Wine weekend: Festivals in Albuquerque, Las Cruces feature New Mexico vineyards

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The biggest wine weekend in New Mexico begins Saturday, May 28.

“I would really like to talk about the wine festival as one weekend, two events,” said Chris Goblet, Executive Director for the New Mexico Wine and Grape Growers Association. “What really has not happened in the past is nobody has taken this and said Memorial (Day) weekend is the biggest wine festival weekend in the state because people think of it as there’s one in Las Cruces and there’s one in Albuquerque. Yeah, but there’s 20,000 people drinking New Mexico wine this weekend, and that makes it de facto the biggest wine festival weekend every year in New Mexico.”

The 2016 Albuquerque Wine Festival will showcase 21 New Mexico wineries, and the 2016 Southern New Mexico Wine Festival in Las Cruces will feature 16 wineries from the Land of Enchantment.

Both events will have Amaro Winery, Black Mesa Winery, Black’s Smuggler, Dos Viejos, Jaramillo Vineyards, Gruet, Las Nueve Niñas, Luna Rossa Winery, Ponderosa Valley Winery, Tularosa Vineyards and Wines of the San Juan.

Luna Rossa Winery, from 2015 to the present, has won 30 awards through four competitions: the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and the New Mexico State Fair wine competition. It won double gold awards at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle and Tasters Guild International competition for its 2009 Reserve Aglianico.

It also received double gold for its 2008 Nebbiolo at the Tasters Guild event. This year, it has won seven gold, nine silver and four bronze awards in two competitions: the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition and the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

Southern New Mexico Wine Festival WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 28; Sunday, May 29; and Monday, May 30 WHERE: Southern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, 12125 Robert Larson Blvd. in Las Cruces HOW MUCH: $15 advance, $5 designated driver, $5 ages 13-20, plus fees at

“It’s amazing,” said Luna Rossa Winery co-owner Paolo D’Andrea. “I am proud about it. The reason why I enter international wine competitions is because sometimes in New Mexico, the wine industry does not consider us as they do California wines. I wanted to try to prove it myself and enter my wines into international competitions and get evaluated in comparison of other wines in other wine regions. We were excited that we got a lot of gold medals and double gold medals. It shows we are as good as the wines they produce in California.”

Luna Rossa will have 21 wines for tasting at both the Albuquerque and Las Cruces events. Its wines also will be available for purchase.

“This year down in Las Cruces, if people go to the festival, at the fairgrounds there are 16 independent wineries that you can taste from,” D’Andrea said. “It’s the first year we have so many wineries from the north. About seven to eight different wineries from the north, Gruet, Vivác, Ponderosa and Jaramillo. They never come down south. It’s a great event because people down south can taste those wines from the north part of the state.”

Albuquerque’s wine festival will be bigger and better than in years past, according to organizer Dean Strober.

“I think people will notice this event is different from past ones from the moment they walk in,” Strober said. “We really changed it in as many ways possible to make it more exciting. It’s more welcoming, and we certainly have more wine vendors than we’ve had in the past. … We’ve got incredible music, and there is some really good stuff.”

This year’s event will feature free wine painting classes by Kelly Jo Designs By Wine. Sign up on site, grab a canvas and spend 45 minutes in a painting class. Classes run all day, each day of the event.

Learn about wines during Wine 101 seminars with Howard Spiegelman of Santa Fe Community College’s Culinary Arts program. Wine & Chocolate Pairing 101 with Joliesse Chocolates also will be featured.

And, there will be more than 40 vendors selling fine foods and chocolates. There also will be wine-themed interactive games provided by Mazda, which is a new partner of the wine festival.

“What I’m really proud of is the amount of New Mexico wine just in the past 18 months, which has won over 76 awards at international tastings,” Strober said “That is something people want to know. We want to make sure people understand that New Mexico wines are recognized certainly throughout the country as well as around the world. We definitely have the finest wines.”

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There was a large crowd at the Albuquerque Wine Festival at the Balloon Fiesta Park on May 26, 2013. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

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Alesia Torres, left, of Albuquerque and Amy Graves of Albuquerque wear a pretzel necklace at the 2015 Albuquerque Wine Festival. They ate a pretzel between wine samples to clear their palates. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

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Eventgoers stomp grapes at a past Southern New Mexico Wine Festival in Las Cruces. (Courtesy of Amanda Collier, 360 Events)

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Vendors set up and prepare to serve wine enthusiasts at a past Southern New Mexico Wine Festival in Las Cruces. (Courtesy of Amanda Collier, 360 Events)

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