Yet another busy summer is behind us, and the best time of the year for Santa Fe is here! Yes, “best” is quite a qualifier, but after 30+ years in New Mexico, I have come to believe that the months of September and October make for truly sublime travel to Santa Fe. The weather is perfection, the town is not as crowded, and there are still many things to do and see. One of the big events takes place this week as wine aficianados from around the world pour in to town (pun intended!) for the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta.

Photo by Azampella

Wine and Chile is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and continues to be a huge draw for those who love to have their palate tickled with the zest of New Mexico’s chile-speckled cuisine and imbibe fine wines in the process. As always, all of the tickets for the Grand Tasting event at the Santa Fe Opera grounds went as fast as a celebratory bottle of Dom Perignon, but for the real wine-lovers, there are still many more events designed for tasting pleasure.


Wine Hour at the Inn: Photo by Eric Swanson

To many, the Reserve Tasting, at the Eldorado Hotel on Friday, 9/24 from 4:00-6:30 p.m., should be considered the big event. Boasting the best wines of the week, all participating wineries will be sharing their finest bottles. A silent auction of 50 rare wine lots will take place during the tasting to benefit the Wine and Chile Foundation’s education programs. This is an ideal event to attend before one of the winery dinners. Although at first blush (can’t help these puns), wine dinners may appear pricey, the prix fixe meals include the wines, paired in thoughtful flights with dinner, so these may actually be a bargain. If you’re staying at the Inn, you can skip the reserve tasting and save dollars for dinner by starting the night at the Inn’s wine hour.

If the appetizing thought of a winemaker dinner is on your radar, however, here are a few spots to consider, all within walking distance of the Inn. Obviously, if you take a look at the complete list of participating restaurants, you’ll see that this is just the tip of the wine carafe:

315, Beautifully Renovated

315 Restaurant and Wine Bar, at 315 Old Santa Fe Trail, is basing their Wednesday 9/22 dinner, referred to as Ten Years After, on wines from Bordeaux, vintage 2000. On Friday, 9/24, 315’s winemaker dinner will feature the Louis Jadot Burgundies. Chef/Owner Louis Moskow will be on hand both nights to ensure that all four courses of each dinner reflect a pairing that will enhance the wines; two seatings, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Trust the Italians to go all out! Stepping up to the plate with three full winery dinners is Osteria d’Assisi, 58 Federal Place, a perennial Santa Fe favorite for Italian comfort food. Wednesday 9/22 will feature Robert Mondavi wines. Thursday the 23rd will be a Premier Vino Italiano Di Kobrand spread, and on Friday, 9/24, Lino Pertussini and the crew will be plating, pouring and pairing Antinori Wines with Italian specialties.

If you are willing to go just a bit further away for your Italian fix, Pranzo, at 540 Montezuma Street, will let you practice your Italian lessons with recordings, while you fix your face in the powder room. All kidding aside (though you really can hear Italian lessons in the ladies), this friendly Italian grill will be welcoming Beringer Vineyards on Friday the 24th at 6:00 p.m., with a menu to match. Mangia!

Executive chef Megan Tucker is going all out these days at Amavi, 221 Shelby Street, and the restaurant is truly one of the most romantic spots to dine in downtown Santa Fe. Amavi will be welcoming Vin Iberian wines, bringing diners the best in Spanish wines, sure to complement the farm to table dining experience. Although the wine dinner menu is not listed on their website, it is sure to reflect some of these flavors from the classics, and winery dinners take place on Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:00 p.m., one seating only.

And on the subject of Spanish influences, another Santa Fe favorite at 808 Canyon Road, El Farol, will be featuring wines of Chile at their winery dinner on Friday, 9/24. With an opening reception at 6:30 p.m., diners move from queso to flan, accompanied by interesting Chilean pairings.

If you are a fan of chef Martin Rios, Thursday night the 23rd is the time to head for Restaurant Martin, 526 Galisteo Street, at see what he can cook up to go with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Family-owned and operated means commitment, and Martin is definitely one of Santa Fe’s committed chefs. Canapes begin at 6:30 and seating is limited, don’t be late!

Cheese Maven Laura Werlin

Of course, with Santa Fe being such a hands-on sort of town, sit-down dinners are not the only thing that Wine and Chile has in its toque! Each year, the the Fiesta brings a series of intriguing learning experiences to entice the City Different’s food and wine aficionados. Both local food celebrities and national names will be in attendance at this year’s events, which include Chef’s Demos, Blind Tastings, Wine Seminars, Food Seminars, and even Chef”s Luncheons for those who want to make the midday meal their main event. There is truly something for every taste!

Beautiful Northern New Mexico: Photo Eric Swanson

If you are feeling forlorn about missing the Grand Tasting at the Opera, don’t despair; you can still get some New Mexico bragging rights of a different sort and acquire some nice art in the process, if you drive out of Santa Fe for the 13th Annual High Road to Taos Art Tour. Taking place every year over the last two weekends in September (9/18-19/10 and 9/25-26/10 this year), this is an event to which locals bring their friends to enjoy one of New Mexico’s loveliest drives in what many consider the best season of the year. The High Road Art Tour, occurring from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, is a chance to connect directly with local artists and see their studios as you visit the tiny, historic Land Grant villages tucked deep into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. If you feel like staying in Taos on Sunday night the 26th, you can catch a reading by renowned playwright, Sam Shepard, appearing in a benefit for the Society of the Muse of the Southwest, better known as SOMOS.

If that seem like too much driving, consider the Pecos Studio Tour, yet another artistic excursion into the surroundings environs of Santa Fe. 23 of the village’s artists will welcome visitors on Saturday and Sunday, 9/25-26, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. If you make either studio tour the closing to your wine experience, make sure you have had enough water to flush your bloodstream before driving on the backroads of New Mexico.

And last but not least, if you want some thertrical drama with your wine drama, head for the Santa Fe Fashion Outlets to catch the last performances of OM: Ten Tiny Epics in an Outlet Mall, Theatre Grottesco‘s autumn set of short plays (see my August posting below to read more). OM will be playing Thursday, 9/23 through Sunday 9/26 at 7pm, and yes, it is at the Outlet Mall, a quirky but successful venue for this adventurous and gifted troupe.

Salud, Buen Provecho, and above all, Disfrutele con Cuidado!