Local Hero: Wine/Cider

An Interview with Craig Moya, Owner

Photos by Douglas Merriam

Craig Moya, owner of New Mexico Hard Cider.

Born in Galisteo, Craig Moya lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Heather, and three kids, Holly, Aiden, and Noelle. After moving to Santa Fe, he worked for the Santa Fe County Fire Department and began to develop the idea for New Mexico Hard Cider. In 2014, after Moya had been with the fire department for five years, New Mexico Hard Cider had grown large enough that he was able to expand the business to full time.

What is the backstory to New Mexico Hard Cider? Why cider?

It began in 2013 when a friend asked me to help him pick his grandmother’s apple and pear trees before the fruit dropped in her yard. It ended up being close to three or four hundred pounds of fruit and we were trying to figure out what to do with it. All the normal things went through our minds, until we ultimately decided to ferment it to drink and had to figure out how to store that quantity of juice. I began to do research into cider and discovered it was an up-and-coming beverage and a very niche product at that point. From there, everything started to fall into place. It turned out my uncle had an orchard in Villanueva that was overgrown and needed work. We began to restore that orchard while I home-brewed and waited for federal and state licensing to come through. Once we had the licenses, we obtained funding for equipment and to set up a taproom in downtown Santa Fe.

In addition to the apples from your family’s orchard in Villanueva, some of the ciders are made from apple trees you help tend at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. What have you learned about cider making from tending the trees yourself? How would you describe the flavor of these locally grown ciders?

I have learned a lot from tending the trees. There is a lot of technique that goes into trimming the trees, the soil, water, weather, insects, and animals. The major thing is that New Mexico has vast and different climates. For example, just from Villanueva to Chimayó, one might have a huge bumper crop while the other was caught in a freeze and is barren. Due to that fact, we have been experimenting with trimming trees to try to save the buds from a late frost, with mixed results.

Terroir has a huge impact on fruit in New Mexico, especially in apples. You can really taste which orchard the apple is from. Some have real rich and sweet juice, while others are more acidic and mellow, even among the same variety from different orchards.

New Mexico Hard Cider taproom in Santa Fe.

Apples have a long history in New Mexico and grow well here. What stands in the way of more farmers growing apples for local cider?

Apples do have a long history here in New Mexico. I believe what stands in the way of farmers is the fact that it’s a lifelong crop, meaning you plant an orchard and you will not see a full crop for four to six years. It takes a lot of land to maintain the trees with proper spacing; when you do have a crop, if you don’t get a late freeze, picking is labor intensive. Once everything is picked, then crushing, pressing, and either pasteurizing or fermenting the juice is required. I think the major obstacle is time, money, and an infrastructure (processing facility) that can support apple growers.

What’s your favorite variety of apple to use to make cider?

My favorite variety of apples has to be crab apples, especially to make cider. They are mainly wild apples so are highly acidic and bitter, and some have high sugar also, so the complexity really comes through in the finished cider.

What’s your favorite winter meal to eat alongside a glass of cider?

Anything from a pork chop and mashed potatoes to red chile pork stew.

Is there a local food issue that is particularly important to you?

I think one issue that resonates with me personally is young farmers access to land and water. It is becoming unattainable due to land prices and the development taking place on our limited irrigable land.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?

My last thought is that my family would love to thank all our loyal customers, family, and friends that supported us during the shutdown. Thank you!

505 Cerrillos, Santa Fe, 505-231-0632, instagram.com/nmcider