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Santa Fe Wine Festival celebrates New Mexico wines

A long line of visitors stretched outside the gates to El Rancho de las Golondrinas on Saturday afternoon, braving the New Mexico heat to get to the Santa Fe Wine Festival.

Armed with souvenir wine glasses, the visitors sampled vintages from 19 different New Mexico wineries.

“I have a whole cupboard full of these things,” Dennis Cicak, of Santa Fe, said of the glasses.

Cicak and his partner Marilyn Blessie are repeat customers to the annual festival, now in its 20th year. In addition to the wineries, the historic ranch outside of Santa Fe hosted vendors, arts and crafts merchants, and music to go along with the drink.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Blessie said. “Some (of these wines) are really special.”

Some of the special wines Blessie was referring to aren’t widely available outside of festivals. Mitch Elsey and Yelena Temple came up from Ruidoso for a chance to taste some wine they wouldn’t be able to get back home.

One of these was wine from Casa Abril Vineyards, located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Wine maker Jamie Jordan said the winery has been in business for about four years and produces “boutique” runs of a few thousand cases. She said business has been good, but the drought has been difficult. The vineyards are on a drip irrigation system.

“We’ve been blessed with rain the last few days,” she said. “Thank you, God.”

John Berkenfield, Rancho de las Golondrinas executive director, described the New Mexico winemakers as “tough people.”

“It’s not a walk in the park to grow grapes out here,” he said.

But he added that people have been making wine in the area as far back as Spanish colonization and that, in his opinion, the environment gives New Mexico wine a unique taste.

In New Mexico, it’s all about planning for wet and dry cycles, according to Gerard Rollins of the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas. Rollins says the winery takes advantage of moisture by producing more in wetter years. In Rollins’ opinion, some dry weather isn’t always a bad thing, because it can enhance the flavor of the wine.

Jerry Burd, who owns the Black Mesa Winery in Velarde, said a slow economy has been harder on his business than the drought. But he said he’s been glad to come back to the festival each of the 14 years he’s been in business.

He said the festival gives him the opportunity to meet with and talk to his colleagues. The only competition Burd notices is a personal one: He challenges himself to bring a wine he’d be proud to show off to other people.

“This is one of our most fun festivals,” he said.

The festival continues today from noon until 6 p.m. Admission for adults 21 and over is $13, which includes the wine glass for tasting. Berkenfield said youths between the ages of 13 and 20 can get in for $5 and anyone 12 and younger gets in free. In addition to the wine and the vendors, the historical portions of the ranch are open to visitors this weekend.

The ranch is located just outside of Santa Fe, at 334 Los Pinos Road.

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