Vara Winery & Distillery was on to a good thing when it began its Wine Up Wednesday concert series.
Customers missed the entertainment, and musicians missed entertaining after wineries were closed for events and tastings in March as part of restrictions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“It all started last summer going into Memorial Day (in 2019),” Vara co-founder Doug Diefenthaler said. “We decided to do Wine Up Wednesday live on the patio. So every Wednesday on the patio, we would have some sort of live artist playing from 7 to 9 (p.m.). We were going to end it at Labor Day, but it was popular, so we kept running it through Balloon Fiesta. And then after Balloon Fiesta, it began to get a little chillier, so we started to do it the first Wednesday of the month instead of every Wednesday. And then, of course, in March we got closed down, and people just said we still want to do this. Why don’t we do a ‘Wine Up at Home.’ So we’ve been doing that, and people like it, so we intend to continue doing it.”
Musicians have the capability of recording the concerts from home or at Vara.
“Our place is empty,” Diefenthaler said. “Our tasting room is empty. The room is just sitting here. If the artist would like to do it here, we do that. But we’ve had a couple of them do it from their home because that’s where they feel comfortable doing it. We had Stephanie Quayle, who did it from North Carolina, and that was pretty cool. We can be fairly flexible and versatile on that.”
Other performers have included Hillary Smith, Chris Dracup, Joe Daddy & Hoodoo Jeff. A few artists from New Mexico and beyond have shown interest in participating in the weekly virtual concerts.
“There’s a few that have exhibited some interest and want to be a part of this,” Diefenthaler said. “If they’ve seen ‘Vara Wine Up at Home’ and they like it and they want to be part of us, they’ll (reach out to us), they’ll talk to us and see if we can do something to put them in the mix. But 95% of everything has been all local artists, lots of good local artists, and we like supporting that. We like supporting live music, period.”
Diefenthaler plans to keep the music going, whether it is in front of a live audience or online or both.
“We do think that we’ll be able to get it live again for this summer and continue to do the at-home version as well,” he said. “The same thing with our takeout. It’s been relatively successful because you do so much every night at home and they want something different, so they call us up and order one of our tapas platters or takeout and possibly a bottle of wine or brandy or something like that. They come and get it, and that breaks up their week a little bit.”
Many customers pick up takeout in time to make it home for the virtual concerts each Wednesday. Vara’s takeout menu and wine offerings can be found at varawines.com.
“On social media, we’ve been reminding them in advance to make sure they get their order and grab it to go so that they can enjoy it while they’re watching the Wednesday night show,” Diefenthaler said. “And a lot of them do. At 5 o’clock, it gets pretty busy here for pickup, because people are getting their stuff together and get it home before 7 so they can have a little dinner and a glass of wine while they’re watching.”