Black Mesa Winery Review
Address: 1502 State Highway 68 Velarde,New Mexico 87582.
Phone Number: 505-852-2820
Tasting Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00-6:00, Sun 12:00-6:00
Region: New Mexico
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Review Date: 4/10/2013
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Where the sunlight meets the shadows on the mesa, halfway between Santa Fe and Taos, there you find Black Mesa Winery. Dont pass this one up; it is a must-stop. The wines are excellent, the people are friendly, and the view is fantastic. And if youre lucky, you might get to see some of the menagerie of cats that are the winerys true leadership.
The Experience:  I visited Black Mesa Winery during my first trip to New Mexico. The winery is located about halfway between Taos and Santa Fe; my friend and I drove up from Santa Fe, and fortunately I wasnt driving, so I could take in the magnificent scenery. (Dont miss Camel Rock, that one is a classic.) Fortunately my traveling companion had made this drive before, so she knew NOT to speed through Española, where apparently they take the 45 mph speed limit very seriously. The winery isnt hard to find; I was already bouncing with anticipation when we turned off the road.
The Place:  Like most everything else in New Mexico, Black Mesa Winerys tasting room is an adobe building. This one has the distinguishing characteristic of a bright blue door. Someone planned the layout of the tasting room very effectively; there is plenty of room for the gift shop, a few tables toward the back, and a broad wooden bar with room for six to eight people to line up for a tasting. Youll notice a definite wine-and-cats theme in the gift shop; as Black Mesas website indicates, Black Mesa Winery is heavily populated by cats, many of whom have wine-themed names (Cabernet, Semillon, Ms. Gris).
I took full advantage of the exterior of the winery but I waited until after my tasting, so I could enjoy the beautiful New Mexico scenery along with a glass of red. In front of the winery is a seating area with picnic tables and tables and chairs scattered about, including some under a small covered pavilion where my glass of Antelope and I took up residence. THAT is a little piece of heaven on earth.
The People:  Black Mesa has a fairly good-sized staff, introduced on the website; on this particular (rather busy) Saturday we found Cat behind the bar. (She joked that shes the only Cat at the winery they allow to actually pour wine.) The tasting area was full, so Cat very kindly poured us a bit of sparkling to enjoy while we waited. Black Mesas sparkling actually comes from Gruet, with whom they have a relationship and its good. We didnt have to wait terribly long, but hey, who cares about waiting a bit when theres a glass of sparkling wine handy?
Jerry, who owns the winery with his wife Lynda, came in to help out with the tastings (even though Cat says she cant find anything after hes been behind the bar). We were quite happy to talk with Jerry, who has quite a sense of humor and a very affable presence. Both Cat and Jerry obviously love being at the winery and talking to the patrons. It seems that Jerry is responsible for the large variety of wines made and sold at Black Mesa; a quote on the website says he cant make up his mind which he likes best, so apparently he doesnt choose.
The Wines: Fortunately, the large number of wines in no way detract from the overall quality. Frankly, everything I tried was pretty good. I was lucky in that I was traveling with a member of the Black Mesa wine club, so we scored a few extra tastings; out of the 22 or so varietals on the tasting list, I think I tried 11. Next time Ill take my fiancé with me so he can try the sweeter wines and the ports (yes, there was more than one port). I primarily stuck to the reds and the drier whites. Cat was kind enough to pour them in the order she thought would be the best progression.
Of the whites, I tried the Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Velarde Chardonnay Velarde being the little town where Black Mesa is located. (We passed the post office and surmised that a very large percentage of its business comes from Black Mesas wine club shipments.) The Sauvignon Blanc was light, with a nice finish; the Viognier was fruit-forward and fairly good, but being from Texas I think Im partial to Texas Viogniers! I really enjoyed the Velarde Chardonnay and bought a bottle to ship home. I anticipate drinking it really, really cold during the hot summer.
The rest of my tastes were dry reds. First was the Primitivo, which is Black Mesas Zinfandel; being a bit of a zin freak, I expected to really like this, and it was all right, but surprisingly not my favorite. But the wines just got steadily better. The Tempranillo was smooth and good, with the second sip (as is typical) being better than the first. The Malbec tasted like berries to me; sometimes I like Malbec and sometimes I dont care for it, but this one was quite enjoyable. In my tasting notes, beside the Sangiovese I wrote wow and beside the Cabernet Sauvignon I wrote yum.
My favorites, though, were the blends Antelope and Coyote. Antelope is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; Coyote is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, and Zinfandel. These are both great drinkers that could go with food Cat suggested the Coyote with something spicy but dont have to go with food. Theyre just GOOD.
I was told the Black Beauty dessert wine is also very popular, and that they also make a Black Beauty sauce that goes really well over ice cream.
Insiders Tip: If you wish to join the wine club, there are numerous options as to number of bottles; some let you pick your own varietals and others are vintners choice.
Also, Jerry indicated that Black Mesa is in the process of retiring the Primitivo and replacing it with a Zinfandel made more in the California style, which should be available this summer. I have a trip back to Santa Fe in July, and I can hardly wait!