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Local oases offer lush ways to retreat and rejuvenate.

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Move Over, Napa Valley

Fine wine has to come from California, Italy or France, right? OK, maybe Australia or New Zealand these days, even Washington State. But New Mexico? Deming-based New Mexico Wineries, the state's largest winemaker, keeps filling its trophy case with proof that wine from the Land of Enchantment can compete with the big guns of the business. Its wines—sold under labels St. Clair, Blue Teal, DH Lescombes, Mademoiselle Vineyards and San Felipe—have picked up 16 medals in various international competitions so far this year. Ten different varieties of the company's wine have won prizes in five different contests, facing off against the best of, yes, California, France, Italy, New Zealand and other US wineries.

The winery's most prize-winning wines to date have been the St. Clair Winery Malvasia Bianca and Blue Teal Vineyards Muscat Canelli, each with three medals including a gold at the Los Angeles Wines of the World Competition for the Malvasia Bianca. Other top prizes have included the Critic's Gold Medal in the Critic's Challenge International Wine Competition, awarded to the St. Clair Winery Refosco, and the Chairman's Award for Unanimous Gold at the Riverside International Wine Competition, to the St. Clair Winery Bellissimo.

New Mexico Wineries was established in 1983 by fifth-generation winemaker Herve Lescombes, who immigrated to the United States from Burgundy, France. Now another family member, Florent Lescombes, is the company's president. He says, "From our vineyards to our processing, my family has always known that southern New Mexico is an ideal environment for producing world-caliber wines. The world is beginning to recognize the quality of this region."

New Mexico Wineries produced more than 100,000 gallons of wine last year, and continues to increase production annually. All of the wine is made in Deming, but the winery runs tasting rooms in Deming, Las Cruces and Albuquerque. It also sells via the Internet, at www.SouthwestWines.com.

 

Watch on the Potomac

Anybody still doubting that Gov. Bill Richardson plans to throw his Stetson into the ring in the 2008 run for the White House must have missed his appearance at the recent Democratic bloggers' convention in Las Vegas. The "Yearly Kos" gathering is named for the popular Daily Kos Web site by liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas. Among the possible presidential candidates who came calling this year were ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold—and our own Gov. Richardson. (Notable for her absence was New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.)

Richardson spent less than 24 hours in Vegas, jetting in for a bloggers breakfast, speaking to the Young Democrats and appearing on an energy-issues panel, before flitting back to Santa Fe that same evening. "I believe bloggers are playing an increasingly important role in 2006 and 2008," Richardson said, playing to the crowd. He coyly added, "As a political leader, I want to find a way to deal with them for my political health."

That same week last month, Richardson's political health—at least, White House-wise—took a turn for the worse with the release of a Des Moines Register poll of likely 2008 Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. The surprise winner was ex-Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 vice-presidential nominee, who led the presumed favorite, Sen. Clinton, 30 percent to 26 percent. Third place went to 2004 nominee Sen. John Kerry, at 12 percent, while homestate Gov. Vilsack garnered a disappointing 10 percent. Richardson finished somewhere among "Other," below even the two to three percent scores of Warner, Feingold, Clark, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and ex-South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle. While the Washington Post observed, "None of these candidates is well-known enough now for any survey to accurately measure their potential showing in the 2008 caucuses," Richardson clearly has his work cut out for him if he wants to position himself as the alternative to Sen. Clinton.

On the bright side for the governor's 2008 aspirations, however, at least he's among the potential candidates the other side most fears. In a ranking of "The 10 Most Dangerous Democratic Candidates in 2008" on the Right Wing News site, Richardson ranked second—behind only ex-Gov. Warner. According to the site, Richardson "is viewed as a moderate and has some charisma," and managed to serve in the Clinton administration "without the sort of crushing baggage that Hillary is saddled with." (Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton ranked fourth, after Bayh.)

Those who bet on politics also have hope for Richardson, ranking him a surprising seventh among all contenders of either party, at 12-1 odds of becoming president, on the Sportsbook.com Web site. He trails only Sen. Hillary Clinton (3-1), Arizona Sen. John McCain (6-1), ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (10-1), Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback (10-1) and Virginia Sen. George Allen Jr. (10-1)—all, save Clinton, GOP contenders. Bettors favor Richardson over such Democratic rivals as Warner (15-1), Bayh (20-1), Edwards (30-1) and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden (30-1). Before anybody starts packing for Washington, DC, however, keep in mind that bets were also placed on such extreme long-shots as the constitutionally challenged Arnold Schwarzenegger (250-1) and Bill Clinton (300-1), Clint Eastwood (750-1), Laura Bush (1,000-1), Bill Maher (2,500-1) and filmmaker Michael Moore (7,500-1).

 

Billy the Kid's Kids?

After a Florida accountant was recently identified by DNA testing as being a direct, if distant, descendant of Genghis Khan, interest in the genetic legacy of the dead and famous has soared—including our own Billy the Kid. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy's Famous DNA page (www.isogg.org/famousdna.htm) details the DNA of famous ancestors ranging from Thomas Jefferson to the czars of Russia and Marie Antoinette. Among those listed as "coming soon," according to the New York Times: Christopher Columbus, Joan of Arc and Billy the Kid. That other famous outlaw, Jesse James, has already been analyzed.

But hopeful descendants of Henry Antrim, a.k.a. William Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid, shouldn't hold their breath. Digging a bit deeper on the site reveals that the supposed source of the Kid's DNA is the corpse of John Miller, an Arizona man who claimed to be Billy (having supposedly missed or survived being shot by Pat Garrett). Former Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan and Capitan Mayor Steve Sederwall obtained the DNA from Miller's remains, buried in Prescott, Ariz. You'll recall that Sullivan and Sederwall were the ones who earlier wanted to dig up Billy's mom, Catherine Antrim, from her grave in Silver City's Memory Lane Cemetery, to get DNA samples for comparison. Besides Miller, Ollie P. "Brushy Bill" Roberts of Hico, Texas, also claimed to be Billy the Kid, who history says is buried in Fort Sumner, NM. Based on the flimsy evidence for Miller's claim, however, the only thing a comparison with his DNA could prove is that you're descended from an obscure cowboy with delusions of grandeur who died in the 1930s.

 

Ground Control to Major Tom

Not to keep piling on New Mexico's proposed spaceport in Upham, where Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic promises to give space tourists a ride to zero gravity (see the February 2006 Desert Exposure), but. . . Zero Gravity Corp. recently announced it will start flying as many as seven trips a week from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., using the same runway as the Space Shuttle. The company already offers 90-minute flights aboard a modified Boeing 727-200 from Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Passengers experience a mere 25-60 seconds of weightlessness, compared to the five minutes of zero-g promised aboard Virgin Galactic's three-hour flights. But the tab is only $3,750, versus $200,000 to blast off from the Southwest New Mexico Spaceport. (For the math-impaired, that's $150 a second on the low end for Zero-Gee, as it's known, versus $667 per second of weightlessness for Virgin Galactic.) And, of course, space junkies can do it now, rather than waiting until 2009 or 2010.

 

Media Watch

Speaking of space, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis—the man behind the X Prize competition, New Mexico's spaceport and the Rocket Racing League—has now added "advertising icon" to his lengthy resume. Diamandis is featured in an ad for The Glenlivit single-malt Scotch whisky, part of a series glorifying "The Originators." The text details Diamandis' involvement with the X Prize and concludes by noting that his story "echoes that of George Smith, who overcame the prevailing forces to found The Glenlivet and start a revolution in distilling."

We also spotted Ivan Thompson, the "Cowboy Cupid" (see the February 2006 Desert Exposure) formerly of Columbus, in a recent Business Week item about independent films. Thompson's matchmaking adventures are the subject of a documentary, Cowboy del Amor, that the magazine used as an example of a new push by online DVD giant Netflix to distribute indie films.

 

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