Celebrating Wine & Chile

All the Good Stuff

For nearly 30 years, the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta has paired New Mexico's famous chile with grapes that produce some of the world's finest wines. More than 3,000 fiesta-goers, visitors and locals alike, take part in Santa Fe's biggest food event of the year, a five-day celebration featuring 70 Santa Fe restaurants and 100 wineries from around the country. This sublime pairing of wine and chile happens nowhere else and it takes place during the glory days of early fall, when the aspens turn gold and the scent of roasting green chile fills the air.

This year, the 29th Annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, slated for Sept. 22-29, brings a cornucopia of cooking demos, wine seminars, winery luncheons and dinners, wine tastings and many other culinary happenings. The big event, Saturday's Grand Tasting, offers a moveable feast on the Santa Fe Opera grounds, where guests sample small plates and pours from participating restaurants and wineries, set against a stunning backdrop of majestic mountains and turquoise skies. It's a tasty way to savor Santa Fe and thus, these tickets sell out early.

But you still have time to get tickets for many other events, including a unique opportunity to learn about the tastes of iconic artist Georgia O'Keeffe through an immersive guest chef demo and luncheon at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. The event pairs renowned chef John Sedlar of Eloisa, whose great-aunt cooked for O'Keeffe in Abiquií and Margaret Woods, who was the artist's personal assistant. Woods' stories will reveal O'Keeffe's reverence for simple, seasonal foods using ingredients grown in her Abiquií garden, and Sedlar's recipes will reflect that reverence in every bite of his four-course lunch, served with wines from Bordeaux and Craft + Estate. The event will include breakfast on the patio of the O'Keeffe Museum and a discussion with a museum curator about O'Keeffe's life and art, followed by a self-guided tour of the museum.

Wine & Chile also brings tantalizing winery dinners all around town, where top Santa Fe chefs collaborate with world-class wineries to create memorable meals. For instance, Peter O'Brien, executive chef of the Anasazi Restaurant, has put together a menu for September 25 that will showcase offerings from Sonoma's Merry Edwards Winery, starting with a reception featuring grilled plums, foie gras and apple and almond tarts, with sparkling wine. Next, butter-poached lobster with citrus risotto, tomatoes, chile and olives will be served with chardonnay, then local wild mushrooms and pork belly glazed with asparagus balsamic will be matched with Merry Edwards Olivet Lane Pinot noir. The main course, lamb chops with fingerlings and Virga blue cheese with huitlacoche sauce, will be accompanied by Merry Edwards Meredith Pinot Noir. For dessert, fruits and berries in saffron gratin will be served with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. O'Brien also has created a second winery dinner for Wine & Chile featuring Duckhorn Vineyards wines, held September 28.

Lane Warner, La Fonda's executive chef, teamed up with California's Silver Oak Winery to plan a meal that starts with passed appetizers—roasted cauliflower mousse and diver scallops with truffle honey, accompanied by sparkling wine. The second course of lobster quenelle with shellfish consommé will be served with Twomey Sauvignon Blanc, followed by duck glazed with pomegranate and Twomey Pinot Noir. The main course features braised elk short rib and Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The feast finishes with chocolate and a house-crafted digestif and espresso.

Not every restaurant participating in Wine & Chile is offering a winery dinner. Il Piatto Italian Farmhouse Kitchen, for example, chose to pair its regular menu offerings with special featured wines. This keeps the cost of dinner lower than a winery dinner, yet guests can still enjoy extraordinary wines.

Each year, Wine & Chile brings in guest chefs from around the country and this year's roster includes Richard Chamberlain of Chamberlain's Steak and Chophouse in Dallas and MasterChef Shaun O'Neale, author of "My Modern American Table." Also look for L.A. Chef Neal Fraser of the critically acclaimed Redbird restaurant; San Francisco Chef Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club; and cheese authority Laura Werlin, a San Francisco author and chef.

You can lend a hand in multiple ways by attending the Live Auction Luncheon at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa on Thursday, 11:30 am to 2 pm. The event raises funds to sponsor Santa Fe restaurant community events such as restaurant service classes and wine and cooking classes. It also supports Santa Fe's Cooking with Kids and Santa Fe Restaurant Week.

After savoring such great food and wine, you may feel the need to work off some calories. The final day of the fiesta gives you some great opportunities. Take part in the Gran Fondo Bike Ride—you can ride a loop of 75, 45 or 25 miles—and enjoy gorgeous scenery as you cycle through the historic villages of Nambé, Cundiyo, Truchas and Chimayó. Or tee off at Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort's Towa Golf Course, playing a four-person scramble. Food from top chefs and Gruet wines will be served at every third hole, but at least you'll be getting some exercise. The fiesta wraps up with a Champagne & Dirty Boots Brunch at Terra Restaurant at Rancho Encantado's Four Seasons, to be sure you won't go home hungry.