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Bad Boys & Wicked Women

Anyone who has driven 1-25 between Las Cruces and Albuquerque has seen the big BLACK’S SMUGGLER winery sign on the west side of the highway. That’s the tasting room, and it’s a bit easier to see than to get to, but the backroad drive is absolutely worth it!

I recently stopped in for a visit with Tony Black and his wonderful wife, Mary Ann. Ever since that visit I’ve been plotting a way to get back there soon. At Wine of Enchantment I always say that “Every bottle tells a story,” and that could not be more true of Black’s Smuggler wines.

Once upon a time there was a retired telecom executive in Littleton, Colorado who dabbled in winemaking. The more he dabbled, the more passionate he became and finally, upon his retirement, his family banished him to the “Thief” (Ladron) Mountains.

The Ladron Mountains—known as the Thief Mountains—were an infamous 18th century hide-away for smugglers, pirates, bandits and…well…you get the picture. Legend has it that “there’s gold in them thar hills!” It is a hop, skip, and a jump away from these mountains that Black’s Smuggler Winery began in Bosque, New Mexico. And, if there isn’t still gold in the mountains, there is certainly gold to be discovered at the Black’s Smuggler tasting room. Read on…

In keeping with the outlaw theme, Mary Ann has set up a photo gallery in the tasting room displaying 24 of America’s bad boys and wicked women. Beware! The pictures are displayed across a beam in the center of the tasting room, they are watching you. My husband had the best time sitting with Mary Ann and trying to guess who was in each photo. Mary Ann knows ALL of them and can tell you a crazy story or two.

The tasting room has a great old-time saloon sort of feel. It’s smallish, but not at all crowded. What I LOVED about the tasting room on my visit was the sound of friends laughing, discussing wine, and sharing life. There was no background music blaring or a band I had to shout over to hold a conversation. There were just people sounds. People enjoying great wine and living their best lives at that moment.

I’ve come to learn that no article can be written these days without the words “During COVID…,” but the reality is that the pandemic forced businesses into making changes. In the case of Black’s Smuggler, some of those changes turned out great. In particular, with social distancing requirements, Tony and Mary Ann had to “spread out” the tasting area. They made additional tasting room space (via glass doors) in the winery/barrel room. They have a couple of adorable little seating areas in a wide-open space. There is also seating on the front patio near the entrance. I’ve been in at least 100 tasting rooms around the country (world) and I just loved Black’s Smuggler. I really wanted to hide away there all day.

I know. I know. You’re still waiting to hear where the gold can be found. Well, it’s in plain sight from any seat in the tasting room. And the treasure map is a 2-sided menu of Tony’s wines.

Black’s Smuggler is a boutique winery that produces between 800-1000 cases annually. In their vineyard, they grow Merlot, Cab, Cab Franc, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Sauv Blanc among other lesser-known varieties and hybrids. Tony is always learning about new grapes and experimenting.

Tony and Mary Ann are my kind of people—kind, funny, down-to-earth and real. There is nothing pretentious about them or their wines. Tony’s bad boy, outlaw, rules-don’t-apply philosophy of winemaking is what you taste in every sip of Black’s Smuggler wine. Tony has shunned the outdated rules and ideas often associated with Old World wines in order to give his guests a tasting experience that is all about New Mexico. If there are no rules, how do you know his wines are any good? Taste one! If you like it, it’s a good wine. If you don’t, well what do you know anyway?! Try another one!

As I review the “treasure map” for this article, I realize that I might have tried every single wine on the tasting menu—wicked woman that I am!  Here’s where I found the gold…

Since I think it is somewhat hypocritical to write a wine blog without having a glass of wine within reach, I’ll start with the one I’m drinking today. Brianna. It’s white gold, baby!

Brianna is named after Tony’s daughter, but it is also the name of the grape. Brianna is a hybrid grape variety originally from Wisconsin, although it is typically a really cold-climate grape, Tony grows them in his family vineyard in Veguita. Brianna (the wine) is a medium body, medium acid, semi-sweet white wine that leans a little more toward sweet likely due to the warmer climate in New Mexico.  There’s only one piece of bad news about this wine—you can only get it in the tasting room. But, the good news is you can get it in the tasting room.

Other white wines of note.

Tumbleweed: A dry white blend on Vidal and Villard grapes. It is a very refreshing wine with hints of pineapple.

Sundance: A sweet white with both green fruit (apple) and stone fruit (apricot) notes. Sundance is made from Traminette grapes and takes on the characteristics of its most famous parent, Gewurztraminer.

Red Wines

Tony likes dry, red wines and they definitely dominate the tasting menu. When I asked Tony for his favorite red, he wouldn’t commit, but the name Midnight Train came up often. So let me start there.

Midnight Train: I first tasted Midnight Train at the wine festival in Las Cruces. I was working the festival, so I only had time to drink one glass of wine when I finally got a break.  After tasting several, I settled on Midnight Train. To start off, it’s a blend of two of my favorite wines: Merlot (60%) and Syrah (40%). Tony has highlighted everything you want from both wines and the result is a soft, rich, full-bodied wine that you will want to have on hand at every Bar-B-Q.

Baco Noir: Only available in the Tasting Room, but I mention it because it is a nice soft medium-bodied wine that Mary Ann insisted I pair with chocolate. And just to prove her point, she gave me some dark chocolate. Wow! And I’m just going to leave that right there.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Black Smuggler’s best seller is everything you expect in a Cab. Even if you aren’t a wine expert, you’ll know from first sip (if not first sniff) that this is a well-vinted Cab.

Hidden Treasures

I’m not a fan of sweet wines, but I have to mention Rattlesnake Red. I actually thought this spicy-fruity, well-balanced blend of Chambourcin and St. Vincent grapes was pretty good. A lot of people like it because Tony told me that Rattlesnake Red is a best seller.

 For some reason, I’ve been leaning toward dry Rosé this summer. (107o in the shade, anyone?). Tony’s Painted Lady is the perfect dry Rosé for me. She’s made from Mission grapes (a personal favorite) with a beautiful, bright personality and a dry humor–not unlike my own.  

Is it too early to think about Thanksgiving? Yes? Well, in that case I’ll just drink my Black’s Smuggler Cranberry wine now and get some more closer to the holiday time. Hopefully my readers are more enthusiasts than snobs and can appreciate a well-done fruit wine.

Lastly, if you want to get plundered, you have to have PLUNDER on your shelf. Plunder is a blend of 5 different red wines—each of them aged over 6 years and then, if that weren’t rich enough, Tony adds in some of Black’s Smuggler’s own moonshine—I mean distilled spirits.

Final Thoughts

I recommend joining the Black’s Smuggler wine club. It’s free to join and you commit to purchasing 24 bottles over the next year. Just 2 bottles a month. They ship, but if you travel between Las Cruces and Santa Fe, you may as well just stop in to pick up your share of the loot.

You can get tasting room hours and directions to Black’s Smuggler hideout by clicking here.

If you do stop in to Black’s Smuggler, send me an email and tell me about your experience and your favorite wine. Please tell them Wine of Enchantment sent you!

Until next time….


#WineLife #Bestlife #GetPlundered