By Charles Christmann
Hot, late summer afternoons normally bring a thirst for a nice cold beer; however, in Bernalillo, New Mexico, cravings turn to wine. The three-day New Mexico Wine Festival, held over Labor Day weekend, has drawn tens of thousands of visitors for the past 25 years.
The 2012 event featured twenty of New Mexico’s best wineries. Thirsty customers lined up in long but swiftly-moving queues for free tastes in their souvenir glasses. No matter your preference, you can find a wine to satisfy your palate: Rosé to Chardonnay, Shiraz to Port, Riesling to Zinfandel. If you prefer, the Anasazi-Fields Winery features hand-crafted dry table wines from fruits and berries — no grape wines there!
More than Wine
Along with wine, you can find New Mexico handicrafts, including glassware, metal sculptures, and jewelry, for purchase. Hungry? Food, ranging from frosty shaved ice and ice cream to sizzling bar-b-que and traditional New Mexico fry bread, is available to help keep the wine buzz away.
The festival draws aficionados from all over the country. I caught up with two “wine fairies” from Oklahoma, Glenda and Tina, roaming the grounds sprinkling their fairy dust — purple glitter — on unsuspecting revelers. (Even I was covertly anointed.) This was their seventh annual expedition to the wine festival, and for them, it is a “no miss, must attend” event.
My wife and I purchased several bottles to take home. We found a white table wine, a tasty blend of three wines from the Guadalupe Winery, to be light and fruity — a great choice for one of our green chili chicken enchilada dinners. The Zinfandel from the Tularosa Vineyards was a bit sweeter, but with a spicy note — just perfect for sipping before bedtime.
Wine lovers can easily find the festival by driving about 13 miles north of Albuquerque on Interstate 25, taking exit 242, and following the signs. Or board the New Mexico Rail Runner train for the Sandoval County 550 station. Free shuttle vans run from the train station to the festival. Parking near the front entrance ranges from $3 to $5 and the admission fee is $12 per person at the gate, including your wine glass ($5 if under 21). Anyone under 21 must be accompanied by a drinking-age companion. Gates open at noon, and tastings end at 6:00 p.m.
If you missed this year’s event, mark your calendars for next year. Bernalillo will be hosting the festival again on September 7-9, 2013.
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