Grape-crushing competition the highlight of annual Harvest Wine Festival
FARMINGTON — Organizers of the annual Harvest Wine Festival at Wines of the San Juan in Blanco make an effort each year to add something new to the event to keep it from growing stale.
They've added several new features this year with that thought it mind. But they also know the festival's highlight each year remains the Great Grape Stomp, which pits two-member teams against each other in a competition that is exactly what it sounds like. Participants compete for prizes based on the amount of juice they can produce in three minutes.
The stomp is just one of the attractions at the two-day festival, which begins Saturday, Sept. 26 at the winery. The event also includes live music, wine classes, arts and crafts, and a number of food options.
The festival attracts a total of more than 3,000 visitors each year, said Brittny Arnold, the winery's marketing director, drawing wine lovers mostly from the Four Corners region but also a number of patrons from Albuquerque.
"We get a good mixed crowd," she said. "A lot of them definitely know about our wines, but some of them are new to the winery and just want to have a good time."
Arnold said you don't have to be a wine aficionado to enjoy yourself at the festival. Among the new attractions this year are the wine classes, set for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. both days of the festival. Those sessions will deal with the basics of wine tasting, as well as how to read a wine label, paring food and wine, and how to identify and appreciate wine characteristics. The cost is $10, and those interested in taking a class can register in advance.
Arnold said the classes are designed to allow participants to enjoy wine for what it is.
Another new feature of the festival this year is a beer tent, which Arnold said has been made possible by a change in state law that allows wineries to sell suds. Arnold hopes the change allows the festival to draw more visitors who aren't particularly fond of wine but who are interested in taking advantage of the other attractions.
An expanded list of food offerings will be available this year, including gluten-free barbecue from Infinite Barbeque; soups, salads, cheesesteaks, bratwurst and hot dogs from Good on the Bun; wood-fired pizza from Sweetwater Gypsies; pad thai and chicken wings from Than Tip Thai Restaurant; and green chile cheeseburgers and Mexican food from Big Belly.
Arnold is excited about the increased number of food vendors, explaining that, like many people, she has food-intolerance issues, and typical festival-type food doesn't leave people in her situation with many options.
"So, we're extending the variety, and it's nice to have that," she said.
The first day's musical lineup includes reggae, Gypsy and jazz by Wake Up Laughing, as well as New Orleans funk by Booty Conda. The music continues the next day with bluegrass and Americana by Secondhand Strings, and rock by After Midnight.
But the biggest crowd pleaser is always the Great Grape Stomp, which attracts costumed team members, some of whom take part every year and spend weeks preparing for the competition.
"We're still looking for teams," Arnold said last week. "Usually, it fills up pretty fast."
The entry fee for each two-person team is $25, which includes a T-shirt.
IF YOU GO
IF YOU GO