What an incredible story this festival has to tell. In the very beginning, Al Lucero, past owner of Maria’s Restaurant, had been looking for an idea to keep Santa Fe’s hotels busy after Labor Day—when historically the market just dried up. Full hotels mean full restaurants, Al figured. So the idea of a wine and chili festival was born – a clever name echoing the chili harvests that define New Mexico and a salute to the state’s fine wineries.
The first Festival was held in 1990 at the Sanbusco mall. I remember that event very well, as David Oberstein and I decided it would be a perfect location for the festival and offered it as a contribution to this great effort. There were about 300 attendees. Unbelievably, the admission price was all of $10. For that, attendees received a booklet with eight coupons good for food and four coupons for glasses of wine. Sixteen restaurants participated in the first festival, as did a dozen or more wineries.
Given that $10 admission price, it was expected that the event would end up in the red that first year. Still, among its participants and hosts, there was the realization of how much potential this wine and chile deal offered. To everyone.
Today, over 90 wineries and over 70 restaurants participate in the event. Activities are planned for five glorious fall days now, many are designed to help the greater community. The Live Auction for the Santa Fe Wine and Chili Festival (SFWCF) benefits and helps underwrite culinary classes, including restaurant service and wine and cooking classes. The auction helps sponsor other community events involving restaurants and chefs, for example, Santa Fe’s Cooking with Kids program and Santa Fe Restaurant Week.
This year’s six-day fest includes a film festival, wine and food seminars, a wine auction, wine tastings, and a guest chef demonstration. Features include 2019 Winery of the Year, Tablas Creek; 2019 Champagne of the Year, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte; and 2019 Artist of the Year, Ramona Sakiestewa.
The SFWCF has enriched our lives here for locals and visitors alike. It joins other groups like the International Folk Market, the Santa Fe Film Festival, and the Lensic Performing Arts Center; also relatively new “startups” that have reached national recognition.
Attend the 2019 Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta and learn more about the story it tells!