During Labor Day weekend, Las Crucens and visitors to the valley alike bid farewell to summer — though we have a few more months of heat ahead — with festivals celebrating two of Southern New Mexico’s signature crops.
Written by Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Harvest Wine Festival
Though California’s Napa Valley springs to mind for most, Southern New Mexico is actually the oldest winegrowing region in the country. In 1629, Franciscan friars planted wine grapes along the fertile banks of the Rio Grande. Soon, viticulture took hold in the area and by the 1880s, more than 3,000 acres of the Mesilla Valley were dedicated to growing wine grapes.
The wine industry in New Mexico took a hard turn downward around the turn of the 19th century, and the Prohibition Era of the 1920 was the final nail in its coffin… until the 1970s, when wine in the valley reemerged.
Today, more than 60 wineries around the state produce and impressive 900,000 gallons of wine each year — and there’s no better time to taste some than the perennial favorite Las Cruces Harvest Fine Festival, set for Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2, 3 and 4, at the Southern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, located west of town at 12125 Robert Larson Blvd. With paid admission — and valid ID, of course — festivalgoers will get their hands on a commemorative tasting glass and unlimited samples of red, white and sparkling wines from some of the Land of Enchantment’s best wineries.
Participating wineries include Amaro Winery, Heart of the Desert, Luna Rossa Winery, Rio Grande Winery, Tularosa Vineyards, Cottonwood Winery, Jaramillo Vineyards, Noisy Water Winery, Sheehan Winery, Wines of the San Juan, Dos Viejos Winery, La Esperanza Winery, Ponderosa Winery and St. Clair Winery.
These homegrown wineries will uncork a staggering 2,000 bottles for sampling purposes, and sell several hundred more for at-home enjoyment after the festival.
The Harvest Wine Festival also features live music from some of the area’s hottest talent including Radio Altivo and Rose Pawn Shop on Saturday, 2 Shots Down and Nosotros on Sunday and Soul and Rhythm and Twisted Hams on Monday.
Admission to the Harvest Wine Festival is $15 general advance admission and $20 at the gate. Admission for non-drinkers in $5 on all three days. Military members pay $12 in advance and $17 at the gate for all three days. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit nmwine.com/harvest-wine-festival-las-cruces.
Hatch Valley Chile Festival
Though wine may be one of Southern New Mexico’s oldest crops, there’s no argument that in the Land of Enchantment, chile is king, and in celebration of this hallmark crop, the 2017 Hatch Valley Chile Festival is set for Sept. 2-3 at Hatch Municipal Airport.
Each year, tens of thousands of guests swarm the small town of Hatch, population 1,590, to celebrate, stock up on and, of course, eat their share of the Hatch Valley’s wonder crop, chile.
Both days of the festival will feature vendor booths, carnival rides and games, a beer garden and chile roaster garden, chile- and watermelon-eating contests, live music and entertainment and more.
Admission to the Hatch Valley Chile Festival is $10 per car, good for both days. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit hatchchilefest.com.
Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts
While it isn’t a crop, per se, another of New Mexico’s finest exports get their due during Labor Day weekend as the Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts celebrates the artistic traditions of Southern New Mexico as it has for decades.
More than 80 fine artists will display their best works for show and sale Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23, on the expansive grounds of Holy Cross Retreat Center, 600 Holy Cross Road, in Mesilla Park.
Paintings, photography, sculpture, ceramics, woodwork, jewelry and more will be on display, and the Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts also includes an enchilada dinner and other food, drinks and other vendors, a silent auction and raffle, a beer and wine garden and live music on two stages from some of the best local talents, including Randy Granger, David Valenzuela and Ray Duran, Gipsy Gitano.
Hours for the Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit franciscanfestival.org.