple without having apple as the predominant characteristic. It has a light to medium acidity that keeps this wine in balance. BTW, I have it on good authority–Amanda’s–that there will soon be a sale on the 2021 Whites to make room for the new vintage.

Rosé Wines: I have actually met several wine snobs…uh…I mean enthusiasts, who have told me they absolutely can’t tolerate a rosé and have many excuses for why they think rosé is a waste of good grapes. Let me tell you, the Bosque Rosé from Embudo Valley will change your mind and knock you off your feet! Seriously, how many of you can look through your tasting notes and find very many entries that use “rosé” and “full-bodied” in the same sentence?  Bosque Rosé is truly a full-bodied rosé made from 100% organically grown estate Baco Noir. Imagine a fruit salad made with every ripe, delicious red fruit you can think of and you will have the taste of Bosque Rosé. Take note, though, it isn’t sweet. It’s just intensely fruity. Josh calls it a “power rosé” and I think that’s pretty accurate.

Red Wines: There are two red wines on the tasting menu, and they are both so well done. Both reds are dry blends and have a remarkable complexity. Racecourse Red is made from 80% Nebbiolo and 20% Petite Sirah. I think the Racecourse Red really shows off Josh’s experiences in New Zealand. The jammy black fruit flavors are reminiscent of the luscious, bold flavors of wines “down under.” The unexpected note in the Racecourse Red is rose petal. My favorite of the two red wines is the Rincon Reserve. Honestly, my family was drinking this wine one evening and it made such an impression that I pulled out my phone, went to the EVV website, and ordered more…on the spot! It is a delicious blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Petite Sirah.

Coming Soon: Embudo Valley will be releasing varietals and blends made from Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Petite Verdot, Tempranillo, and Ruby Cabernet–among others. Josh is a master blender, so I’m very excited to see the future of EVV wines.

THE TASTING ROOM

The best of New Mexico’s boutique wines are rarely found in large retail stores. Many of them can be found within a few miles of the winery in a local shop or restaurant, but generally speaking, you either order them online and hope you get something you like OR you visit the winery tasting room. Sometimes you can find great wines at small wine festivals, but that is also rare. Embudo Valley Vineyards wines are best accessed on-line or by visiting the tasting room—an option I highly recommend.

The Tasting Room is located at 2221 NM-68 in Rinconada, NM. The website says their winter hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., but when you call them, (505) 395-2636, the answering machine says Tuesday through Saturday. As always, I recommend calling ahead. You can also contact them from the Contact Page on their website. When you order wine online it will arrive quite quickly.  Mine arrived within a couple of days of placing my order which made me do a little happy dance! I REALLY suggest you sign up on their website for email updates–especially if you want to get in on the sales. The wine will go very quickly!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope you’ll give Embudo Valley Vineyards a serious consideration on your next trip to Taos or when you go to order wine online. I’d love to hear your experiences with EVV or with any other wines in New Mexico, the United States, or the World! You can always comment on the article or send me an email.

Usually in this section of my articles I tie up loose strings, provide insider tips, and really try to encourage you to visit the tasting room and/or buy the wine. In this article, however, I want to let Josh Johnson do the speaking:

“Year after year, I am humbled to witness the beauty of bud break and the flowering of the vines, to water and prune while anxiously awaiting fruit set. Each year as the grapes ripen on the vine, I feel renewed and filled with anticipation and energy for our upcoming harvest and crush. I believe winemaking is the finest craft in the world and a gift I am grateful for.”

Until next time….

#CHEERS

If you’d like to know more about my wine passion, check out my BIO page.

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2 thoughts on “Honesty and Artistry

  1. Sue Noel says:

    I’m always bringing him up, but my husband, Bruce Noel (RIP), helped plant a vineyard in Rinconada. I don’t remember the name of the man he partnered with, but it’s the same people who had the organic turkey farm. They may still have it. We knew the Johnsons from the start of La Chirapada. I look forward to stopping at the tasting room. Sue

    Like

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