Vivac Winery: A High Elevation Refuge for Wine Lovers in the Heart of New Mexico

By Published On: November 30, 2023

Credit: Douglas Merriam

For two brothers and their wives, Vivac Winery was more than just a business venture. It was a dream come true. Jesse and Chris Padberg, along with their spouses MIchele and Liliana, turned their passion for winemaking into a world-class enterprise that produces some of the most acclaimed wines in New Mexico.  Inspired by the winemaking traditions of South America and Europe, Vivac Winery is located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  From humble beginnings in a small adobe house, to becoming certified sommeliers, and award winning winemakers, the family has made Vivac Winery a source of pride in New Mexico.

Vivac, meaning “High Altitude Refuge,” showcases three estate vineyards, each with its unique terroir and challenges. The estate vineyards are situated between 5,000 and just slightly over 6,000 feet, making them some of the highest in the world. This gives the grapes a unique advantage: thicker skins, deeper phenols, and greater complexity from UV-B exposure. However, it also poses difficulties for the grape growers, who have to deal with water scarcity, bird predation, and frost damage.

The Padberg family, who founded Vivac Winery in 1998, embraces a winemaking philosophy that honors New Mexico’s unique terroir and rich viticultural history. They use 100% New Mexico-grown grapes, sourced from their own vineyards and other local growers. They produce dry wines with balanced acidity, complex flavors, and a focus on grape varieties, embodying the Old World style of winemaking.

Credit: Vivac Winery

One of their signature wines is Malbec, a grape that originated in Cahors, France, and is now widely grown in Argentina. Vivac Winery’s Malbec is unlike any other: it is powerful and elegant, with an earthy complexity that reflects the high-altitude vineyards of southern New Mexico. Each vintage exhibits a consistent style while capturing the nuances of the terroir, resulting in wines that are both familiar and expressive.

Another standout wine is their Tempranillo, a grape that is native to Spain and is the main variety in Rioja. Vivac Winery believes that Tempranillo will become the signature grape of New Mexico in the future, and they are dedicated to showcasing its potential. They age their Tempranillo exclusively in French Oak, instead of the traditional American Oak, resulting in a wine with greater finesse and elegance. 

Vivac Winery is not only a leader in New Mexico’s wine industry, but also a contributor to its growth and development. New Mexico is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the United States, dating back to 1629 when Spanish monks planted the first grapevines. In 2029, New Mexico will celebrate the 400th anniversary of wine production, and Vivac Winery is proud to be part of this historic milestone. New Mexico is also a hub for wine education, with several colleges and universities offering winemaking programs that attract students from around the world.

As Vivac Winery celebrates two decades of crafting exceptional wines, they embark on the next chapter with unwavering passion and a vision that extends far beyond their vineyards. Their commitment to producing wines that embody the spirit of the land remains steadfast, as they continue to refine their techniques and explore new horizons. They envision a new winery and event space that will not only accommodate larger gatherings but also serve as a testament to their enduring legacy. At the heart of their aspirations lies the desire to nurture their family business, ensuring that the Vivac name continues to grace the New Mexico winemaking landscape for generations to come.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story.  As always, the top priority is to provide the readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

Credit: Vivac Winery

2021 Petit Verdot- a complex and structured wine with a bouquet of black fruits, leather, and spice. The palate is rich and balanced, with layers of fruit, acidity, tannin, and oak. The wine has a long and deep finish, and will age gracefully for years.

2023 Pinot Meunier Nouveau – a light and fruity wine, made in a Beaujolais style to celebrate the year’s harvest and the winery’s special anniversary. It has a bright ruby color with a fresh and floral nose. The flavors are bursting with strawberries, raspberries, and cherries, with a hint of earthiness. 

2021 Tempranillo – a smooth and medium-bodied wine with a deep ruby-red color. The nose reveals aromas of ripe red fruits, with a touch of spice. The palate is round with soft tannins and a smooth finish.

2022 Rosé of Sangiovese – red berry notes and a touch of floral and spice. The wine shows a good balance of acidity and fruit, with a crisp and clean finish.

2022 Chardonnay- a refreshing and vibrant wine that has a crisp acidity and a mineral backbone. The wine preserves the natural fruit flavors of grapefruit and lemon, without any oak or butter influence.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .