Black Mesa Winery

Vineyards in front of Black Mesa Winery

Vines in front of Black Mesa Winery. The Rio Grande is just across the road.

Santa Fe’s 23rd Annual Wine & Chile Fiesta kicks off this week and in honor of the year’s largest local wine event I drove north to Velarde, NM, to help the folks at Black Mesa Winery de-stem and crush several tons of Cabernet Sauvignon. New Mexico is home only to a modest number of wineries, so I was super excited to be able to experience a taste of 2013’s harvest and crush just one hour north of Santa Fe. I had a great time learning the ropes from the winemaker, Karl Johnsen, and his assistant winemaker, Craig Dunn.

Grapes viewed from the crush pad

Vines viewed from the crush pad. Ancient petroglyphs are visible on rocks in the hills above the winery.

I find myself writing often about local food: Santa Feans are very conscious of where their edibles come from, and it’s definitely a growing trend across the country to eat more locally grown food. I believe people are also becoming more conscious of the origins of the wines they drink–how the grapes are grown and what ultimately goes into the wine (see my article about natural wine). Ocotber marks Edible Santa Fe magazine’s Eat Drink Local Challenge, so pick up a bottle of Black Mesa to celebrate the pleasure of drinking locally. You can find Black Mesa at Kokoman Fine Wine & Liquor, Susan’s Fine Wine & Spirits and other restaurants and wine shops in Santa Fe. I particularly enjoy the winery’s Sangiovese and Petite Sirah.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes about to be de-stemmed

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes about to be de-stemmed.

Using a forklift to lift a half-ton container of grapes up to the de-stemmer

Using a forklift to hoist a half-ton container of grapes up to the de-stemming machine.

The de-stemming machine sorts grapes from stems

The de-stemming machine sorts grapes from stems.

MOG (material other than grapes) is picked out and discarded before the grapes slide into the de-stemmer

MOG (material other than grapes) is picked out and discarded before the grapes slide into the de-stemmer: this can include leaves or moldy bunches of grapes.

De-stemmed Cabernet grapes pouring into a fresh container

De-stemmed Cabernet grapes pouring into a fresh container.

After the grapes are de-stemmed, the winemaker innocculates fermentation, causing a hard cap of skins to form on the surface of the container.

After the grapes are de-stemmed, the winemaker inoculates fermentation, causing a hard cap of skins to form on the surface of the fermenting grapes.

Clockwise from bottom right: Javier, Craig Dunn (Assistant winemaker) and Karl Johnsen (Winemaker) push a crate of de-stemmed Cabernet off the crush pad.

The crew pushes a container of de-stemmed Cabernet Sauvignon away from the crush pad.

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