This is the final article from my first round of visits to New Mexico’s “high altitude” wineries. It probably would be better to say “highER altitude” since, by wine world standards, all of New Mexico could be considered high altitude. But…I digress…
I saved Black Mesa Winery and Cidery for last because I couldn’t figure out where to place my focus for this article. Do I feature owner, Jerry Burd? Do I feature Black Mesa’s CEO Sola? (More about her later) or do I talk about owner, Lynda Burd–label designer and artist? Maybe I should write about Craig and Curt, the actual winemakers…
After all is said and done, I decided to write about everything! After all, Jerry told me that what ultimately ends up in the bottle is decided “by committee.” There are “a lot of tastes” until he gets to the product he wants to put his name on. So, instead of a deep dive into winemaking, I’m going to go for distance by trying to mention everything.
Black Mesa, located at 5800 feet, is the brainchild and SIXTH career move of owner, Jerry Burd. When I asked Jerry about his previous careers, he began by telling me he was from Colorado. I’m sure I looked puzzled about that, but he went on to say that he always quits a career when he stops having fun. He’s had quite the career of changing careers! I can’t begin to remember all of Jerry’s life moves, but prior to buying Black Mesa, Jerry spent five years learning winemaking in Oregon. He made his own wine at Black Mesa for the first 2 of the 20 years he has owned the business, and then he hired a winemaker. Jerry appears to still be having quite a bit of fun!
Although I had a confirmed appointment with Jerry, everyone seemed slightly confused by my presence. I was really happy when someone finally found Jerry and he came in to chat with me. Jerry has such a calm, laid-back demeanor and he’s very humble. Every time I asked a question about him, he managed to answer with complimentary words about his wife, his pets, and/or his team.
I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Lynda, but she is EVERYWHERE in the tasting room. Her lovely artwork is hanging on the walls and, of course, her colorful labels can be seen on each bottle of Black Mesa Wine.
There are currently three winemakers and a cidermaker employed at Black Mesa. I met head winemaker, Craig Dunn, who was working behind the bar when I arrived. Craig is a sommelier who spent 20 plus years over-seeing an award-winning wine list at the Taos Inn. He joined the Black Mesa team about 10 years ago.
Within seconds of sitting down, CEO Sola joined us. She jumped right upon to the table and pretty much demanded to be acknowledged. CEO (Cat Especially Ornery) has her own Facebook page and I’m an avid follower. Sola is clearly the queen of the pets. Jerry and Lynda have more cats than I can count and I think there are a couple of dogs, as well. The Burds are definitely animal lovers—that’s probably why Jerry has such a chill vibe.
The tasting room, itself, is a great place. It is spacious, but warm and homey. From the artwork on the walls, to the wine shelves, and the merch—everything just belonged there. I had a hard time staying focused on the interview because it is such a great place to look around.
I tasted seven wines while I was there. The wine list is quite extensive with a massive line of varietals and blends. I don’t remember how I chose the wines I did. Craig may have selected them for me, or Jerry kept having me try different wines. However they arrived at my table, I was glad they did.
WHITE: I tried the Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio to start. The Velarde Chardonnay was very good! The green apple and lemon zest flavors were enhanced by the warm aromas of baking spices from oak. This Chardonnay did not undergo malolactic fermentation. The Burd Estate Pinot Grigio was a bit unexpected. The medium body was herbaceous and earthy on the nose with pears, green apples, and grapefruit.
RED: I tasted Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Montepulciano, and Cabernet Franc. It was a dry red, varietal-lovers paradise. All of the wines had unique characteristics that were unexpected for the varietal, yet very pleasant. I’ll highlight the Syrah and the Montepulciano. Both of these wines were very pronounced on the nose with intense fruit flavors. The Syrah was smooth from having aged in the bottle beautifully. It had beautiful dark fruits and licorice flavors with soft tannins, nice acidity, and a full body. The Montepulciano was a not-quite-full-bodied red that boasted intense fruit-forward aromas and flavors of dark cherry, red currant, red and black plums, and hints of raspberry.
“BITE ME” Hard Cider
Black Mesa has a huge following of cider-lovers. I did not taste the cider on this visit but cut me a break! I’ll be back for it. Black Mesa makes 5,000 gallons of hard apple cider in 6 different flavors. Jerry told me they are the only cidery in the state that uses 100% New Mexico grown apples. That’s impressive and I’m sure he is VERY POPULAR with the apple farmers.
MORE COOL STUFF
Black Mesa currently has three wines, Whitewater White, Roaming Rose Sparkling and Rio Grand Red, for sale in aluminum cans under the label Wild Wilderness Wine. Now get that wine snob grimace off your face! I know we haven’t all gotten our heads around the screwtop and now we’re being asked to buy wine in a can! It’s the wave of the future, y’all. I predict within the next 3-5 years we will see 750 mL aluminum wine-shaped bottles. Increasing winery costs and the need for sustainability will give birth to creativity—and I think we need to be open to it. (Lecturing my snobby self!).
The tasting room is open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. It is located at 1502 NM-68 in Velarde, New Mexico. Normally, I suggest you call ahead, but I don’t really think you need to do that with Black Mesa unless you want to. I do, however, suggest you visit the website—frequently! Jerry and Lynda are super-involved in their community and there is always something going on. You can also sign up to get their emails.
As with most New Mexico wineries, Black Mesa has a wine club they would love to have you join. I will admit they have A LOT of perks for their club members. It’s an especially great deal if you live in the area. You can check out all of your club options on their Wine Club page.
I can’t wait to go back to Black Mesa. There is so much to see and do that I will make sure it is the only winery I visit on the day that I go. I’m really eager to try their hard cider. I’ve just come to terms with the idea of apple wine—a common ingredient in the High Altitude wines of New Mexico—and I think I will really appreciate the cider.
As always, drop me an email or leave a comment below to talk about your experience with Black Mesa, New Mexico wines/wineries, or just wine in general. I love hearing from all of you.
Check out the ARCHIVES for other great wineries, wines, pairings, and wine stuff.
Until next time…