Locals, legend and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources claim that New Mexico is home to some of the, if not the, first orchards in America, planted by Spanish settlers as early as the 17th century in the Manzano (Spanish for apple) Mountains.
“New Mexico is indeed home to the first apple-growing region in the country,” says Craig Moya, New Mexico Hard Cider owner. “These families have been around for more than 400 years.”
You might expect that New Mexico’s dry desert conditions make for challenges producing cider, but Moya says the greatest barrier to market is the apple’s history as a secondary crop. “The families here grew most of their food and used the orchards for alcohol production,” he adds. “Often they were given last priority if there was a water shortage. Then the trees were cut down during Prohibition.”
Because of this, New Mexico has a big apple-growing region without the industry behind it to pick and press apples en masse, according to Moya. “We need labor and infrastructure to utilize all the apples,” he says. “We are still working on wholesale pricing of apples and manageable time frames from farm to press.”
New Mexico’s stance on apples is changing though, with Moya at the helm of that sea. He launched New Mexico Hard Cider in 2014 as New Mexico’s first hard cider company. To date, he and his team run a tasting room in Santa Fe and manage 4,000 trees on four orchards throughout the state. They also source fruit from their community members.
“In New Mexico, people talk,” Mora says. “When they heard I was looking for apples, they brought us an array of well-maintained backyard apples — crab apples, McIntosh, Pippins, Kingston Blacks. We’ve pressed 13,000 pounds of backyard apples into blended juice for small batches.”
Moya recently collaborated with Sam Boese of Boese Brothers Brewery in Albuquerque and his Desert Dogs Brewery & Cidery Taproom, which sports a tasting room for beer and cider with 21 taps in Plaza Mercado on San Francisco Street.
Santa Fe Cider Works is the only other known cider company in the area (other than a multitude of breweries in New Mexico who have taken up making hard cider as well) and, like New Mexico Hard Cider, is dedicated to using freshly pressed juice from local fruit.
This article ran in Vol. 12 of Cidercraft magazine. For the full story and more like it, click here.