A History of La Viña

We had no way of knowing how choosing Albuquerque NM as our new home in 1989 (over other places in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and California) would change our lives. My hobbies of cooking and wine appreciation picqued my interest in a job offer as Anderson Valley Vineyard’s Assistant Winemaker. I thought it would be an interesting product to learn to make, not just to drink. On-the-job training, under a wine consultant from California allowed me to take over winemaking six months later when the Head Winemaker took another job in California. Anderson Valley Vineyards was the largest selling winery in New Mexico, at the time, with the grapes coming from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Making many varieties and many styles provided a great learning experience.

In 1991, we had “an offer we couldn’t refuse” to take over production and tasting room sales for Bieganowski Cellars in El Paso, the parent company of La Viña. Producing 25,000 cases per year, this position added even more to my wine production knowledge. In 1992, the owner, a local doctor, decided to discontinue his wine business. Denise and I bought La Viña and in a period of just over 3 years progressed from wine consumers to winery owners. New Mexico’s oldest operating winery, La Viña was started in 1977 in a small adobe building with 14 acres of vineyards. We leased that property until the current property became available in 1998. It was a 44 acre jalapeño farm and “No, the grapes never tasted like chiles.”

We originally planted 24 different varieties of grapes with many different clones. The more diversity you can get in the grapes, the more diversity in the wine. After receiving many accolades in both State and National wine competitions, we knew that we could make great wine here in the Mesilla Valley. Our climate is not that different than that of central California. We make wine from our single vineyard location using different yeast strains, fermentation styles and aging regimens. Since we are an Estate Bottled Vineyard Winery, we produce all of our wines from our vineyard.

My background in farming as young man was valuable in our transition to both a grape growing and wine making business. Any cook will tell you that you cannot make great preserves with over-ripe, green or rotten fruit. Winemakers say the same thing about making great wine. Hand thinning half of the grapes, controlling fungal diseases with spraying every two weeks, covering the entire vineyard with netting to protect from bird damage to the fruit…these are all necessary to produce grape quality to make great wine. Quality begins in the vineyard and we try to take the right steps to produce great wines that will be enjoyed by visitors to our winery.

Once the grapes are at the winery, there is no time to lose. We must crush, destem, adjust PH, press and inoculate the grapes with select yeast cultures to start the fermentation before deterioration begins! A whole year of work in the vineyard can be ruined in just one day, if we don’t process the fruit at the peak of its luscious fruitiness. The romance of winemaking…involves a whole lot of work.

Denise and I both worked long, hard hours in the vineyard, the winery, and in sales in the early years. We now have a great team that will help us move La Viña into the future, sharing our commitment to produce wines that we are proud for you to enjoy with friends and family.


PASSIONATELY, The Stark Family