Each year at the end of summer, vineyards come alive with the excitement and rush of harvest.
After months of careful nurturing and observation, wine makers all over, finally give the word, “it’s time.”
As Autumn approaches and our state capital gets ready for the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, I thought it time I reached out to one of our local vintners, to get the scoop on their harvest (and winemaking), season aqui en Taos.
Michele Padberg and I met one day for coffee, and over the course of an hour or so, she filled me in on not only this coming harvest season, but also Vivac’s considerable accomplishments since Chris and Jesse Padberg started the winery almost two decades ago.
The Padberg brothers were born and raised in Dixon, New Mexico. After graduating from Taos High, Chris attended Tulane University in New Orleans for three years before transferring to and graduating from the University of New Mexico in 2001. While at UNM, Chris worked on his concept for Vivác Winery with Jesse, while completing his degree in history.
Jesse attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he earned his degree in Spanish Literature.
Michele also grew up in Taos, but left to study in Chicago, and then Boulder after high school, and was home visiting one Christmas when she ran into Jesse at a party.
“He told me he and Chris were thinking of starting a winery, and asked me to stay and help them get it started.” She remembered. “We were falling in love, so I said yes, and here we are!” She laughed.
The couple now live in Dixon with their son, Denim.
The word “Vivác” is a Spanish term meaning “high-altitude refuge,” and Vivác Winery strives to be just that.
By choosing only the highest-quality products – from the best New Mexico grapes, to the most advanced winemaking equipment and process’, plus real corks, Vivác aspires to the highest standards,
The Padbergs approach their wines with reverence; hand-harvesting and sorting grapes, even using a gentle bladder pump and gravity feed so as not to bruise the wines.
Only high-quality French oak barriques or stainless steel barrels are used for aging, and after bottling, the wines rest for a year before they are sold.
Their ever-expanding Estate Vineyards are all farmed organically.
The two brothers – Jesse and Chris – from the start have been an unstoppable team – from making the wines, testing the wines, tasting the wines, and working the vineyards, each step has been done by hand, together.
TTheir continuing studies through UC Davis and The International Wine Guild have assisted them in their search to discover the secret to making “the perfect wine.”
The Padberg brothers’ passion for winemaking – which began with Chris’ travels to South America while studying Spanish – has not subsided, in fact it continues to drive them in their quest for perfection.
Chris too, now lives with his wife, Liliana Zavala Padberg, their son Maddox and daughter Chablis in Dixon.
The brothers and their wives continue to keep Vivac a family affair, even as it grows beyond their wildest expectations.
Michele and Liliana run the business side of Vivác Winery.
Michele is the Director of Marketing and Publicity while Liliana manages the Tasting Room and Wine Club. Together they have brought Vivac into the forefront of New Mexico Winemaking through events they both curate and participate in, as well as using social media for promotion along with advertising.
In addition to her work with Vivác, Michele is Creative Director for Red Hot Mama Wines and the host of “Great Grape TV” a wine travel show due to air soon.
With her striking looks and great style, Michele’s background in fine art and theatre comes as no surprise and serves her well during events to promote the family business.
She introduced Vivac’s wines at a Farm to Table dinner hosted at El Monte Sagrado earlier this summer, and I was impressed by both her knowledge and composure.
She studied at the The Art Institute of Chicago, and spent an additional 3 years as a B.F.A. Theatre major with an emphasis on Performance at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Michele is an Executive Sommelier, certified from the International Wine Guild, and with her extensive knowledge of fermentation and taste profiles, she created Kissable Cheeses and is now Vivác’s in-house Fromegére creating hand crafted cheeses.
Her contemporary paintings and Kissable Cheeses are for sale at the Vivác Winery Tasting Room and Gallery.
Her sister-in-law, Liliana was born and raised in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
She has worked as a model and studied photography (both in Mexico and at the University of New Mexico-Taos), prior to completing her sommelier certification at Esencial Sobre Vinos, Tecnica de la Cara, in Argentina.
In addition to her managerial roles with Vivác, Liliana handles the extensive taxes for the winery, happy-hour events, and all their computer programming. Liliana’s Ek.Chuah Chocolates ( hand-made and painted moulded truffles), along with her black-and-white photography are also for sale at Vivac’s Tasting Room and Gallery.
Michele had been keeping her eye on the clock as we chatted while time flew by. And soon it was time for her to fly as well. School was getting out, and she had a kid to pick up!
“Don’t forget to mention we are part of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta fiesta,” she said as she ran out the door, “and also our tasting room at the Railyard in Santa Fe!”
With record-breaking ratings in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Vivác Winery has earned the title of “Highest Rated Red Wine Producer in New Mexico’s History”. Sunset Magazine recently mentioned Vivác under “Notable up and coming wine makers” and “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”.
The Vivác Winery family intends to continue producing excellent wines locally, helping to put New Mexico firmly on the map as Winemaking Country!
For much more about Vivac, their wines, tasting rooms and events, please visit the site linked below this post.
All images thanks to Vivac.