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The Can't-Miss Dinner of the Year at the Taos Summer Wine Festival

Are we in the post-Covid world? The annual Taos Winter Wine Festival is finally back! If you love wine, raise your hand glass. It's a gourmet celebration and it's happening February 3rd-6th, 2022 in the gorgeous Taos Ski Valley, NM.

With nearly all events cancelled in 2020 and 2021, here's an article from the last time SN and I attended a Taos wine festival, waaay back in 2019:

I am so sad while writing this blog post, which is full of photos from the third annual Taos Summer Wine Festival, held in the breathtaking New Mexico mountains. We had the best time, eating gourmet food and toasting new friends at the ski resort, but...

...we don't get to go to the Taos Summer Wine Festival again for an entire year.

:'(

3 years of the Taos Summer Wine Festival
Photos from the 2017 and 2018 Taos Summer Wine Festivals

For the first time in 3 years, we didn't have to make a mad dash to scramble 3 hours to the Taos Ski Valley in time for dinner. My husband and I were actually able to take the day off on Friday! 

The festivities on the first day didn't begin until the evening, so we opted to drive one of New Mexico's secret gems, the Enchanted Circle. It's a National Forest Scenic Byway that goes around Wheeler Peak, which has an elevation of more than 13,000 feet and is the highest natural point in the state. Our stops included Taos and Red River, which are popular weekend destinations for New Mexicans, and Arroyo Seco, which isn't technically part of the Enchanted Circle route but has great shopping and is always worth a detour. 

Red River Trading Co, NM
Red River, NM

New Mexico in August
Arroyo Seco, NM

Arroyo Seco, NM
Arroyo Seco, NM

When we arrived in the Taos Ski Valley, we plugged in our Chevy Volt at the free public charger (thank you, Taos Ski Valley!) and checked into our hotel, the budget-friendly Alpine Village Suites. This was our first time staying here but it is going to be our go-to for all future Taos Ski Valley vacations. In addition to being one of the only options in the area that includes breakfast, you can't beat their location, which is right in the heart of the ski resort.

They also feature hand-painted artwork everywhere you look.

Alpine Village Suites ski art

Deer artwork at Alpine Village Suites

The Blake construction
For another hotel option, you can't go wrong with The Blake, at least not if money is no object. This luxury property was expanding during our visit with a new building featuring condos called The Blake Residences, retail space, and an ice skating rink. 

Funny enough, when my husband and I heard about the condos, we both thought we should purchase one. Then we got more information. Yeah...they start at one million dollars and go up to five million. (Several have already been sold!) Maybe one day, but not today.

Once we were settled, we headed outside for a nature walk. Surely this would cancel out all of the calories we were about to consume.

Taos Ski Valley is dog-friendly.
The Taos Ski Valley is dog-friendly. No one could resist saying hello to this wrinkly pup on their way to the plaza or the trails.
The Taos ski resort is not only a winter destination.
The Taos Ski Valley is one of the top destinations for winter fun in New Mexico. However, you're missing out if you only visit when there is snow on the ground. The area offers fun events on the weekends and some of the best hiking opportunities in the state.

Hiking before wine

Taos Ski Valley nature walk

hummingbird moth photos
I had to stop to take photos of this hummingbird moth. Aren't they neat? Another guest at the Taos Summer Wine Festival who was enamored with a hummingbird moth asked me if they are insects or small birds. That's how neat they are.

Visit Taos, NM in August for the Summer Wine Festival.

Free ski lifts! Taos Ski Valley, NM
My husband and I don't know much about skiing, but don't you usually have to pay for lift tickets? This seems like a heck of a deal. And I love that our wrinkly friend from above is invited.

This is one of the reasons I don't ski.
Speaking of not skiing, I'm pretty sure this is where I'd end up if I did. I'm a wimp.
(My husband would like to clarify that he is not a wimp. He just has bad knees.)

You'll love the Taos Ski Valley during the summer!
After exploring the area, we changed and checked in at the Taos Ski Valley plaza, where we were each handed a coupe of sparkling wine, courtesy of Vega Barcelona Cava NV. 

It was finally time for my favorite event of the weekend, the all-inclusive Wine & Dine Around. I'd been waiting 365 days for this! It's a can't-miss progressive dinner through three of the most critically-acclaimed restaurants in the area, featuring wine pairings with an amuse bouche and entree at each. The culinary experience ends with a dreamy array of desserts underneath the stars.

192 at The Blake
We started our epicurean journey at 192 at The Blake, where Chef Hamilton Cadwell never disappoints.

(Side note: I can't say his name without thinking Hamilton! He must really love or really hate that musical.)

Wine at the Taos Ski Valley, NM
I hurried to finish my sparking wine so that I could go inside for more wine. I told you this is a fun event.

Lemongrass Braised Pork Belly
Our meal began with lemongrass-braised pork belly, expertly paired with a glass of 2016 Badenhorst Secateurs Red Blend.

192 at The Blake: Chef Hamilton Cadwell
This was followed by a pork roulade stuffed with chorizo and cotija cheese. We were thrilled to discover that we knew the sommelier (she's our favorite!) and that she even remembered us from last year's Taos Summer Wine Festival. The service at this event can't be beat.

Hondo restaurant menu
After a generous glass of wine (or two) at 192 at The Blake, we walked a few steps to Hondo Restaurant, where Chef Steve Morris had prepared the best main course of the evening.

Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta
A glass of 2012 Bodegas LAN ‘Vina Lanciano’ Reserva Rioja was immediately poured for each of us, in Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta glasses for some reason.

Add that one to your calendars, by the way.

Chef Steve Morris Amuse-Bouche: Eggplant Caviar with Potato Pancakes
I'll admit I was initially disappointed when served my eggplant caviar with blini amuse bouche. It was the exact same one (or pretty close, at least) to the amuse bouche from last year's Taos Summer Wine Festival. Then I took a bite and remembered how delicious it had been last time. The Hondo Restaurant can serve these tiny pancakes every year and I'll be happy.

Hondo Restaurant Taos Ski Valley
The main course was a rack of lamb chop with a breadcrumb and parsley crust, rutabaga purée, asparagus, and roasted shallots in a red wine butter sauce. It was well-seasoned and well-prepared and, yes, as heavenly as it sounds.

After our two courses, we were surprised with a special glass of Barbadillo Cream Sherry from Spain. We always think of sherry as having a raisin flavor, but this was different, with a subtle almond taste. It's the best dessert wine we've ever had.

The Taos Summer Wine Festival has created the perfect date night.
We look forward to the Taos Summer Wine Festival every year. The Friday dinner especially makes for a memorable date night. Cheers, my love!

Next, we were off to The Blonde Bear Tavern for even more food and wine. By this point, we really appreciated that all of the featured restaurants are within easy walking distance of each other.

Copper Leaves Tabletop at The Blonde Bear Tavern
I take notice of this artistic tabletop with copper leaves every time we eat at The Blonde Bear Tavern. Isn't it magnificent? How did they do this?

NM wine festivals with real Champagne
You know my date night tip from above? How perfect of an evening is this, with a flute of real Champagne poured the moment you're seated? Although the Taos Summer Wine Festival is only once a year, you'll score enough points from this date night to last until next August.

Executive Chef Jon Mudder and Sous Chef Andrew Horton
Seafood Tartare on the Half Shell: Oyster and Scallop | Siberian Sturgeon Caviar | Pickled Jalapeño | Brioche Crisps (Paired with Francis Orban Extra Brut Pinot Meunier Champagne AOC NV)

At The Blonde Bear Tavern, Chef Jon Mudder and Sous Chef Andrew Horton had prepared the most beautiful dishes of the evening. Well, beautiful to most people, at least. I had a slight problem...

Do you like oysters?
Oysters are not my thing. I can't get past the texture.

(Side note: Who else thinks I look like Martha from The Americans here?)

The Blonde Bear Tavern taos
My husband enjoyed a double serving of oysters and we were soon presented with the most lovely lobster dish ever created. We don't even like lobster, or at least that's what we thought before trying this. We were actually a little miffed, as last year The Blonde Bear Tavern served us steak instead.

It seems the problem we've had in the past is that we've never had wild-caught Maine lobster poached in butter with a sweet corn purée. It melts in your mouth. Actually, the problem may also have been that no other lobster we've tried has ever been paired with a glass of 2016 Domaine Guy Robin et Fils Chablis Vieilles Vignes. 

(Side note: In keeping with the educational theme established in my 2018 Wine & Dine Around review, Vieilles Vignes means 'old vines' and Domaine Guy Robin et Fils has some of the oldest in the Chablis region of France.)

As wonderful as all of this was, the highlight of the evening was yet to come. I love a good dessert! At the Taos Summer Wine Festival, you don't just get a good dessert; you get a dozen spectacular desserts.

Shamrock Foods chocolate cake
Shamrock Foods is a popular sponsor every year at the Taos Summer Wine Festival. They supplied all of the desserts for the 2019 Wine & Dine Around, including this chocolate cake, which was every bit as decadent as it looks.

I was crushed to discover that my beloved mini churros from last year's event were not included this time. I quickly forgot all about them. I may have even squealed with delight when I saw...

Dessert on the plaza, Taos Ski Valley
All-you-can-eat French macarons!! These things are like $4 each. I have an assorted box in our freezer that I keep on hand for special occasions but never actually use because it's never actually special enough for a $4 macaron. 

The other desserts were incredible too. Pair unlimited chocolate cake with cookies, brownies, lemon bars, cheesecake, and about two dozen French macarons and look what you get:

So much fun at the Taos Summer Wine Festival!
My sugar high may also have been fueled slightly by the 6 or so (who's counting?) glasses of wine I'd just consumed. Unsurprisingly, everyone was having the best time ever on the Taos Ski Valley patio. The fire pit was keeping us toasty while we were serenaded by live music. And the desserts kept coming.

Assorted desserts from Shamrock Foods
We fixed a to-go plate and stumbled back to our room. When you come for the 2020 Taos Summer Wine Festival, be sure to book a hotel within walking distance, preferably with a mini fridge. When you're faced with endless desserts, your eyes suddenly become larger than your stomach. 

Luckily, the best chocolate cake ever also made the best breakfast ever. My husband thought I was nuts, but seemed a bit jealous of my 8 am coconut cookie bar.

Stray Dog Cantina, taos
We didn't make it far before we had to stop for a photo op. This was the first time I'd ever sat on a ski lift chair! (It counts!)

sunset in taos ski valley
Christmas is overrated. Back at Alpine Village Suites, we lounged on the balcony with our smuggled sweets and watched as the last bit of sun disappeared over the mountain, blissfully aware that in only a few hours it would be time for the second fun-filled day of our favorite time of year, the Taos Summer Wine Festival.

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