Garden #7 – “Wild Cherry Farm”, The Anasazi Fields Winery Orchard
The Anasazi Fields Winery (AFW) sits on the western edge of the Village of Placitas. Per the “Wines in a Landscape” website description, the AFW wines “come forth from a unique landscape: a landscape of spring-fed orchards, a landscape of artists and poets, a landscape of weather and topography, a landscape of science and magic.” The prose sums up the Vintner’s growing philosophy, science background, poetic and sculptural talents, while describing the AFW “Wild Cherry Farm” orchard located about a mile southeast of the Winery and just north of the Village of Placitas. Anasazi Field wines are predominantly crafted from fruits such as grapes, peaches, plums, apricots and wild cherry varieties grown locally. These table wines have bold whole fruit taste and are uniquely dry. They are not desert wines. You will be touring the “Wild Cherry Farm”, under the guidance of Vintner Jim Fish and his partners. This orchard is predominantly planted with wild cherries, along with peach, apricot, plum, a few apple trees and Malvasia grape vines. The irrigation of the farm is accomplished by gravity fed water pipes originating from an Acequia gate and a supplementary well at the higher end of the property, and leading to a series of ditches surrounding the fruit trees. Learn about the history and challenges of fruit tree growing in the Village of Placitas. Jim and his partners will share their knowledge on the fruit trees’ growing cycles and maintenance requirements from dormancy through harvest. After you tour the orchard you may (for those 21 and older) taste samples of wine made from the fruits grown in the orchard under the comfort of a large tent. Jim and his partners will be happy to share their fruit growing and wine making knowledge with you. Read Jim Fish’s history of wild cherry wine making below.
Information from AFW Vintner Jim Fish:
There are two native cherries found in Northern New Mexico: chokecherries (prunus virginiana) and bitter or wild cherry (prunus emarginata). For centuries, both have been used for homemade wine. A number of wineries in the U.S. make a chokecherry wine. As far as I know, Anasazi Fields is the only commercial winery in the world making a wine from 100% prunus emarginata.
I made my first batch of wild cherry wine in 1991, back in the hobby wine days, before the hobby got out of control. In fact, the wild cherry wine was a major factor in the hobby getting out of control. Early on, I realized that a big red-style table wine made from the wild cherries of Placitas could be special. I started locating groves around the village and asking permission to pick. Each year, the batch would be a little bigger than the year before. Furthermore, the wine kept getting better, with each batch, and each batch with age.
Our wild cherry wine, which we now call Sangre de Puma, is one of our signature wines. Most of the cherries for this wine come from our orchard, Wild Cherry Farm. We purchased the property in 1998 specifically because of an existing wild cherry grove. Since we have had the property, we have more than quadrupled the wild cherry production by transplanting seedlings from the original grove into old alfalfa fields and by allowing the original grove to expand.
This year (2016), we started picking the wild cherries at the farm on June 18. By June 23, we had 200 pounds of cherries in the fermentation tank. We added 50 pounds of dextrose and inoculated it with yeast. We kept adding freshly picked cherries to the batch until the final picking on July 14, at which point we had a total of 1633 pounds of wild cherries. An additional 50 pounds of dextrose was added to the batch on June 30. On August 3, the alcohol level in the fermentation tank had reached 8.7%. Another 50 pounds of dextrose was added. On August 17, the alcohol was 10%. We added another 50 pounds of dextrose on that day and another 50 pounds on August 25. On September 7, Gerard tested the alcohol at 12.2%. On Monday, September 26, Shayla and I spent all day straining and pressing the fermented wild cherries. We got 150 gallons of beautiful Sangre de Puma. We sealed it up in a stainless steel tank with about a gallon of lightly toasted French oak chips. Success!
At Wild Cherry Farm, we also have over 100 chokecherry trees, 75 plum trees (five varieties), five pear trees, three apple trees, two black walnut trees, two peach trees, a few blackberry bushes, ten apricot trees that are sisters (from which we make a wine called Las Hermanas del Sol), five domestic cherry trees, and Black Malvasia grapes, one of the three grapes we use in our wine called Synaesthesia.
Wild Cherry Farm comprises 4.5 acres with full water rights having a priority date of 1843. The farm is watered off the third gate of the Acequia Madre of Las Acequias de Placitas. We also have a supplemental irrigation well. Both the irrigation gate and the well are located at the higher end of the property. From both, we can feed water into an extensive piping system that covers the property via gravity flow.
To preserve Wild Cherry Farm as a permanent agricultural treasure in the heart of the historic Village of Placitas, Anasazi Fields has established an agricultural easement overlay on the property. The easement has been approved by Sandoval County and is properly documented in the records of the county. As part of the easement, the water rights have been tied to the land and cannot be separated or used for purposes other than agricultural, livestock or domestic on the property.