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Wine in rain or shine: Festival features 20 New Mexico wineries

Geri Jones of La Esperanza Vineyard and Winery pours a glass of cabernet sauvignon at the Harvest Wine Festival at the Balloon Fiesta Park on Saturday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Temperatures in the 60s, overcast skies and light rainfall did little to curb the enthusiasm of the thousands who showed up at Balloon Fiesta Park for the opening day of the Albuquerque Harvest Wine Festival on Saturday.

“I’m like a postman when it comes to wine fests,” said Velvet Farra, who was there right when the gates opened at noon along with best friend Shelly Sadzewicz. “I’ll be there through rain, sleet, snow or shine.”

Farra and Sadzewicz were each enjoying a glass of red wine from Sherman-based La Esperanza Vineyard and Winery, one of 20 New Mexican winemakers on-hand.

New to the festival this year is Corrales’ Pasando Tiempo Winery and Vineyards.

Tracey McCoy samples a glass of Amour, a sweet red wine from Amaro Winery, at the Harvest Wine Festival in Albuquerque on Saturday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Pasando Tiempo owner Chris Carpenter said the venture is entering its 10th year in operation, but it’s their first time at a bigger wine festival.

“We thought we’d give it a shot,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter brought along a syrah, merlot, a red blend, riesling, chardonnay and blended white called Blanco.

The event is taking place at a time of the year when Carpenter said people typically start switching from “poolside whites” to heavier reds.

“We’re kind of in that gray area between summer and fall,” said chef Stephen Ormsby of Savor Catering, who is serving his creations at the festival for the first time this year.

Ormsby recommended pairing Sheehan Winery’s malbec with his brisket sliders, creamed corn and marinated cabbage. If white wine is your preference, he suggested his shredded chicken sliders with watermelon slaw and basil aioli with Gruet’s Blanc de Blancs.

Bright, hand-painted bottles of Ratafia, a sweet white wine from D.H. Lescombes, are displayed at the Harvest Wine Festival on Saturday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Event organizer Dean Strober said the three-day festival, which is fully tented, usually draws between 8,000 and 9,000 people.

Strober said in addition to the wineries, there are 40 vendor booths, a reduction from years past.

“The main priority and mission of the event is to support small businesses, to make sure they’re out here and they’ll leave here having made money,” Strober said.

Priority is given to New Mexico-based businesses, among them Celina’s Biscochitos, The Old Windmill Dairy and New Mexico Sabor.

Another new addition to the festival is the $5 off any bottle of wine that comes with each ticket.

“It’s wonderful when people come out here and taste the wine and enjoy a glass or so, but we really want them to bring it home and share with friends and family,” he said.

Empty wine glasses sit on a table near the entrance of the Harvest Wine Festival on Saturday in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)