The wine business grew until the end of the 19th century, when weather conditions took a toll on the vineyards, and by 1920 there was no production at all. But in the 1970s a rebirth started, and today there are more than 40 wineries in the state.
Rio Grande Winery is a lovely 10-acre vineyard located near the town of Mesilla that produces both red and white wines and offers wine-tasting on the weekends. Amaro Winery Tasting Room in Mesilla is a casual venue where you can sip a glass of wine, either indoors or on the patio, and then buy a bottle to go.
Amaro wines are produced using grapes grown in the region, and they have won several awards, including a Gold Medal and Best in Show for their 2010 Gewurztraminer at the State Fair Wine Competition in Albuquerque.
Nature-lovers and hikers don't have to go far to get into the unspoiled desert landscape. Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, one of the state's newest parks, encompasses 300 acres of bosque (riverside forest) along the Rio Grande and 600 acres of Chihuahuan Desert. The park is particularly interesting in the early morning when the birds, rabbits and reptiles are out.
Asombro Institute for Science Education (formerly Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park) is a 960-acre park that includes a section of the Dona Ana Mountains. A 1.5 mile circular trail offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Dripping Springs Natural Area will delight birders, since there is an impressive variety of birdlife, including the ladder-backed woodpecker, golden eagle and cactus wren. A three-mile round-trip hike ends at the ruins of a resort and sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in the 1920s, shaded by craggy mountain faces that weep water.
Those fascinated with space will want to see Spaceport America where, in the not too distant future, you won't need to be an astronaut to travel into space. Spaceport America Preview Bus Tours of the work in progress facility are available — by reservation only — Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a minimum of three people.
Besides a general tour of the area, visitors will see the various components of the Spaceport infrastructure currently under construction, including the airfield, operations center, fuel-storage complex and terminal hangar facility, as well the 10,000-foot-long-by-200-foot-wide concrete "spaceway."
WHEN YOU GO
To learn more about all that the Las Cruces area has to offer: www.staysunny.org.
Ellen Clark is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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