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Fresh flavor: Santa Fe Wine Festival revamps with a new look and feel

A guest sips a fine New Mexico wine during a past Santa Fe Wine Festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Courtesy of Vic Macias)

A guest sips a fine New Mexico wine during a past Santa Fe Wine Festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Courtesy of Vic Macias)

Revamping the idea of what a wine festival is supposed to be is a mission of many of those in the New Mexico winemakers circle.

Breaking the mold and freshening up the look and feel of a wine festival in the state are things that Vic Macias, events manager at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, and New Mexico Wine and Grape Growers Association Executive Director Chris Goblet have done at this year’s Santa Fe Wine Festival, celebrating its 23rd year.

The music is livelier, a unique food vendor has been added and there are wineries participating in the event that are not only new to the festival but also new in the state.

A new cidery, New Mexico Hard Cider, also is on board and will not only be offering its ciders, but New Mexico craft beers on tap as well.

“One of my main goals was to kind of make it more fresh and young and add more energy to it as opposed to the sleepy kind of wine fest,” Macias said. “… I think the crowd here in New Mexico is looking for more of a bit of an energetic time. My focus is to look at that and revise it and make it more fun.”

Macias added performers to the music lineup that have either not played the festival before or offer a different type of music that has not been played there before.

“We have Lone Piñon, which is a northern New Mexico folk band trio,” Macias said. “They do a lot of northern New Mexican corridos, which we haven’t done here at the wine festival. We have Sweet Jones, which plays blues, and the Bus Tapes that play blues-rock style. Something new is the Boomroots. They play kind of reggae/hip-hop. I know for a fact that we haven’t had reggae here. We’re bringing a different flavor and feel to the whole thing.”

There will be about 40 arts and crafts vendors and about 10 food vendors, including Santa Fe’s Jambo Cafe, which offers African-themed cuisine and is new to the festival.

Eventgoers step up for a tasting of some of New Mexico’s best wine during a past Santa Fe Wine Festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Courtesy of Vic Macias)

Eventgoers step up for a tasting of some of New Mexico’s best wine during a past Santa Fe Wine Festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Courtesy of Vic Macias)

Seventeen New Mexico wineries and New Mexico Hard Cider will offer tastings of their products as well as have their products for sale by the glass or by the bottle. Amaro Winery, Black’s Smuggler Winery, Corrales Winery, Jaramillo Vineyards, Las Nueve Niñas Winery, Luna Rossa Winery, Matheson Winery and Wines of the San Juan are part of the winery lineup.

Newcomers to the event are Albuquerque’s Sheehan Family Winery and Ruidoso’s Noisy Water Winery.

“He’s a young and an enthusiastic wine grower from Albuquerque,” Goblet said of Sean Sheehan. “We’re really excited about Sean’s participation. Noisey Water is from Ruidoso. It’s their first time at this festival. They just won the most medals at the New Mexico State Fair wine competition.”

Sheehan, in Albuquerque’s South Valley, does not have a storefront, and its wine can only be purchased at wine festivals or enjoyed at local restaurants Seasons Rotisserie & Grill and Farm & Table.

Sheehan founder Sean Sheehan, has a background in chemistry and biology. In a nutshell, Sheehan started his winemaking career at Casa Rondeña, which led to his becoming assistant winemaker at Tierra Encantada in the South Valley.

Later, under unfortunate circumstances, Sheehan become the head winemaker when its owner, Jim Dowling, lost his battle with cancer. Sheehan did four harvests there as its head winemaker and won a number of awards. Tierra Encantada later closed.

Wine enthusiasts gather to taste some of New Mexico’s best offerings at a previous Santa Fe Wine Festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Courtesy of Vic Macias)

Wine enthusiasts gather to taste some of New Mexico’s best offerings at a previous Santa Fe Wine Festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Courtesy of Vic Macias)

Sheehan had winery fever, and the parents of his then-girlfriend and now wife allowed him to plant a couple acres of grapevines on their land in Bosque Farms. He later found a place where he could make wine in Bernalillo County’s South Valley, an 80-year-old adobe building that he reconditioned. Sheehan said 2012 was the first time his winery made wine from that location, and it opened its doors December 2015.

He recently won three silver medals, including one for his Merlot 2012, and three bronze medals at the last State Fair wine competition. Eventgoers also almost bought him out of his Merlot 2012 at the past Albuquerque Wine Festival in May, according to Sheehan.

He has had the most success with a grape called Chambourcin. Half of the acreage of the vineyard in Bosque Farms is dedicated to this grape.

“The way we describe it is it is kind of the New Mexico pinot, pinot noir,” he said of Chambourcin. “It’s a little more full-bodied and a little spicier than the pino, but when we are describing it to people, we’re basically like, ‘This is our New Mexico pino-style wine.’ It’s really versatile.”

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