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Often when traveling, you can stumble upon local gems. New Mexico is home to diverse and unique businesses. Several businesses in Alamogordo and Cloudcroft have branched out to Alto, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Mesilla and Ruidoso.
Heart of the Desert
Heart of the Desert, Inc. at Eagle Ranch, located 7288 Highway 54/70 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, prides themselves on customer service and premium products. These values have been in forefront of the business since from the beginning.
“From day one, we decided we would have a premium product, sold with the best customer service possible. Those standards have never been compromised,” said Marianne Schweers, co-owner of Heart of the Desert.
Marianne and her husband, George Schweers, own and operate Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves and Heart of the Desert Winery. The farm began in 1974. In 1986, the Schweers built their first store and named it “Heart of the Desert,” which is our trademark for the pistachio nuts, Marianne noted.
Currently, there are three locations in New Mexico. In 2003, the second retail outlet was open in the lobby of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road, in Las Cruces. Marianne noted the gift shop they operate is the only store in the museum that includes a lunch counter that caters to the museum.
Six years later, the third store opened in 2009 on the plaza of historic Old Mesilla, 2350 Calle Principal. Learn more about Heart of the Desert in Mesilla HERE.
“Soon after that, our daughter and her family opened ‘The Cork & Kettle,’ their store in Ruidoso. They also sell the complete line of Heart of the Desert products, along with a full selection of gourmet foods,” Marianne said.
At the flagship location for Heart of the Desert, located in Alamogordo, is a grand sign of the heart logo that is visible off the highway. The retail location is spacious with pistachios, grown on the farm, in different flavors such as red chile, garlic & onion and salted. Towards the back, there is an oil and vinegar barrel wall on tap. Looking for dessert to pair with your wine? There are chocolates, yogurt, brittle and more.
“Heart of the Desert employees pride themselves on great customer service. All stores offer free tastings of all of our products so you can “try before you buy”. The free tastings of the wines and the olive oil and vinegar products are the most popular,” Marianne said.
On the vineyard side, customers can sample up to five wines for tasting free. There are wine flights also available for $12.95 with your choice of four wines.
Special to this location is the Tuscan themed patio. The Patio is popular for many special events such as weddings, graduations and retirement parties.
Marianne mentioned, “The Albuquerque Journal puts ‘The Patio’ at Heart of the Desert as one of the top ten locations for weddings in New Mexico.”
On The Patio, there are several seated areas spaced out with views of the vineyard. There are space heaters for events in the colder months and curtains added for privacy.
Old Barrel Tea and Spice Company
Old Barrel Tea and Spice Company is truly an experience. From the moment you walk in, customers are greeted by the friendly atmosphere from the staff and the positive energy from the products. Whether you are a tea drinking veteran or a rookie, have the opportunity to enjoy loose leaf tea.
“We are a female run, family business and we are passionate about wellness and flavor,” Hannah Perry, marketing team, said.
In 2015, the first Old Barrel Tea and Spice Shop opened in Ruidoso, N.M. Now, there are nine new locations in three states. A total of five locations in New Mexico (Red River, Albuquerque, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft and Mesilla), three in Colorado (Boulder, Golden and Durango) and one in Arizona (Flagstaff).
“The matriarch of our family and one of our leading founders, Dana, survived cancer three times and believes that the healing benefits of tea are a part of what got her through and helped her body to fight, heal and remain cancer free to this day,” Perry said.
Perry went on to say that Dana’s story inspires and fuels their love of loose leaf tea.
Part of what makes the shop stand out is the dedication staff have on educating their customers on the history, traditions and uses of their in-house blended teas. Old Barrel Tea shops also fundraise for local charities in the town they are located in every year. Perry said there are multiple products in which proceeds go to specific organizations like their ChariTEA Tumblers and Bella’s Stickers.
Loose leaf tea is sold in three different ways, in one ounce tins or one quart jar or bagged quart. On top of the barrels in the shops, customers are able to smell the loose leaf tea and get a feel for the aroma of each blend.
Samples of tea are available to try. At the Cloudcroft location, 505 Burro Ave., two of the teas prepared for samples were the White Peach and Ginger Orchard Medley and the Pumpkin Pie Chai.
Served cold, the White Peach and Ginger Orchard Medley had a straightforward taste of white peach and the ginger came in spicy at the end. A few benefits of this blend is to get antioxidants, soothes digestive upset and to promote circulation.
As for the Pumpkin Pie Chai, it was creamy and had strong pumpkin notes and very subtle cinnamon. This tea had no caffeine, which makes it ideal to sip to unwind at the end of the night. A few of the benefits for this tea are to support immunity, reduce inflammation and calm the mind and body.
Old Barrell Tea and Spice Company also have kombucha and honey samples. Essential oils, candles, tea accessories like tea pots, mugs and tumblers are also available.
Noisy Water Winery
Noisy Water Winery is a family of fifth generation farmers. In 2009, they began making wine in Ruidoso, N.M.. Currently, there are five locations in New Mexico: Alto, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, Albuquerque and Red River. They have won awards both nationally and internationally.
“We are the third largest winery in the state of New Mexico, but we're the number one largest consumer of New Mexico fruit for our wines, Audrey Penn, Social Media Marketing Photographer, Content Strategist and head of Noisy Water Wine Tourism, said. “Any and all NM fruit that we can get our hands on we will use to make our wine; this includes apples, pomegranates, and of course, green chile. Supporting New Mexico agriculture as a whole is the heart and soul of our mission.”
Noisy Water Winery has different events in each location. Each location has live music on the weekends and theme nights throughout the week. Events during the week include Bring Your Own Board Game on Mondays, Locals Nights on Tuesdays and Wine Down Wednesdays. At the Enchanted Vine by Noisy Water Winery in Alto, N.M., they have Spirits Night on Friday that features a special cocktail using New Mexico spirits.
Penn noted that each location of Noisy Water Winery has its own unique personality and flare. The Ruidoso location “has a more popping and energetic atmosphere with a delicious food selection, while Enchanted Vine in Alto is a little more wild and free with the occasional herd of wild horses, deer, and other wildlife passing through the property; just to name a few, she said.
In Cloudcroft, Noisy Water Winery is located just a few doors down from Old Barrel Tea and Spice Company. It has a very cozy and quaint vibe with a shopping section that has gourmet olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Pinon coffee. The tasting area has a couple of tables set up by the wooden bar.
With the intimate setting, customers can enjoy Noisy Water wine and order cheese and salsa platters. Customers wanting to get a balanced experience can order the Noisy Water Sampler. Included with the sampler is artisanal cheeses, cured meats, olives, crackers, Besito Caliente sauce, baguette slices and more.
In addition to their wine, they also carry Marble Brewery and Uncle Dick’s Hard Cider.
Sylvia Quintanilla is a freelance reporter and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org