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Pop a virtual cork

The New Mexico Wine Festival at Albuquerque and New Mexico Wine Festival at Las Cruces, normally held on Memorial Day weekend, have been postponed until 2021. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Sounds of popping corks and clanking wine glasses will be plentiful in many homes this Memorial Day weekend.

The New Mexico Wine Festival at Albuquerque and New Mexico Wine Festival at Las Cruces will have to wait until 2021. But New Mexico Wine, the business association representing New Mexico’s 390-year-old wine industry, has come up with other ways wine lovers can stay connected with their favorite wineries and discover new ones. The association’s website, nmwine.com, has a one-stop shop page of all its New Mexico winery members with various promotions and discounts. Customers can opt for curbside pickup or have wine delivered safely and sanitarily to their door.

A wine and food order is packed up at VARA Winery & Distillery on Saturday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“We have been getting a ton of hits on that site,” said Chris Goblet, New Mexico Wine executive director. “That’s been very popular, and so we are really pleased that it worked, and we are going to take that same concept and turn it into an active wine sales page, so that’s cool.”

Wine enthusiasts can save more as part of the “$5 Wine Challenge.” New Mexico Wine has teamed up with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to offer $5 wine stimulus funds that can be applied toward the purchase from local wineries. The program, which launched Friday, was created to encourage New Mexicans to spend an extra $5 on locally grown food and products and give an additional push for 3,000 transactions at local wineries in May.

The first 1,000 people who log on to the New Mexico Wine website and subscribe to the Viva Vino newsletter will receive a discount code by email for $5 off their next purchase of New Mexico wine. The discount will be valid through May 15 and can be used for online, phone or in-person purchases.

New Mexico Wine was expected to release another 1,000 discount codes after the stay-at-home order was extended for another two weeks by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday.

“It’s remarkable,” Goblet said. “In response to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders nationwide, wine consumers have managed to increase online wine sales by 400%. New Mexico wineries have adapted their business and shifted employees to pack and ship online orders. In the face of declining tasting room sales, direct-to-consumer online sales have been a lifeline for many of our local wineries.”

Molly Montano delivers an order to a customer at VARA Winery & Distillery on Saturday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Another way to save at New Mexico wineries is by purchasing the 2020 Wine Pass or buying merchandise on the New Mexico Wine website. Customers will receive a $5 discount code with every merchandise purchase over $20. People who buy the 2020 Wine Pass for $20 will get a $5 discount code as well as a single entry into any New Mexico Wine festival or cider festival through 2021 in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Ruidoso or Santa Fe.

“We’ll get back to it,” Goblet said. “Once the doors open, it will be fast. We’ll get our businesses moving forward, but we’re going to have dates lined up through the end of the year, so whenever we can put on an event we will. And they’ll be new events. They’ll have different themes. The exciting part is innovation will come out of this. Smaller boutique events and we are confident by 2021 we will be back in business.”

Goblet is working with event organizer Dean Strober on smaller gatherings that maintain social distancing.

Doug Diefenthaler, owner of VARA Winery & Distillery, stands in the tasting room. The company is awaiting word from the governor about when customers can return. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“We’ll still have wineries operating and we can get back to our major festivals in the future,” said Goblet. “But in the meantime, Dean and I are working on smaller, personal events that could be geared towards groups of 50 to 200. And maybe it’s a timed event where you get in at noon and are done by 3 (p.m.) and then the next group comes in and does 3 to 6 (p.m.). … And your group of 10 moves (through) and then the next group. It’s a new model that we’re going to play with, and we’ll find the one that works the best given the restrictions on social distancing.”

There are also tentative plans for an event possibly in July at Expo New Mexico.

“We really want to work with artisans and the food trucks that have been hit,” Goblet said. “We think that art folks, artists have been hit really hard. We could do a wine and art stroll on Main Street where you have artisans spread out at significant distances, not next to each other. People could stroll out in open air up and down Main Street, taste wine, look at art. It would just be a really cool way to get those folks who haven’t had a chance to sell anything a vending opportunity.”

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