Women Make Their Mark In Wine Industry

Black Cross Winery is a good example
BY: GUSSIE UPP

The little old wine maker in song and folk lore has morphed into something more along the lines of glamorous females planting their vines in perfectly straight rows in Baja’s wine country. Beauty, brains and determination constitute the female brand of wine in Baja and no one is more deserving of this praise than Black Cross Winery and its owner Robin Mackenzie.

Robin Mackenzie feels she was born to make wine Robin isn’t the only lass to dabble in wine as many daughters have taken the reins from their dad’s wineries to begin creating their own distinct flavors from grapes they have chosen. Others just manage the business end, which is also no small feat.

Until I dove into the wine biz, all I knew was whether or not I liked the look of the bottle.  And Robin Mackenzie’s tutorial last week only scratched the surface of learning about wine.

 There is so much to know about the grapes, the planting, money, water, drips, the list is endless.

Robin began growing corn as a child in her front yard in Riverside, starting with popcorn seeds. She has had a love affair with planting for as long as she can remember and a dream of having her own winery for all her adult years.

A winery doesn’t always start from planted grapes. Some wineries only bottle other people’s wine, using their own label, and sell them as their own. Others buy grapes, put them in barrels until their flavor is to their liking, and then blend different wines and sell to the public.

Robin bought a ton of Cabernet grapes two years ago and still has them sitting in her own wooden barrels until she feels their flavor profile is up to her standards.

She explains that it’s a recipe that can be manipulated with yeast. Tasting wine from the barrel is done with a “tasting thief” that looks like a turkey baster and must be kept spotlessly clean to thwart all manner of contamination.

Last year Robin made her first planting, 1800 vines on her three acre plot of land in Rosarito. This was done on her hands and knees with some help from a gentleman who often looks after the vines. Robin described the planting as something lovely and spiritual with the sun and sea at her back. These vines are planted in straight rows so as to maintain what she calls vineyard vanity. It has to look beautiful to the woman who spends many hours each week tending her grapes that won’t even be ready to be harvested for another three years.

 When that first harvest comes in the fall she will need her own building so she can press and store her grapes, bottling and selling her own creation. Building this work space is in the works. Except for the gophers, her sworn enemies, the vines and what they will produce is her main concern these days.

Until Black Cross Winery has a home for pressing and crushing, the residents of Baja have a fabulous tasting room to visit, built close to Robin’s vines at Pretty Horses horse rescue.  Robin presents movie nights there every six weeks with barbecue, wine and delicious munchies. There are also private parties, family nights, and sometimes parties just to enjoy her decorating, the gorgeous views, horses munching on hay, and good friends having a great time.

The Mackenzie’s, along with many others, are contributors to Pretty Horses Rescue.  Robin’s motto is, “Save a horse, drink wine”. That works, sure.