The words “it is not a race, but a marathon” was heard coming out of the mouths of attendees at the 2018 Viva Vino New Mexican Harvest Wine Festival. The 18th annual wine festival boasted award-winning musicians playing live tunes over the hum of over 20 wineries, abuzz with service to the backdrop of the Sandia mountains.

This three day celebration of wine lasted from Sep.1 to 3. After entering the gates, which opened at 12 on Saturday, the lawn of the balloon fiesta was awash with aromas from food trucks and vendors selling a range of goods from jerky to message oils.

A wine glass provided with admission allowed five different samples of various wines from every winery in attendance.

Gruet served exclusively sparkling wines. The size and amount of bubbles present in the wine is dependant upon the amount of residual sugar present in the grapes picked at the time of harvest. The champagne method of producing this wine includes a double fermentation process and turning the bottle several time during fermentation. Although all champagne is sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine can be champagne.

Such a name is reserved for grapes that are only grown geographically in Champagne, France. But the hidden treasure of the Southwest does include New Mexican wine because the elevation and conditions are similar to those in Champagne, France.

“Champagne shouldn’t be about celebrating special occasions, it should be about celebrating everyday,” said University of New Mexico alumni and Gruet employee, Aizlinn Gutierrez.

Wineries usually carry white and red wine, on a spectrum from sweet to dry. How this flavor evolves during the fermentation process depends heavily on the grapes. The timing of when the grapes are plucked from the vine can control the amount of sweetness in the wine

Drier wines are typically made with grapes left on the vine longer. The longer the vines are out then the more the sugars are dried out.

Sweeter wines are made with immature grapes. White wines are made from either white or red grapes, but what separates it from red wine is that white wine is made without the grape skins.

Rosés and reds are made with the skins on during the fermentation process. Red wines are said to be matched with red meats while whites go better with fish and poultry.

Any fermented fruit can be considered a wine. Tularosa Vineyards flaunted this aspect with their Burro Flats Apricot white wine. Made exclusively from apricots grown in the mountains of Sacramento, NM, the Burro was recommended to be used in cooking chicken or served over vanilla ice cream.

Another unexpected surprise of the festival was a recent wine trend sweeping over New Mexican vineries, was the rise of the Gewürztraminer. A bottle called “Girls Are Meaner” from Wines of the San Juan, is a semi-sweet, double gold, white wine. It’s paired well with seafood and BBQ entrées. This type of vine has recently been a favorite of various vineries and continues to grow in popularity.

Seasonal wines were also being presented. Black Mesa carried a rosé called “Santa Fest.” The uniqueness of “Santa Fest” came from the after tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg. This rosé is served warm to accentuate the flavors of the holidays. Mulled spices mix warmly with the light pink liquid.

New Mexico has been in the wine making game for about 400 years. The ideal warm days, colder nights and elevation come together to create the many wines that can be found under the tents by the banks of the Rio Grande every Sept. at the annual Viva Vino New Mexican Harvest Wine Festival.

Yana Apostalon is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at or on Twitter @yana_aposta.