HOW IT STARTED:
Vivác Winery is the creation of brothers Jesse and Chris Padberg, along with their wives, Michele and Liliana Padberg, respectively. In November of 1998 Jesse and Chris embarked on a new mission “to make the best wine possible and have a good time doing it!” This meant professionally crafted, world-ranked, dry red wines; a first for New Mexico. While the brothers had grown up experimenting with making fruit wines from the family farm, this journey would prove to be one that required dedication, devotion, sacrifice and courage.
Jesse, having spent a semester abroad in Chile, had fallen in love with wine…mostly because he was a college student and the wine was great (aka cheap) and the beer was bad (aka expensive). But it wasn’t until he was on a backpacking trip through Europe after graduation that he felt the calling to be a winemaker. A Spanish Literature major, Jesse had found himself pondering where his life would lead with this ambiguous degree. It was while drinking over a bottle of wine in the majestic rolling vineyards of France that things clicked. A phone call to his brother Chris, at that time in school in New Orleans, consisted of infectious excitement with the statement “let’s start a winery!” and Chris, always an adventurous man and having spent his whole life making fruit wines with his brother, jumped at the chance to return home and create something that relied on agriculture and art. Not yet 21, Chris had vision and could see the potential of this venture and the brilliance of combining his and his brothers skill-sets.
The brothers began reading every publication they could find about grapes, winemaking, and the world of wine. They planted their 1st vineyard and devoured research on vineyard management. Their then girlfriends, now wives, Michele and Liliana jumped in feet first supporting the dream of the winery into existence. The foursome found inspiration in European countries, and were especially drawn in by the Old World wine culture, where winemaking is a dance between art and science.Through extensive travel around the world and mentorships with other local winemakers, they learned about the wine business in general and more specifically about the wine business in Northern New Mexico; “At every turn people were there to help us out” they say. Continuing education, certifications and advanced wine chemistry classes have allowed them to better their craft with each vintage and push the business into a leading example of success.
Michele and Liliana, have passionately dedicated themselves to the winery focusing on the business side with formation of the branding, marketing, managing the tasting room, distribution, events, staff and wine clubs. Jesse and Chris, often working around the clock, have built all the winery facilities and tasting rooms, toiled in the now expansive vineyards and have sacrificed in every way imaginable. It is a team effort for the four giving them the unique ability to take the winery from square one to International Award Winning pioneers of New Mexico.
WINEMAKING AND THE WINERY
Great winemaking starts in the vineyard and that is what Jesse and Chris have done. With a thorough knowledge of vineyard management from root stock and trellising to microclimates and vine nutrition, Chris and Jesse have created 3 different Estate Vineyards by way of test plots and research giving them the ability to craft wines that stand out from the crowd. Additionally their vast comprehension of winemaking techniques, allow Jesse and Chris to shape the Vivac wines into not only International Award Winners, but wines that when tasted blind are believed to be from some of the world’s most prestigious wine making regions. These brothers are a nonstop team striving for excellence vintage after vintage with hand harvesting, hand sorting, using gentle traditional basket presses, lightly filtering, the highest standard of real cork (completely TCA free) and hand bottling every single bottle. While ultimately different in what each brings to the table, sometimes one having delved into yeast strains, another falling down the rabbit hole of micro oxidation, Jesse and Chris see eye to eye on the importance of listening to each individual wine and shaping its evolution independently. The practice of pairing yeasts to specific wines, slow temperature controlled fermentations and aging in a combination or stainless steel and French oak barriques is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to thoughtful choices for these winemakers.
Making the wines, testing the wines, tasting the wines, and working the vineyards, each step done by hand, together, they have mastered the team effort it takes to bring science and art together in the bottle. The perfectionist in each of them drives the two forward to create ever-better wines. Jesse and Chris’ studies through UC Davis and The International Wine Guild continue, helping them to unearth the secrets to “the perfect wine.” By nurturing each varietal, coaxing each wine into its best potential, Jesse and Chris show their true love and passion for winemaking.
The winery facility is on the family property where Chris and Jesse were born and raised, tucked into the Dixon foothills, surrounded by apple orchards. The original building is a 500-square-foot Rastra-block space built by the winemakers in 1999. This space was quickly outgrown and in 2004 Chris and Jesse built a 1500-square-foot metal building to expand. This new building was fully insulated, and equipped with a heating and cooling system designed to keep the wines at a constant temperature from fermentation to oak aging and finally to bottle. The initial building is now used for storage of bottled wines awaiting release. The total winemaking facility is 2000 square feet, not nearly enough for the 20% yearly growth in production. In 2018 Chris and Jesse built a barn to house vineyard equipment and in 2019 a storage space to house materials needed in the bottling process. Each year of growth requires more space and eventually we hope will result in a full winery facility with event spaces and a new expanded tasting room in the years to come.
As of 2019 the winery houses 100 French oak barriques, 6- 260 gallon stainless steel tanks, 7- 500 gallon stainless steel tanks 4- 1000 gallon stainless steel tanks, 2- 2000 gallon stainless steel tanks and the chemistry lab.
WHAT IS VIVÁC?
The word “Vivác” is a Spanish term meaning “high-altitude refuge,” and Vivác Winery is just that. Striving for excellence since 1998, this winery has been using the highest quality New Mexico grapes without exception awarding this boutique winery one of the first NM True seals, but the extensive talent and education of the winemakers is what has garnered the winery a list of International Wine Competition Awards. In addition, Vivác Winery has earned the title of Highest Rated Red Wine Producer in New Mexico’s History by way of Wine Enthusiast Magazine ratings. James Suckling of Wine Spectator awarded these wines 91 points and Sunset Magazine said Vivác has “Notable up and coming winemakers” and is a “Winery to discover now!“. HGTV included Vivac as their “Top 22 Most Beautiful Wineries Across the USA” and USA Today says Vivac wines are “Wines to drink every day“. Craving recognition on the world stage, the Vivác Winery family has pushed the boundaries of what New Mexico wine can be!
By choosing only the highest-quality products like TCA and taint free corks to Riedel glasses in the tasting rooms, Vivác is a rarity. Weekly events such as Karaoke or Live Music Happy Hours at the Dixon tasting room invites tourists and locals alike to come drink in the breathtaking view. 14 craft beers on tap, nitro coffee, gourmet picnic items and the famous Ek.Chuah handmade chocolates make Vivac Winery a destination like no other. But that isn’t all, Vivac also reaches out into the neighboring communities to partner with sports races, art organizations, rotary and other clubs as well as historic preservation and environmental concern groups. This winery believes in making a difference not only in the wine industry, but in the world at large.
Vivac is the heart and soul of the 2 couples that form the winery’s ownership and the litmus test to hold all other wineries to.
While a major portion of the grapes used at Vivác are sourced from the southern part of New Mexico in Deming at 4,300 ft, these grapes are hand picked and transported to the winery facility in the north via refrigerated truck and all winemaking happens onsite at Vivac.
Vivác’s own cultivated Estate Vineyards are organically farmed and are in 3 distinct microclimates within a 15 minute drive from each other and the winery facility. The first to be planted was the “Fire Vineyard” in 1999. Organically farmed, this vineyard sits at 6,000 feet, and was so named because then 8-year-old Jesse and 6-year-old Chris lit the field on fire with fireworks. This vineyard is planted on the family property tucked into the hills of Dixon, near the winery facility and surrounded by apple orchards. When Jesse and Chris planted the vineyard, little was known in the area about what would grow. Local vintners and growers recommended French hybrids, including Leon Millot, Baco Noir, and Marechal Foch. As years have passed and these highly skilled winemakers learned to tame the briar-like rustic qualities of these grapes, the Fire Vineyard estate wine has become a customer favorite!
The newly planted “1725 Vineyard” is organically farmed and sits at 5,800 feet. It was named based on the information given to us about the land itself by Dixon native and historian, Estevan Arellano. The land where the tasting room and new vineyard are located once belonged to Mr. Arellano’s great-grandmother’s companion, Francisco Martin, a great-great-grandson of the original Francisco Martin who settled the Embudo Valley in 1725. The couple never married, but had three children. The land passed down through generations and finally to Vivác.
Originally the boundaries of this land stretched from the Barrancos Blancos (the white sandstone mountain that is on our label and serves as a landmark to our tasting room) down to the Angostura (which is the present-day Arroyo de la Mina). The Padbergs were struck by the history of the land and the long-lost years of the past; what this soil has seen is awe-inspiring. To quickly articulate all of this, you need say no more then “1725,” and thus the new vineyard name was found. In 2008 the adjacent 2 acres to the tasting room property were purchased, and in 2010, another 8 acres were purchased there which includes a vineyard house. The “1725 Vineyard”, thus far, has been planted in white Chenin Blanc grapes (later pulled out having not been successful and replaced with red Arandell grapes), white Riesling grapes, white Gruner Veltliner, red Petit Verdot grapes, and red Pinot Munier grapes. Vivác looks forward to expanding the vineyard each year with more of these grapes and possible new ones.
Our 3rd Estate property in the Dixon area is the Abbott Vineyard. This property was planted by the Abbott family, along the banks of the Rio Grande, in 1989. This 4 acre plot was planted in Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Riesling and Chardonnay. This slightly different micro climate, at 5,600 ft elevation, allows warmer climate grapes to thrive. We started overseeing the production and management of this vineyard in 2016.
Vivác Winery, along with other growers in the area, are currently working to have the Northern Rio Grande Valley named as its own AVA (American Viticulture Area). This will help New Mexico greatly expand its reputation and recognition in the wine world as well as signify the Vivac Estate Vineyards as having something unique and special to the entire wine world.
THE TASTING ROOM
Located at the corner of Highway 75 (Dixon) and Highway 68 (between Taos and Santa Fe), this 900-square-foot adobe building was built by the winemakers themselves. With vaulted ceilings and a striking flagstone bar, the tasting room offers guests a chance to taste Internationally Awarded Vivác wines for every palate. Guests can shop for wine gifts (corkscrews, a library of wine education books, wine racks, games, logo shirts, Riedel logo glasses, and much more) and enjoy the famous handmade chocolates by in-house Chocolatier Ek.Chuah Chocolates. Looking for something special to take home alongside your favorite wines? Try the incredible handmade nefertiti pasta or N8 Bees Honey from hives on our vineyard property. Jesse, Chris, Michele & Liliana have a thirst for knowledge that is accompanied by a desire to share that information and the excitement of the wine world with customers. All Vivac staff receive an intensive training and testing in order to assure each guest has the best experience possible and leaves the tasting room elated by the time spent there. This Nationally renowned winery doesn’t only serve their impressive list of wines, but also has craft New Mexico beers, local hard cider and even nitro coffee all on tap.
Outside, the rock-framed flower beds welcome visitors and draw them along flagstones paths into the walled retreat of the patio and shade covered lawn. The views are breathtaking, one gazing over the vineyard toward the rippling river and majestic mountains, and the other of the dramatic sandstone mountain, Barrancos Blancos, which is depicted in an elegant graphic on the Vivác Winery labels.
The Dixon tasting room is open 7 days a week all year long, with free Wi-Fi, Live Music Happy Hours & Karaoke (from spring through fall), drink specials and gourmet picnic items that attracts locals and tourists alike to the 6,000ft high altitude refuge to drink in the view.