Heating It Up | Susan's Fine Wine & Spirits | SantaFe.com

Walking into Susan’s Fine Wines & Spirits recently, I spied a lovely salmon-colored Provençal rosé, Rock Angel, from Chateau d’Eclans. Made from a distinctive blend of Grenache and Rolle, it’s the more sophisticated big sister of WhisperingRock Angel wine Angel, a less pricey but excellent rosé I pour all summer long. You don’t find either of these Angels, or d’Eclans’ even higher end rosé, Garrus, just anywhere. In fact, the last time I found Rock Angel was in Nice, France, more than a year ago. I actually didn’t end up drinking that bottle. After spotting it in the window of a wine store and handing over a substantial quantity of euros for it, I stumbled over a crack in the street, and my bottle and I crashed headlong onto the pavement. Waiters from a restaurant nearby ran to my aid. As we were ascertaining whether I had broken anything, we discovered that I — except for my pride — was intact, but that my wine bottle was shattered. Looking at the Rock Angel label, one of my rescuers suddenly looked dejected and exclaimed in English, “Ohhhhh, that was a very fine wine.”

That’s the kind of wine or spirit or beer I expect to find at Susan’s. If you want Budweiser, don’t bother. I don’t mean that everything is expensive here. Far from it. In fact, the staff here takes great pride in finding interesting offerings at good prices, and their enthusiasm about their discoveries is infectious. The day I saw “my” Rock Angel there, I also stumbled across sale cases of Tablas Creek’s Patelin red and white, high-quality Rhone-style blends from California’s Paso Robles area that I love for filling the bulk of my wine cabinet.

To discover more behind the store’s successful formula for competing against the behemoths, I sat down with one of the four owners, Nirmala Ganapathy. “In a world of big boxes, we’re like Nordstrom,” she explained, citing the legendary department store famous for going to all lengths to satisfy its very loyal customers. Nordstrom is also famous for little touches like a live piano player in its lobby. Nirmala and company haven’t added a baby grand, but their new location — as of last October — has so many bells and whistles that it’s become a true destination.

Bar at Susan's Fine Wine & Spirits in Santa Fe.If you’ve been around Santa Fe as long as I have, you might remember this Agua Fria Street adobe as the home of the local Coop grocery into the 1980s. The space most recently was a gallery, though, and the open main room that once displayed art creates a beautiful backdrop for the displays of bottles today. Susan’s previous location had a very visible perch on the busiest corner in downtown Santa Fe, but the space was pretty much routine strip mall. The store now is much warmer and more attractive, while still feeling relaxed and welcoming. The intimate Lounge, off to one side, encourages customers to hang around and sample a new wine or special cocktail. A couple of current selections are Gone Bananas, a blend of reposada tequila, banana, and lemon, warmed with winter spices, and The Silent {H}, with rhum, aloe, and grapefruit liqueurs, blanco vermouth, lime, and salt. As the weather heats up, drinks can be enjoyed on an outdoor patio too. Cocktail menu at Susan's Fine Wines on a whisky barrel.

Browsing inside, you can start in Old World wines and then move into bottles from the New World. You’ll find a cozy room devoted to Champagne and other sparklers and another area just for the extensive rosé selection, or for sherries and dessert wines. Along the sides of the main room, peruse the extensive spirits with particular depth among mezcals, Scotch, rye, and bourbon. For instance, they were the first in the state to carry Willet Distillery’s cult fave Kentucky bourbon and rye. Years ago, when I had tasted Ancho Reyes chile liqueur in cocktails elsewhere, they tracked it down and now it’s a staple. However, it’s something of challenge in New Mexico to bring in small and esoteric brands because state law here requires retailers to purchase most alcohol through distributors, which favors bigger players.

Whatever you’re looking for, though, the staff here will make the effort and take the time to please you. You have to look a bit harder to find the new Susan’s but when you get there, you’ll know you’ve reached a special spot that invites lingering.

Interior of Susan's Fine Wine & Spirits in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Susan’s Fine Wine and Spirits
632 Agua Fria
Plenty of parking behind the building

Story and photos by Cheryl Alters Jamison.

Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating It Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.

Read Cheryl Alters Jamison’s bio here!
This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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