The Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta is an annual five-day celebration of food and wine that is just, flat-out, a blast. For the Fiesta, you can purchase individual tickets for chef demonstrations, walking tours, wine seminars, and/or chef luncheons as well as two major events. In one, the Grand Tasting, about 90 wineries and 75 restaurants come together for a stunning food and wine event at the beautiful Santa Fe Opera. On the last day of the Fiesta, Gruet Winery sponsors a Golf Classic, where they open 6 of their wines and every three holes is a pairing of one of their wines with food from different restaurants. Of course, all of this happens in the beautiful city of Santa Fe. You can get more information and purchase tickets here.
We just love the Grand Tasting. There is a wide range of food choices, and Southwestern cuisine is well represented. The quality and international variety of wines poured are also major draws for this event. If you attend the Grand Tasting, here are some words of advice based on our experience:
- First of all, buy your tickets early. Tickets go on sale in early July, and this event sells out (as do most of the Fiesta events).
- Decide early how you want to get to the Opera. The event has convenient shuttle buses from downtown Santa Fe, if you don’t want to drive. If, however, you want to drive your own car you must purchase parking passes in advance and those passes sell out before the Grand Tasting event tickets do.
- Get to the event about 30 minutes before it starts. The advantage of arriving early is that your welcome information includes a map of who is actually at the event (life happens and sometimes expected participants aren’t able to make it) and the map will tell you who is under which tent. This is also your chance to see what dishes will be served, so you can determine which tables to hit first (or last) depending on your personal tastes. Now fully prepared, you can finalize your strategy before the official start.
- Be prepared for lots and lots of people. In fact, sometimes the restaurants are so busy handing out food that they forget to tell you what’s on the plate, and they may not have a sign.
- Do not freak out if the first hour feels like a feeding frenzy. That happens. By the second hour, things have relaxed and you can enjoy yourself more. By the third hour, it’s practically a casual party in your backyard and you can easily stroll around (although this is when wineries and restaurants may start running out of wine and food).
- Be sure to stay hydrated. The event planners provide plenty of water to help with this.
The Grand Tasting is an incredibly fun time and the crowds are remarkably well behaved. Even during the first hour, attendees stand at individual lines at each table instead of one tortuous conga line passing by all the tables slowly.
As you probably won’t be able to make it through all 90 wineries, here are the ten we suggest you don’t miss (if they are participating again):
Archery Summit (Dayton, Oregon)
Casa Lapostolle (Santa Cruz, Chile)
Clos du Val (Napa, California)
Domaine Chandon (Yountville, California)
Gruet Winery (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Joseph Drouhin (Beaune, France)
Penfolds Winery (Nuriootpa, Australia)
Rubicon Estate (Rutherford, California)
Steele Wines (Kelseyville, California)
Tablas Creek Vineyard (Paso Robles, California)
And if you aren’t going to make it to all 75 restaurants, here are ten we suggest you make sure to visit during the first two hours (in case they run out of food):
(one other word of advice: if you come to Santa Fe, we highly recommend Tecolote Cafe for breakfast)