A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Taos, New Mexico

February 28th, 2004

The Mountains of Taos

The Mountains of Taos

Taos is a charming town in northern New Mexico that offers culture, history, outdoor adventure and great food. This region in the southwestern U.S. is beautiful because the Rocky Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to the flat Taos valley. As seen below, the mountains almost glow at sunset. The town of Taos is small, about 4,500 people, only 1/10 the size of its better known cousin Sante Fe. But Taos is a terrific place to visit because it’s quaint, friendly, and well proportioned in size allowing you to truly experience all it has to offer.

In the 1890s Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschin were passing through Taos. Thankfully a faulty wagon wheel forced them to stop long enough to appreciate the unbelievable light, and how it reflected off the mountains. This natural beauty made them decide to stay; and subsequently set up the Taos Art Society. Artists have been flocking to the town ever since. Today there are many art galleries, museums, and numerous cultural exhibits. The style of art varies dramatically from early American, dating back to the days of Kit Carson, to the ultramodern paintings or metal sculptures of today. Taos is also know for its collections of silver and turquoise jewelry and Indian pottery.

The architecture of Taos is an art form in itself. The buildings, whether business or residential, are almost all adobe. The town square becomes a cultural gathering spot for many events, concerts, and unique festivals. Taos continues to be proud of its history, and two inns that are representative of this heritage are: Hotel La Fonda and the Historic Inn of Taos which has small pueblo fireplaces in most rooms.

Taos Town Square

Taos Town Square

But the beauty is not just found in the art galleries. Taos sits in a wide valley, filled with fields of sagebrush, and is framed on three sides by majestic mountain peaks. The Rio Grande River cuts through the center of the valley in a gorge that is hundreds of feet below the valley floor. Several hundred years ago the river carved a path through this rock, leaving behind this amazing feat of nature. Taos is blessed with over 300 days of sunshine, which brilliantly showcases the red rock in both the mountains and the gorge. Although the valley looks almost barren with miles of the ubiquitous sagebrush, it provides an excellent canvas for the dramatic changes as you near the mountains. Along the riverbeds which are fed by melting snow from the mountains, there are rows of cottonwoods and aspens that provide unbelievable foliage spring through fall.

Bavarian Restaurant

Bavarian Restaurant

These mountains soar to over 13,000 feet and provide a huge playground for outdoor adventure. Taos Ski Valley Resort is about 30 minutes from downtown and offers excellent skiing. It has 110 runs with 51% of them expert. It may not be as large as Vail or St. Moritz, but it has tall peaks, challenging well-maintained runs, and the shortest lift lines you have ever seen. A true highlight is the Bavarian Restaurant located about half way up the mountain. Imagine sitting outside at a large picnic table looking up at the slopes, while the sun beats down on your face. You are served a delicious bowl of goulash, and a pint of good German beerÂ….heaven. After lunch, there are lounge chairs out front to rest and soak up the sun. There are two inns located right on the mountain: Hotel St. Bernard and The Inn at Snake Dance. Each provides the perfect combination of convenience and luxury

As we think of the Southwest, hot spicy chilies come to mind. Orlando’s is an excellent restaurant that serves authentic New Mexican cuisine. Enchiladas, burritos, and tamales are served with red chili sauce, green chili sauce or Christmas (a combination of red & green). But the food in Taos is not all beans and chilies. The Inn at Casa de Las Chimeneas had a five course wine tasting dinner which illustrates it’s sophistication and culinary capabilities. Joseph’s Table was my favorite restaurant, perfecting such dishes as seared foie gras and venison with a port wine sauce. Doc Martins and Lamberts are two other restaurants that stand out as well.

Taos is not for those that want total r&r. It’s a place for those that want to see the mountains, experience the culture, enjoy the art, and eat great food.

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