Before I introduce you to Red Horse Vineyard Bed & Breakfast I have to warn you: I am going to be so blatantly over-the-top and my prose so filled with hyperbole that you’ll think I’ve gone on a bender of rainbows and laugh tracks.
And I’m going to unapologetically say “Deal with it.”
We can blame it on the homemade queso, seasoned with New Mexican green chiles, or the steak Carl grilled up for dinner served with the best baked beans I have ever, ever had. We can blame it on the wine that Carl made himself from grapes he grew on the property. We can even blame it on Darlene’s strawberry scones, baked from scratch in the cozy red brick-walled kitchen that her mother designed, and served with unsweetened homemade whipped cream.
Let’s just blame it on all of the above, because it rests squarely on the shoulders of this father and daughter team who should be the faces of B&B-host recruitment posters. “We want YOU,” they’ll say, “to make people feel so comfortable and welcome they’ll call your home, theirs.”
(See? I warned you. Over-the-top.)
Carl Londene is the owner and Darlene Capshaw, his daughter, is the innkeeper. After our tasting and tour of Rio Bravo Brewing Company we met them back at their South Valley homestead for a taste of true hospitality and another venture into Albuquerque’s history. Carl and his wife Donna had bought the place back in 1968 and Darlene had grown up there, so they were quite literally inviting us into their home.
After a brief tour of the rooms that were open that evening we quickly settled into the English Rose before meeting Carl at the gorgeous carved-wood bar in the pool room for a tasting of his wine.
Carl became a winemaker by accident in 1968 when he bought the place and found the previous occupants had left the previous previous occupants’ equipment in the cellar. The vines date back to sometime in the 1870s, except for the cabernet sauvignon that Carl planted, and the piece de resistance is the wine press. It’s believed to be from the 1880s and the only wooden grape crusher in New Mexico, and this piece of history is what he uses to make his wines today.
As he poured varieties of concord, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and his personal favorite, a white made from grapes they haven’t been able to identify, Darlene brought out that bowl of queso and Carl regaled us with tales from the past while he sipped on Jack Daniels.
The stories continued through dinner and resumed after breakfast the next morning. It was like sitting at the knee of your favorite uncle as he tells you tall tales of fantastical days long ago, except these stories really truly happened. Albuquerque’s complex and fascinating past is encapsulated in this unique getaway, and shared without reserve by these charming hosts.
He told stories of his time as a boy on a dairy farm in Kansas. It was the dustbowl years, and he’d have to get up before dawn to milk the cows, following a lead to the barn because even if the sun was up the blowing sand was so thick he’d never find his way and he’d have to dump the first bucket because it was filled with grit.
The earliest legend of the inn is of the land itself. It sits along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, “The Royal Road of Interior Land,” which is the oldest road in the United States according to the National Park Service (and they should know). Long before the Europeans arrived it was a trade route from then-Tenochtitlan to then-Ohkay Owingeh, and in 1598 Don Juan de Oñate (told you you’d hear of him again) made the trek from what by then had become Mexico City to Santa Fe, naming and claiming places for Spain as he went.
Can you imagine it? To get to Red Horse you drive on a road that has been traversed for millennia.
In 1680 the Spaniards took El Camino Real back south when they were kicked out by the natives, but they didn’t stay gone long. Twelve years later they were back with a vengeance, and Don Diego de Vargas bequeathed a huge swath of land west of the Rio Grande to Don Fernando Duran y Chaves II. That gift, which included the land Red Horse occupies today, was de Vargas’ way of thanking the volunteer soldier for his assistance in the reoccupation of the Valle de Atrisco. That present was the Atrisco Land Grant.
Fast forward about a hundred and fifty years, and a walk of the grounds with Carl revealed stories of a Pony Express outpost (which lasted all of three months) and an encampment of Confederate soldiers that aimed canon fire towards Old Town. We toured the on-site pottery workshop and saw the beautiful works of art that Donna, his wife, had left behind. We met the chickens that gave us our breakfast that morning and the recently-painted red horses that would soon appear in the gift shop.
The red horse, for which the inn is named, represents Carl’s Swedish ancestry, because everything at this inn has meaning. There’s no sterility. Every item has a story and after nearly fifty years the house is a collection of the many stages of this family’s life, built on the centuries of history that preceded their arrival.
Opening a bed and breakfast had been a dream of Donna’s, but she passed away in 2013 before it became a reality. Red Horse is in many ways an homage to her and the incredible woman that she apparently was. It’s a place of history and remembrance and is more than just a comfortable place to spend the night.
Red Horse Vineyard Bed & Breakfast is deserving of hyperbole; it’s the best of what a B&B can be. It’s more than just an inn; it’s a home. As Jim said when we bade our farewells, “Real life happened here.” And it still does.
There's so much more to share about this magical place that I could write a book just about it, but I don't have to because they already did. If you'd like to learn more about Carl and Donna and the Red Horse story, get a copy of their book Call the Vet.