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Photo by Edward Camp: A sommelier from Sheehan Winery giving patrons a chance to test their pallets.

Art & Wine Festival Returns to Red River

After a three-year hiatus, the Red River Art and Wine Festival made its triumphant return to Brandenburg Park. The three-day event, which took place June 17–19, featured wineries, breweries, food vendors, and artisans from around New Mexico, showcasing our state’s vibrant craft beverage industry and internationally renowned art scene. Even a little sorely needed off-and-on rain could not spoil the event’s sunny mood.

Among the wineries on hand was Sheehan Winery, out of Albuquerque. Owner Sean Sheehan was thrilled with how the festival turned out. “Even with the weather being what it’s been this weekend, we’ve had really awesome people to talk to, lots of good sales, and lots of happy people. The goal of the winery is always to make the very best wine that can be made in New Mexico, but also share it with people.” Sean said he appreciates the opportunity afforded by the festival to bring his vintage directly to wine lovers.

Noisy Water Winery’s booth was set up next to Sheehan’s, and not by coincidence, according to Sean. “We’re buddies with the Noisy Water Winery. Both here and in Albuquerque we have tasting rooms that are quite close to each other and we’re able to bounce business back and forth. New Mexico wine is all about teamwork. Without all of us pulling together, there’s no way we’ll convince people that NAPA makes auto parts and New Mexico makes wine!”

Joseph Martinez, who owns the recently founded El Alamo Winery in Alcalde, said he had been looking forward to bringing his vino to Red River for a while. “It’s our first year coming here, so we didn’t know what to expect. COVID has been kind of messing up things—we were supposed to come last year and it got canceled… but a lot of people that are coming in are buying bottles of wine, and they’re giving us a lot of good feedback.”

Black Mesa Winery out of Valverde was also on hand and got rave reviews from the attendees. Patrons had a fine selection of craft beers to choose from as well. Santa Fe Brewing Company, New Mexico’s oldest brewery, was there to show off some of their latest creations and offered samples of some old favorites. They were joined by the award-winning Red River Brewing Company, who also brought samples of their distilled beverages, and by Albuquerque newcomer The 377 Brewery. “The festival is incredible!” said 377 employee Sayer Key-Towne. “The weather has been great, not too hot. I’d love to come back, not working!” Beer drinkers were just as impressed with 377’s and the other breweries’ offerings as Sayer was with the Sangre de Cristo climate.

The purveyors of potent potables were joined by a variety of craftspeople and artists, like Joseph Esquibel of Albuquerque, owner of Smokin’ Joe’s Custom Art, who makes highly detailed pencil work to order. “It’s been great. The people are awesome.”

Soap-maker Sara Stennett of Lubbock, Texas, like centuries of artists before her, found a creative spark in New Mexico’s natural beauty. She recently founded Frontier Soaps and brought her colorful Land of Enchantment-inspired creations back to the place it started. “I was making soap for my own use, and we came up here a year ago and I was so inspired by everything I saw, I thought, “I can make that image into a soap, and that one!”

The atmosphere was “classy,” as one guest put it. The convivial nature of the attendees was one factor, and so were performances of classical pieces by Enchanted Music of Taos. Band member and pianist Martha Shepp, who also works at Frye’s Old Town, was happy to share her passion with a receptive audience. “It was great to be able to do what we love, which is classical music, and have people respond to it!” Classical guitarist Genevieve Leitner of Albuquerque played solo classical Spanish and Latin American compositions as well. When asked if they would like to play the festival again next year, both musicians answered, “Absolutely!”

Many of the visitors were happy to see the festival return after the long pause. “This is better than the previous years we’ve been,” said Paula Manuel of Rio Rancho. She and husband Jerry were attending their third Red River Art and Wine Festvial. “So far, it’s been great!” they said late on the first day.
Ami Russell of Round Rock, Texas, who came with her two best friends, said “I loved it! I’ve been trying to get here for the last three years, but it’s been canceled, so I’m glad we finally were able to get here—we got our girls’ trip!”

Guests came from around the region and from as far away as Oregon and London, England, but no matter where they came from, everyone agreed the Red River Art and Wine Festival was a relaxing and fun time. With many of the vendors coming back to Red River for Oktoberfest, we can look forward to doing it all over again when the leaves change.

Used with permission from the Enchanted Circle News