Black Range Vineyards is the new, featured New Mexico agricultural producer in the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum’s “Meet the Producer” exhibit.

Black Range Vineyards is owned and operated by Brian and Nicki O’Dell in Hillsboro. Brian and Nicki began growing grapes in 2007, and today have more than 200 vines in their vineyard. The O’Dell’s grow Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and bottle approximately 200 cases of wine every year. Some of their Black Range Vineyard label is blended with grapes from the Luna Rossa and Black Mesa vineyards.

Hillsboro is a small village at the foot of the Black Range and the tasting room where Nicki and Brian serve and sell their wines is the heart of the community. Their business is the quintessential boutique winery. Growing a vineyard and running a tasting room takes a lot of work, and family, whether related or not, is how the O’Dells pull it all together.

Nicki spent many years as a stockbroker before she became a wine maker. Today, her role at the winery is to run the tasting room and tend the vineyard. She spends many hours trimming vines, weeding, netting, and watering. Brian, who worked for the government before the O’Dells moved to Hillsboro, now works for the Ladder Ranch, but his job at the vineyard is the chief winemaker. Their kids, friends, and neighbors all pitch in to make their business a success.

New Mexico’s first commercial crop was grapes. Nearly 400 years ago, Catholic monks brought vines from Spain in order to produce wine for ceremony and sacrament. This tradition eventually grew into a thriving industry, and by the late 1800s, New Mexico was producing more than a million gallons of wine annually.

In the early 20th Century, New Mexico experienced extensive flooding along the Rio Grande, first in 1926, and again in 1946, when the flood of the century destroyed vineyards throughout the state. Many of these old vineyards had survived Prohibition, when wine could only be produced and sold for medicinal and sacramental use.

Between 1982 and 1983, more than 2,000 acres of vineyards were planted around Las Cruces alone — not to mention the thousands more that were planted in the northern part of the state. Today, New Mexico has more than 50 wineries.

The exhibit, which features a different agricultural producer every few months, is located in the Museum’s Horse & Cattle Barn.

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