Notable Strategies for Wine Festivals
By Cameron Weber ∙ Photos by Victor Gibbs
If one form of celebration translates across New Mexico’s many traditions, it is the festival or fiesta. Gathering us together to mark the passing of time by sharing food, story, drink, and skills, festivals thrive here. Our cultural histories are suspended in the feast days and dances at the Pueblos, in the markets and processions of Northern New Mexico, and in the craft and crop festivals that became iconic in the last century. While we might not see contemporary equivalents of the historically proportioned 1893 Alfalfa Palace in Roswell, today’s festivals offer impressive displays of local goods. The wine festival particularly brings the community out to share local flavors.
- The 2016 schedule of New Mexico wine festivals promises twelve such celebrations spanning the seasons. You can tip a glass in the name of local discovery in the flurries at the Taos Winter Wine Festival in January or the Carlsbad Winter Wine Festival in December, then gain altitude to escape the heat at the Santa Fe Wine Festival at Las Golandrinas in July. As you explore the terroir of New Mexico at 2016 wine festivals, consider the following strategies to make the most of your experience. Identify your expectations beforehand. For example, are you searching for your next go-to local wine for gift giving? Maybe you want to find this season’s accessible white wine to start your summer dinners. Turn your festival experience into a treasure hunt, but know the treasure you seek before your start.
- When you arrive at the festival, make an initial tour before tasting to identify which vendors you definitely want to visit. Make a list or mark these on your festival map. Consider researching wineries beforehand, and make a list of vendors to visit. With the New Mexico Wine and Grape Growers Association website (nmwine.org), try to predict which winery will have your new favorite wine waiting.
- Take notes as you go. When you encounter a wine you love, document it with more than one fleeting glass. Use a simple method to keep track. Take a business card from the table and write the wine on the back. Use your phone to take notes or voice memos. Or text yourself a photo of the label and a message. Pick a method to document your reviews and you’ll find it easier to stay focused as you tour.
- Eat a hearty meal before you start tasting. You want to keep a clear head for as long as possible, so don’t skip this one. Accept snacks as you go. Drink plenty of water to ensure a good time; take your own water bottle to avoid the need to seek it out.
- Arrange for safe and sober transportation at the end of the event. The good times should last all the way home.
Strategize for a more pragmatic approach to wine festivals this year and leave with more than just an empty glass. If you have found wine tasting to be intimidating in the past, the atmosphere of open curiosity and excitement at a festival can help you get more comfortable with wine. Chat with the winemakers, as most are excited to share what they know about wine and may provide you with a vocabulary to articulate your preferences.
At most New Mexico wine festivals, the intersection of wine and the arts is on display with local artists selling their work. Plan to attend the Red River Fine Art & Wine Festival in June and Cloudcroft Art & Wine in the Cool Pines in August to enjoy an emphasis on the arts as you taste. The NMWGA website provides a guide to the upcoming festivals, profiles of wineries, and tasting tips—additional tools to make the 2016 tasting season entirely approachable. Set out to celebrate every season this year with a wine festival!
Photos below are from the Southern New Mexico Wine Festival in Las Cruces, May 2015, just one of the state’s dozen local wine festivals.