ALBUQUERQUE, N.M (KRQE) – As the oldest grape-growing region in the country, New Mexico knows a thing or two about wine. That’s why the City of Albuquerque recently passed a new ordinance allowing wineries and the state wine board to open up tasting rooms in the historic Old Town Plaza.

Wine industry experts say making locally made wine available at a location already heavily populated with tourists will make finding new consumers to take home New Mexico wine products easier than ever.

The history of New Mexico wine dates back to 1629 when Franciscan Monks began growing Spanish grapes in the Rio Grande Valley to make wine for ceremonial purposes. In the nearly 400 years since then, the industry has continued to grow.

It’s estimated the state produces more than 900,000 gallons of wine every year, putting $100 million back into the local economy, and employing roughly 7,000 people.

Winemakers say New Mexico wine is uniquely diverse because of the state’s micro-climates. The variety of temperatures allows wineries to grow all sorts of different grapes with success, giving guests a special opportunity to taste wine made in different regions and recognize that each one has its own unique flavor.

The industry is proving that it’s only getting more popular with some wineries selling New Mexico made products as far away as Japan.

I believe New Mexico can most certainly become a wine destination.

Sean Sheehan, Sheehan Winery

Viva Vino, the state wine board says while the tasting rooms are still in the planning phase, members will work to nail down some of the nuts and bolts of the operation at their October board meeting.

In the meantime, more than 50 wineries are working together to grow the New Mexico brand, discover best processes, and put the state on the map as a wine destination.

I would love for you to say, I’m going home for Thanksgiving or I’m going home to visit family and I’m taking New Mexico wine with me, because this is what I love and this is what I want to showcase to other people from my state.

Jasper Riddle, Noisy Water Winery

Winemakers say working in a state where farming and agriculture is such a big part of the culture makes their work that much more special. They hope New Mexicans can be proud of the products made here and continue to share locally made wine with out of state relatives, just like they might take green chile home for the holidays.

You can learn more about the New Mexico wine Board and its initiatives in growing the state wine industry by clicking here.