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Fruit of the vine: New Mexico Wine Festival offers entertainment, food in ABQ, Las Cruces

(Illustration by Cathryn Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

The popular wine festivals in Albuquerque and Las Cruces return Memorial Day weekend with slight name changes that better represent the state’s wineries as a whole.

The festivals, once known as the Albuquerque Wine Festival and the Las Cruces Wine Festival, are now the New Mexico Wine Festival at Albuquerque and the New Mexico Wine Festival at Las Cruces.

“What we’re trying to do is sort of, in the mind of the consumer, is show that we are the industry putting on the biggest wine festival Memorial weekend in two locations with 24,000-25,000 attendees and people see it’s a state wide organization,” said New Mexico Wine Executive Director Chris Goblet. “We wanted people, particularly out-of-towners, when they see the New Mexico Wine Fest they don’t want them to think that Albuquerque is just Albuquerque wineries and Las Cruces is just Las Cruces wineries. We want them to know that they cover the whole state and that it’s just one large unit, one membership, all making great wines and traveling around the state to showcase them.”

The Albuquerque event will showcase more than 20 wineries from around the state.

“We want to remind people that’s there’s special bottle and case pricing on wine,” said Dean Strober of Blue River Productions, which organizes the event. “A lot of these wineries don’t have tasting rooms. They don’t have distribution deals. So the only place to find some of these wines are at the festivals. … It’s a really unique opportunity to not just get great deals on bottles and cases but more importantly, to meet the winemakers. They’re going to get real intimate conversations about what is the right wine for you. How do you enjoy your wine? And how do you make the best educated decision on what wines to buy and take home? And that I think that is so much of the core of our wine festivals is that people who are pouring the wines are the people who make the wines.”

Also part of the event will be arts and craft vendors and artisan food makers selling maple syrup, honey, crepes, horseradish, salsas, cheeses, chocolates, baked goods and more. There will also be painting classes presented by Kelly Jo Designs By Wine and wine and cheese seminars in collaboration with La MontaƱita Co-op. The painting classes fill up quickly, and attendees can reserve their spots for $5 on the wine festival website, which also shows what guests will be painting during each of the scheduled seminars. The wine and cheese seminars will be held at 12:30 p.m. each day of the event and are $10 to attend.

There also will be seven bands providing live entertainment each day. They include Baracutanga, Sol de la Noche, Chris Dracup and Funk of the West, Shark Suit and Fantuzzi.

(Illustration by Cathryn Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

The New Mexico Wine Fest at Las Cruces will be happening in the southern part of the state during Memorial Weekend. It will showcase about 18 New Mexico wineries as well as artisan food vendors, food trucks and artisans and craftspeople selling their wares. Each day will feature live entertainment by a number of bands from a variety of genres, including funky jazz, country, reggae and Latin. Painting classes will be offered by I Painted That. Classes are on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. Attendees can make floral wreaths or paint their own wooden signs during do-it-yourself courses. Wine fest guests can also learn a new dance with the help of Sol Dance Company.

“You can learn how to salsa, you can learn how to meringue, you can learn how to do bachata and swing,” said Chelsea Canon, Las Cruces event coordinator and New Mexico Wine assistant director. “… They’re going to do one dance class per hour. The dance classes will be around 25 to 30 minutes long. They can just walk in and start taking a lesson.”

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