New life for a forgotten subdivision
Wine a little, you’ll feel better!
By SUSIE OUDERKIRK
Las Cruces Bulletin
Randy McMillan is a man outstanding in his field. Or at least he was the last time I saw him.
McMillan, a commercial real estate broker/investor, showed me around one of his new projects, Mesilla Vineyard Estates, which at times had him standing in the middle of a field, pointing one way or another and smiling.
He smiles a lot when he talks about Mesilla Vineyard Estates; it’s a project he developed because it spoke to him personally.
“I’ve always been interested in wine and the history of wine in New Mexico,” he told me in September. “The Spaniards did wine in this area. They built vineyards along the Santa Fe Trail to serve the church.”
And now McMillan is building vineyards to appeal to homeowners who want to try their hand at being vintners.
“It’s taken a long time,” McMillan said. He bought the stagnant subdivision on S. Fairacres Road in 2011, after its original developer faced foreclosure.
“In figuring out about the area, I figured I could do something to change the face of the original subdivision,” McMillan said. That year McMillan and his partner, Greg McFee, planted the vineyard on 12 acres surrounded by 360 degrees of mountains.
“From here, you can see the Doña Anas, the Organs, the Franklins and Picacho Mountain,” he said. And, looking northwest, McMillan pointed out the oldest standing tree in the valley, a cottonwood bare and indomitable, which will be the logo for a winery he’s planning to build in the future.
Right now McMillan plans to have 40 lots for home construction with an additional 65 acres of open space that could be farmed. A new farm-totable store going up in Mesilla is leasing 15 acres of the subdivision for high intensity gardening starting in the spring.
Currently, one home and one lot in Mesilla Vineyard Estates will come with a half-acre vineyard already planted with grapes. A drip irrigation system supplied by a community well will water the grape plants and the subdivision homes are supplied by city water.
“It’s not wholly organic,” McMillan said, “But something similar. It’s farming with little to no chemicals. It’s as close to organic as possible.” He backs up his claim with a herd of hair sheep, well managed by two stoic and kindly Great Pyrenees dogs, who make a short trip daily from their corral to the subdivision to take care of the weeds and add a little natural fertilizer.
Jon Strain of Las Cruces Builders, LLC, started working with McMillan in May of 2015, and has one home finished and three under construction. The current home for sale, located at 4902 Briareus Dr., is listed by Realtor Tobe Turpin at Steinborn and Associates. It shows off approximately 3100-square-feet with four bedrooms, two fireplaces, a three-car garage, an observation deck and, of course, its own vineyard.
Not interested in owning a private vineyard?
“Sharecropping!” said McMillan. “We can arrange for someone to harvest the grapes.” In fact, the existing grape plants within the subdivision produce 250 to 300 gallons of wine each year.
Grape varieties include petit verdot, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, muscat, zinfandel, mourvedre, malbec and McMillan’s personal favorites, montepulciano and refosco.
“This year we sold the muscat to Corrales Winery, which makes the best muscat I’ve ever tasted,” McMillan said. The rest of the grapes were purchased by Noisy River in Ruidoso, and next year’s crop may have a variety of destinies, depending on who moves into Mesilla Vineyard Estates.
Mesilla Vineyard Estates subdivision is a working vineyard that is “as close to organic as possible,” according to developer Randy McMillan. An open house is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16. Tobe Turpin can be reached at 575-621-1462.
Randy McMillan shows off the 360-degree view from the Mesilla Vineyard Estates.
BULLETIN PHOTO BY SUSIE OUDERKIRK