Sunday, July 13, 2008

5th Annual Lavender in the Village Festival

This weekend we attended the 5th annual Lavender in the Village festival in a small residential-rural area of Albuquerque called Los Ranchos de Albuquerque (the ranches of Albuquerque). Reportedly, more than 7,000 people attended the festival, and it was more abundant and more stunning than we imagined it would be.

It was a warm day, overcast but not threatening rain, so it was easy to leisurely stroll from one shuttle stop to the next. The shuttles carried attendees around a 4 mile radius from the Los Ranchos grower's market to Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Cultural Center with their farm and lavender field, to Anderson Valley Vineyards and Casa Rondena Winery.

All the stops featured lavender-themed treats and music (I loved the local band at Los Poblanos, called Le Chat Lunatique: self-professed "filthy, mangy jazz," a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli). Los Poblanos opened their fields for U-pick lavender, and the wineries offered lavender-infused wine and sangria. Personally, I love the aroma of fresh-picked lavender but I can't get past its association with soaps and perfumes when I ingest it. Blech!

The grounds at Los Poblanos were amazing. Neither Jon nor I have had the chance to stay or visit there yet, so it was an extra-special treat. Our fellow fair-goers Jerry and Karen had stayed there before, and highly recommended it for a future overnight stay to really tour the historic inn and gardens. One of the highlights of the garden is the enormous LOTUS POND in front of the inn.

Who knew a lotus pond could thrive in a semi-arid desert?!?! Of course, they require loads of water daily so we're still wondering how Los Poblanos pulls it off while maintaining its status as a local organic CSA farm....(we would like to note that Los Poblano's CSA program isn't so local: we found out last winter that they ship produce in from South America and Mexico to distribute to their local CSA customers around Albuquerque. Doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose? Why wait for your weekly or monthly shipment, when you can just make a short trip to Whole Foods?)

Our final stop was Casa Rondena Winery, one of the two best wineries in the state. It takes a lot of money to source the best grapes, invest in the latest greatest equipment, and build a marketing machine that can promote and sell your wine, thus why winemaker and owner John Calvin has been so incredibly successful--and his wines are amazing to boot.

Formerly an architect by trade, Calvin pursued and achieved his dream of making wine in his hometown of Los Ranchos. Being an architect, he has a fine aesthetic and designed all the structures on the property himself. He's especially fond of Arabic design, and tries to incorporate a theme of cultural harmony across his property (like on the weathervane--kinda like U2's "coexist" campaign).

Calvin's tour was entertaining and informative, and Jon, Jerry, Karen, and I had a chance to talk to him by ourselves toward the end to get some tips on how we might start growing wine grapes on our own properties in Bosque Farms. There's nothing like the inside track from someone like this.

Later that week, as I was jogging along the acequia on our block, I noticed an enormous grapevine growing out into the walking path from someone's backyard. A man passing me on the path told me that when the grapes ripen, they are small, super-sweet red grapes with seeds (aha! the description of a wine grape!), and that the owners just let them fall to the ground.

I picked a leaf to take home and identify the wine grape using our leaf identifier book (nerd moment...). It looks to be Grenache, which makes sense, as the Spanish colonists were the first to grow grapes in the U.S. right here in New Mexico back in the early 1600s--and what else is Grenache than "Garnacha"--a typical red grape that Spanish winemakers still use in abundance to produce excellent Spanish wines.

You know that we're gonna get to know these people and ask if we can pick their grapes this Fall!

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