A few years ago, on a Saturday in February, I schussed down Taos Mountain, and decided that my ski boots needed an adjustment. I headed immediately to Taos Ski Valley’s slope-side Boot Doctors, where I plopped down next to a friendly guy also getting his footwear fine-tuned. Our conversation began as casual banter about the store’s legendary service. In our few side-by-side minutes, I realized that the friendly guy was a legend himself, Napa Valley winemaker Steve Matthiasson. I skied away having had a crash course about Refosco, Ribolla Gialla, and other better-known varietals available from Matthiasson Wines. This is the kind of intimate and down-to-earth interaction that I love most about the longtime Taos Winter Wine Festival. Since the bulk of the celebration takes place up at TSV, it feels virtuous as well, to get in some mountain sports, before enjoying the array of wine and food. You don’t, however, need to ski or snowboard to hang out beside the slopes, glass in hand.
This year’s festival runs a compact February 3 – 5, 2022. It’s overseen by Greg O’Byrne, production director of the bigger autumn bacchanal down the road, the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. The smaller size of this midwinter event suits the more relaxed vibe of Taos. Though less elaborate, the TWWF still showcases some 30 premier American wineries, Matthiasson included again, as well as several distributors of quality wine from around the globe. Greg and company have done their very best to adjust the activities to our COVID-concerned world.
The Winter Wine Festival opens Thursday evening, at the Sagebrush Inn down in the town of Taos, with a reserve tasting. That means everyone’s pouring their best stuff. This is the fest’s priciest affair, by far, but well-worth it for anyone serious about fine wines, or wanting to become more fully knowledgeable. It features a half-dozen of the town’s dining establishments too, including Aceq, El Monte Sagrado, and the Sagebrush itself. Pig & Fig will be there from Los Alamos, and chef Tim Wooldridge’s coming down from Taos Ski Valley to whip up his famous paella. A reserve lots auction, loaded with wines from the visiting vintners, creates a big draw for this event as well
For Friday and Saturday, the action’s all up at TSV. Indoor seminars and tastings have been eliminated and instead, the events have been reconfigured for the great outdoors, on the Martini Tree Deck at TSV’s base resort. (TSV trivia: The ski area’s founder Ernie Blake liked to stash martini fixings under trees along the slopes, the source of the Martini Tree’s name.) With the sheer face of Taos Mountain’s Al’s Run and its mega-moguls as backdrop, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more inspired setting.
Friday’s kickoff features an international wine team pouring for a lunch of fire-grilled lamb chop “lollipops” and oysters and other treats from Medley Restaurant in Taos and Pig & Fig Café in Los Alamos. Wine distributor Michael Bassler of Tanoro River Imports moonlights as a DJ and musician and is bringing his Stereo System Collective to play some very danceable beats.
Later on Friday, California takes center stage. Some 10 wineries will showcase the climate and terroir that the Golden State does best. Matthiasson Wines will be back again pouring their Napa selections, as will Neyers and Spire. Expect Sean Minor from Sonoma and Flowers from Sonoma Coast, too. Tablas Creek from Paso Robles will offer its killer Rhone-style varietals that make me forget about the French originals. Rounding out the group will be Sinskey from Carneros, Klinker Brink from Lodi, and from the Santa Lucia Highlands near Monterey, Mansfield-Dunne. Many of these folks have direct ties to New Mexico, perhaps none tighter than Dr. Quigley Peterson, a partner in Mansfield-Dunne, who also owns TSV’s Mogul Medical clinic, where many of us have been patched up one time or another. Among the pourings, plan on examples of California’s big Cabernets, of course, along with Chards and Pinot Noirs, and those Rhone-style Rousannes and “GSM” blends of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre. I hear that Santa Fe’s Louis Moskow, chef-owner of 315, has just agreed to bring up a big batch cassoulet to go along with the wines.
Saturday’s lunch soiree features rose and “chillable reds.” The powerhouse international wine team includes Portovino (Italy), VARA (Spain), Kermit Lynch (France), Jose Pastor Selections (Spain), and Bistue Cellars (South America). Accompanying the wines will be smoked ribs and grilled oysters from Matt Deliso, of the Taos Ski Valley’s resort culinary team. Stereo System Collective will be back with live music again too.
I’m particularly looking forward to the Saturday afternoon alfresco party. Santa Fe’s Joe Wrede from Joseph’s Culinary Pub, and Shane Alexander, previously of Santa Fe’s Bishop’s Lodge and currently of TSV’s Snakedance, orchestrate this one. Chef Joe had his first restaurant in Taos some years ago, and has maintained lots of friendships up there, so jumps at the chance to collaborate on a festival event each year. The chef duo will offer grilled salmon tacos and salmon poke along with shucked oysters. Accompanying that great-sounding food will be wineries from Willamette Valley, such as Sequitur and Martin Woods, with Pinot Noirs, Gamay Noirs, and Chardonnays. And just because just about everyone loves bubbles, Charles Neal Selections will be pouring Grand Cru French Champagne.
Dress warmly and come enjoy the TWWF. Salud, y’all.
Taos Winter Wine Festival
Taos and Taos Ski Valley
Thursday, February 3 to Saturday, February 5
Taoswinterwinefest.com for more details and tickets
Current COVID protocols will be enforced. Check website for more details.
Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating it Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.