Southwest Wines is a family-owned winery located in New Mexico. The company was founded by Hervé Lescombes, who ran a winery in Burgundy with his father before planting in the U.S. in 1981. Southwest’s brands include St. Clair Winery, Soleil Mimosa, D. H. Lescombes, Blue Teal Vineyards and Voluptuous. I recently spoke to Florent Lescombes, Hervé’s son and a sixth-generation winemaker who manages the winery’s operations.
CH: Tell me a little bit of the history behind Southwest Wines.
FL: It was founded in the 1980s by my parents. My father’s family was originally from Prussia, then moved into Northern Africa to one of the first colonies in Algeria. They stated growing grapes and making wine. In the late 50’s and 60’s, a revolution started in Algeria, so by 1962 the family left and my grandfather and father started a vineyard in Burgundy. They were bottling about 50,000 cases a year, but in the late 1970s there were additional restrictions placed on European wineries. So the family looked at land for a new winery in Argentina and California, but ultimately decided to plant grapes in New Mexico.
CH: How important is it to Southwest to be a family company?
FL: It’s who we are and what we do every day. We’re sixth-generation and hoping the seventh comes on board. It’s important to keep that legacy. In the wine business, when you grow and sell grapes, it takes more than one generation to have a successful business. It’s a long-term project that requires a lot of passion.
CH: What specifically makes New Mexico suitable for vineyards?
FL: We have a high evelation of about 4,300 feet, first of all. We have hot days and cool nights, with a 40 degree difference between the two. The area is also very dry, which means we don’t have to spray as many chemicals to control pests. The climate also creates a consistent wine, year after year.
New Mexico is actually the oldest area in the nation for growing grapes – it goes back to the 1600s. The quality and history are both here, and we’re proud to be based in New Mexico.
CH: What can you tell me about Soleil Mimosa?
FL: We started that brand about 20 years ago. It took a long time to formulate that product. We did a lot of trials, visiting different orchards around the country. We wanted to find the best oranges for it. In the last ten years, we’ve found the recipe to make it the best product out there. More recently we added the mango, pineapple and pomegranate flavors, which are all made from fresh-squeezed juice like the original. We also added a can, which has taken off rapidly and now we see competitors doing the same thing.