The Bishop’s Lodge north of Santa Fe has been a destination for those seeking quiet and seclusion for over ninety years. More recently it has become a popular location for horseback riding, exploration and fine dining. The lodge offers spa treatments and a range of physical activities. More recently, managing director Richard Verruni has begun the process of reviving and transplanting the vineyard that had served the lodge in the past when Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy resided there.
Known as a talented horticulturist, the archbishop brought over from France, heritage apple trees and vine cuttings. His origin in Auvergne is near enough to Burgundy that bringing red Burgundy cuttings is a distinct possibility, and Pinot Noir is the red Burgundy grape. The districts of Dijon and Pommard are possible sources of the original vines. His apple trees are still producing and the fruit is made into the lodge’s signature apple butter.
Preserving history seems to be a passion of past caretakers of the sprawling site of the lodge, outbuildings and grounds. Richard was determined to recover something of the priceless 120 year old vines, which had been dug up as part of an expansion in 1969. When he came across an article by wine historian Tom Hill he knew he was on to something. In it, Hall discovered that a past owner of Jacona Valley Vineyards had dug up a grapevine from the lodge and transplanted it. Not cuttings, mind you, but an entire vine with roots going down fifteen feet into the soil.
Richard took up the task to take cuttings back to where the original vineyards had been located. Now that these cuttings are established it will be a matter of replanting, trellising, and waiting for the vines to come of age, usually within four to five years. There are still challenges ahead as these are Pinot Noir vines, notoriously finicky and difficult to work with as many grape growers will testify. Late freezes and hail have damaged more than one vineyard.
While New Mexico wineries have excelled at varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and a wide range of Italian and Spanish types; Pinot Noir has not been among them. If the newly planted vines are Pinot Noir, which only DNA testing can prove conclusively, the possibility of bringing back to life this ancient vineyard is an exciting event.
Bishop’s Lodge also offers a series of wines called The Heritage Collection that are produced by St. Clair Winery in Deming. Perhaps one day a Bishop’s Lodge Pinot Noir may take its place next to the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Grigio wines they presently offer at the Las Fuentas restaurant. Imagine tasting a wine whose very roots go back to 19th century Burgundy.