Ask Wine Wizard

Growing Grapes In Albuquerque

TroubleShooting

Bill Mech — Clive, Iowa asks,
Q

I’ve lived in the Upper Midwest for long enough to know what grows well here (Marquette and La Crescent are two of my favorites) and what doesn’t (Vitis vinifera of any sort). However, I’ll be retiring to Albuquerque, New Mexico soon and have no clue what grows there. Ideally, some Vitis vinifera can survive the winters. It looks like 6b or 7a are the USDA zones there, which are warmer than here, but not exactly the 8s and 9s of California. I would gladly accept any suggestions you can offer about growing backyard vines in Albuquerque?

A
I’m thrilled for your new move because Albuquerque is just about as far north in New Mexico as you want to be planting traditional wine grapes of Vitis vinifera. Many grape types thrive in this drier, sunnier and often higher-altitude state, and some fabulous wines (Gruet’s amazing sparkling wines are some of the best-known) are being produced there. That being said, cold-hardy natives like Concord and Niagara do best in Northern New Mexico, whereas Albuquerque and south remain temperate enough in the winter to safely grow traditional wine grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Like you said, it’s not a state that’s quite as temperate as California. Although you don’t have to worry about the rot and mildew problems like you do in the Midwest. Winterkill due to extreme cold remains a concern for points north of Albuquerque. Since you’re right on that north/south zone border, I recommend you think about grapes and wine styles that are early-ripening, don’t need high sugars to produce a nice wine, and that do well in cooler or higher altitude climates. My top choices
Response by Alison Crowe.