Talon News - Good Local News

By Lisa Bailey



April 13, 2018


When Bart Wilsey, Aztec vineyard pioneer, is asked about his favorite wine he responds, "Why should I pick from the stars in the sky? There are so many and I like them for different reasons". Perhaps it is this appreciation for variety and distinction that has spurred Bart on a journey from his childhood upbringing on a remote ranch in South Dakota to growing up a winery in Aztec New Mexico. His love for the land comes naturally. However, his love for wine has evolved through his life experiences.

As a child Bart watched as his father experimented with making wines from the produce available to them at their South Dakota ranch home. And, Bart relished his rural childhood memories. However, when he left that home and the Midwest to study art and photography he had no idea where his journey would lead him. It was when he returned to the Midwest to begin his graduate work in Museum Studies in Nebraska that a visit to a nearby winery peaked his interest in vineyards and making wine.

Recognizing he had become enamored with the art of wine making, he attended one of the annual New Mexico Vine and Wine Society conferences. New Mexico Vine & Wine Society is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to the exchange of information among amateur and commercial grape growers, wine makers, wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs (http://vineandwine.org/). That experience is what motivated him to shift from simply enjoying and pursuing knowledge about wine, to taking action in order to create a working winery that would encompass attributes and products that appeal to him.

Bart was fortunate to find an ideal setting! From Aztec Ruins Road to Road 2900, Rio Vinedo is just a few miles from re-joining Highway 550. At first glance, the sign at Road 2626 looks like it is indicating a subdivision. But, Rio Vinedo, the vineyard and future winery was the flagship property of the subdivision, and is at the center of it. The 15 acres is flat, irrigated and a very scenic backdrop for the future winery. In many respects it seems that Bart is living his dream, but it has not been easy. He did not anticipate that it would take this long, and there have been some challenges. His business partner, and former college roommate is based out of Minneapolis. This arrangement results in Bart fielding the hands-on operations. And, Mother Nature has given some hard hits too. Just four years after first planting, Aztec experienced a harsh winter that froze all but two of the original vines.

Bart is not discouraged though. He feels fortunate to be able to enjoy the beauty of the vineyard's location, he appreciates being able to work the land and feels blessed that his children are experiencing a piece of what he did growing up. His wife and extended family also share in the development of the vineyard and winery. He and his wife plan to build a home at the vineyard site and anticipate having room for extended family, and maybe even some tiny houses for overnight guests in the future.

Rio Vinedo sold it's first batch of grapes in 2016. While there is not a precise target date for the winery development, the first step has been taken. Applying for the name and permit process typically takes a minimum of a year. Bart has other aspirations as well, "I'm very supportive and interested in the local foods market movement". He wants to be instrumental in sustainable food resources, "The more that we can conserve of this kind of local farmland the better". He is considering having a community garden or co-op at his location. He points out, "It save on transportation costs, it's just better all-around if you can do things like this locally".

Bart encourages residents and neighbors to, "Come on out and see ". He looks forward to the time when they will be able to offer a full-service winery and experience, "being at the farm". He shares that initially the wines will probably have the grape varietal names, then later they will create blends and give them coined names. Grapes plus time, sugar and yeast can create such different tastes, "It's science".


Reader Comments

HoldSteady writes:

Don't give up. This area needs more and more attractions to bring people and jobs back in. Oh, and you need a website.


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