As a native El Pasoan, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never been to a local wine festival or toured any of the area wineries. Thanks to my friend David, I was able to attend the annual La Vina Blues & Jazz Festival that occurred at the beginning of this month for free! La Vina is located in La Union, NM, which is about a 15 minute drive from the Outlet Mall. Be sure to check out La Vina’s website for a listing of events that occur throughout the year. They are currently hosting a Music on the Patio series and will hold a 4th of July picnic. You can also visit the winery Thursday-Tuesday from noon-5 pm, and can tour by appointment at 11:30 am.
This being my first wine festival, I had no idea what to expect. My advice to you is to wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen, bring an umbrella, and bring a chair or a blanket if you’re opposed to sitting on the ground. If you’re vegan, plan on eating beforehand because your only food option is roasted corn (ask for it without butter). If you’re cheap and snobby like me, plan on eating and drinking beforehand as well. Depending on what time you get there, you may do a lot of walking, but there is plenty of parking.
The beginning of my experience was unpleasant. I don’t like being outside and I don’t like being hot. Thank goodness I brought my umbrella, because it was uncomfortably hot and sunny. Admission is typically $15, and with your admission, you receive a bracelet with tabs good for 9 tastings and a commemorative glass, but not too commemorative because it lacks the year and the name of the festival. They have cleverly placed an engraving booth nearby.
The lines were long and ridiculously slow, most likely due to Chatty Cathies schmoozing for a larger sample. To make matters worth, I stood in the wrong line. There isn’t any visible signage, so I accidentally stood in the white wine line. I hate white wine and I hate sweet wine. I had to wait all over again in the red wine line, which thank goodness wasn’t as long of a wait. At first I used 2 tabs for a larger tasting, but became so frustrated that I used the rest of my tabs for a semi-full glass (more like semi-empty glass!). I think I tried their Primitivo and Heritage wines, which were both pretty good. Extra glasses of wine cost between $5-7. After all that, I was so ready for a nice cold beer, but I had to settle for a wine margarita instead. I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t too sweet or tart. I even went all out and added the shot of the Rojo Loco. This was a total mistake and ripoff because they do not pour a full shot and most of it spilled over the sides of my glass anyway.
I got a little hungry, so I decided to venture out into the food booths. I was impressed by the options, but unfortunately there was only one vegetarian option besides the roasted corn. Booths included a foot long corn dog (with jalapeno in the batter!), burgers, tacos, turkey legs, nachos, papas locas, chocolate covered strawberries and nuts, and cinnamon glazed nuts. I tried the quesadilla booth, which was from Deming and only sold quesadillas with rajas (long green chile) for $4. It was good, but not as amazing as others indicated. My grandmother and mother have made better ones. Still, it was nice not to worry if meat had touched the same grill.
At the very end of the festival, I signed up for the wine tour. The tour was short, yet very informative and interesting. The entire wine process is completed at the winery, from seedling to packaging. We also found out that you can volunteer to work the festivals one or both days. If I remember correctly, you get a shirt, a bottle of wine, employee discount, and an invite to their volunteer appreciation party. I know that I was mostly negative about my experience, but overall it was a good experience. I had good company, got to taste local wine, and visited a beautiful area that most of us are unfamiliar with. It’s surreal to drive from the desert into acres of green farmland.