Missy Auge of Santa Fe’s Bishop’s Lodge on Burgundy and New Mexico Wine - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Missy Auge of Santa Fe’s Bishop’s Lodge on Burgundy and New Mexico Wine

Missy Auge started as a bartender at Zinc Wine Bar in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The bar had 10-15 rotating wines-by-the-glass and hosted beverage education classes on Sundays. “We were a bunch of degenerates,” Auge recalls, thinking, “‘Let’s drink for free!’ But then I ended up learning a ton, even though, at that time, I didn’t actually like wine very much.” Then the company ran a contest as incentive to sell bottles, offering a trip to Sonoma. “I won because I was really good at hustling,” Auge said. “I learned that wine was easy to sell if you knew just a tiny thing about it. Because most people don’t know anything about wine–you know a little bit and they’ll usually take your suggestions. That was a good lesson to learn.”

Auge continued her wine education, eventually opening her own restaurant, Molte Luci, in Santa Fe. “I was 27 when I got that opportunity. So I was just rolling with adrenaline and gumption,” she said of the Italian restaurant that lasted three years. Her wine journey then took her to Los Angeles with time at 71 Above and then to Big Sky Montana at the Montage Hotel before landing back in her home state of New Mexico as the Wine Director for Bishop’s Lodge and their fine dining restaurant SkyFire. Auge serves on the board of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, the organization that originally paid to put her through her Introductory Course for the Court of Master Sommeliers. “It’s really special for me to get to come back and be a part of that program again on the other side.” —Alissa Bica

Missy Auge

What regions of wine interest you the most?

I love Burgundy, always. It’s delicious. It’s my go-to when I need to make a pairing work. I had a sample bottle from the rep of Thibault Liger-Belair’s Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru La Toppe au Vert—and I drank it with a cheeseburger from Five Guys. It was literally heaven. And then the next day, I had what was left with steak and it was a completely different wine and just as good—I couldn’t believe it. I’ve sold that wine to anybody I can get to listen to me about it because it goes with so many things. I’ve spent a lot of time buying and hunting for French wine, not only because I like it, but there’s a huge appetite for it. I think people are often afraid to buy French wine, they’re afraid to go out of their comfort zone. But once you get somebody hooked on it, they buy several more bottles while they are here for the weekend and, all of a sudden, your whole case is gone.

If I gave any advice, it’s stay away from the high-end Burgundy, you’ll never go back. (Laughs) I like to drink our stuff that is kind of like high-end Burgundy, but not expensive—German pinot noirs, Northern Italian light reds like Trentino schiava, things like that. Unfortunately, things are harder to buy out here. But I have one on my list, Heger Pinot Noir from Baden—it’s super light, mineral driven, Burgundian and for 70 bucks.

What other categories do you focus on at SkyFire?

I have some New Mexico wine. A lot of people are like, ‘What? There’s New Mexico wine?’ Gruet is probably the most important as far as presence goes, and our biggest seller—I have it by-the-glass and bottle. The Blanc de Blanc is the most versatile. They’ve got some really cool plots of chardonnay and it’s a really yeasty-style wine, exploding out of the bottle. If you need to pop a bottle on stage and make sure it’s going to explode, get Gruet.

Then, I’ve got a couple other local wineries that are mom-and-pop type operations that do everything by themselves in these itty-bitty micro vineyards. It’s not just backyard swill; I’ve found some really good things. St. Clair makes some good wine and they’ve expanded with another winery called Lescombes. They get most of their grapes out of southern New Mexico in Deming, which is where Southern California is in latitude. I’ve got some stuff from Central New Mexico, from Middle Rio Grande Valley AVA. That’s on the west side of Albuquerque. There’s a few more in the Embudo Valley between Santa Fe and Taos. It’s really north and high desert, where there’s a winery called Vivác. They make really dry styles of wine. I sell a lot of their rosé and syrah by-the-glass.

I’m trying to start a house label with Milagro Vineyards. Hopefully, we’ll have some local wine served at Bishop’s Lodge with our label on it within the next year.

What other trends have you noticed?

I sell more albariño here than I have anywhere else. When I was in California, no one knew what it was, but New Mexico loves albariño. I have Familia Torres ‘Pazos das Bruxas’ Albariño by-the-glass and it’s one of my biggest sellers. I don’t like when albariños are too sweaty, like stinky socks. This one is on the clean, floral side. It’s really food friendly. And we’ve got a lot of spicy food in New Mexico—it pairs super well.

Grenache, or garnacha, was really popular here for a long time—I think because people are comfortable with Spanish terms. But then it stopped selling and I sat on it. I had a Gigondas that I switched out with a Côtes du Rhône that was higher in syrah, labeled it as syrah, and it sold like crazy. It was very close in the percentage of grenache as the Gigondas, but people hear what they want.

I have a really diverse clientele. I have locals. And then I’ve got a whole lot of people from Texas, New Yorkers and LA people, too. So, all sorts of different palates. There are definitely a lot of Texans who are gonna drink those giant red cabernets till they die. And God bless them. They pay our bills. California lovers will always be there but, even among them, I’ve sold a lot of Burgundy or Bordeaux.

Based in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Bica is the Associate Editor and Spirits Critic at Wine & Spirits. She is also a sommelier at 71 Above and co-runs the home wine tasting company, Côte Brune and Blonde. In any rare moments of free time, she writes about obscure grape varieties in the blog Off the Beaten Wine Path.

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