Explore La Chiripada Winery—New Mexico’s first winery. Located an hour north of Santa Fe, this boutique winery specializes in reds.
In a sense, La Chiripada Winery (slang for “a stroke of luck”)—in tiny Dixon, New Mexico—and I grew up together. Founded and owned by brothers Pat and Mike Johnson, this cozy winery was built in 1981. The brothers constructed the building using adobe, vigas (structural wooden beams in traditional adobe architecture), and latillas (traditional wood ceiling materials). I initially toured the area between Santa Fe and Taos the following year.
The pretty property lies 50 miles north of Santa Fe and 25 miles south of Taos. Operating at 6,100 feet, La Chiripada is also located at one of the highest elevations among commercial US wineries.
This was New Mexico’s first winery. Pat and Mike crafted their first wine, a Burgundian-style red from their four-year-old rootstock, on land in nearby Cañoncito.
Introducing La Chiripada Winery
During my first tour of the area, I didn’t visit the winery, but I later sampled La Chiripada wines in a tasting room. At the time, I was a confirmed white wine drinker. However, I also tasted several red wines and the port. Its sweet, complex, warming character danced across my taste buds.
By the time I visited La Chiripada Winery last week, I had primarily drunk red wine for more than a decade. The sky was cobalt on that day, the air was slightly chilly, and healthy green grapevines shimmered in the early afternoon sun.
The Memorable Flavors
Dressed in a winery-logoed T-shirt, Sam greeted me warmly at the bar as I sipped several reds. Much to my amazement, La Chiripada didn’t charge a specific tasting fee or restrict how many selections guests sampled (I restricted myself because I was driving solo). But there was a well-filled tip jar on the rustic, wood-faced bar.
Wood banquettes lined walls below broad windows near the front of the building. It’s a perfect place for Wine Club members to socialize during special events. Local art lined the walls and tabletops in an adjacent room.
I had already sampled several wines when a party of four joined us. As I verbally swooned over the 2016 port, several of the new visitors sampled my longtime favorite. I purchased a 2021 Chardonnay for a friend and a bottle of Rio Embudo Red (Silver Medal Winner at the Fingerlakes (NY) International Wine Competition) for each of us. Then I splurged on La Chiripada’s delicious New Mexico Port 2016.
La Chiripada Winery By Flavors & Numbers
Today, the brothers appreciate the same wine-making conditions from the beginning. Their minimally processed quality grapes frequently grow at high elevations. Here, the norm is warm summer days and cool nights, while local soil creates fertile growing conditions. And each year, this family-owned winery produces between 2,500 and 3,000 cases of wine.
Through collaboration with their neighbors and owners of Rio Embudo Vines, Jasper and Orlina Tucker, these vineyards yield up to 30 tons of grapes during each harvest season—approximately half of the amount needed for the annual ‘crush.’
There’s a focus on using regional grapes and complementing classic New Mexican cuisine. Signature Special Reserve Riesling, Rio Embudo Red, and Rio Embudo Red Reserve wines incorporate grapes from the lush Rio Embudo Valley where the winery stands.
Additional grapes come from the Mimbres Valley’s lower elevation in southern New Mexico.
Getting Here Can Be Tricky
My navigation system (Siri) didn’t take me far enough along NM Highway 75 after I arrived from Santa Fe. Google maps has had the same problem. After driving around for more than 10 minutes in tiny Dixon, with no sight of La Chiripada, I called the winery from an empty parking lot. I learned I hadn’t driven far enough along Highway 75.
Keep this info for your own visit: The winery operates 2.5 miles west of the NM Highway 75/NM Highway 68 junction. You’ll know you’re getting closer when you have passed the Dixon Cooperative Market on the right. Then look for the winery entrance just beyond Zuly’s Cafe, on the left.
The Award-Winning Wines
Frequently voted ‘The Best Winery in New Mexico,’ La Chiripada’s 2016 port is far from the only varietal that has won awards. Its viognier won a double gold medal at Fingerlakes (NY) International Wine Comp 2016. It also won silver medals at Fingerlakes (NY) International Wine Comp 2017 and Texas International Wine Comp 2019.
A combination of shiraz and ruby cabernet from the Mimbres Valley, Winemakers’ Select Red garnered silver at the Fingerlakes competition. Vintners’ Reserve Red received silver medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition and Texas International Wine Competition in 2019. It also received silver at the Fingerlakes (NY) International Wine Competition 2017. White, sweet Vino de Oro also won a bronze medal at the Texas International Wine Competition 2019.
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When You Visit La Chiripada Winery
At any given time, La Chiripada Winery offers up to 20 white, red, and dessert wines for onsite sipping and/or shipping (minimum six bottles). So, the next time you explore north of Santa Fe, visit this winery where natural beauty meets beautiful flavors. Use Wander With Wonder, an excellent resource when planning winetasting trips to New Mexico, California, Washington, or anywhere great wines abound.