Zozobra has exhaled his last fiery, dying groan—at least until this time next year—but even if Fiesta de Santa Fé is over, fiesta season is just beginning. Maybe you celebrate the pot harvest. Maybe you’re just into partying over fresh vegetables. Maybe you’re into fruit. Maybe you like your fruit with wine, in which case, you’re in for a tussle with the annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. It’s not easy—all this indulgent, gratuitous consumption.
But what the hell, you only live the one time, right? Buddhists may get an exception, but I’ll take my wine from a glass, thanks very much, rather than sucking it from a sour grape in my next life as a grasshopper.
The trick with Wine & Chile is preparation and—as military and survivalist fanatics refer to it—situational awareness. You can’t just walk into an environment ripe with the potential for disaster, embarrassment, flatulence, sexual misbehavior, drunkenness and—in rare circumstances—even death, dismemberment or unplanned reproduction, without understanding the enemy and taking stock of your surroundings.
Whom exactly is the enemy? In this case, your foes are 90 wineries, 75 restaurants, 12 chef demonstrations, numerous cooking and pairing classes, and incalculable peripheral parties, as well as a preposterous pantheon of tours, tastings, debilitatingly polite conversations, and the ghastly and deeply ungustatory specter of golf.
In a world of shockingly short attention spans, Sept. 21 sees the start of the 21st annual event, for which luminaries from around the globe congregate for a multitude of reasons, but with one distinct purpose: to make sure you have the chance to die fat, liquored and happy.
Your most obvious challenge is wine. You’ll have to drink a lot of it, and No. 1, retain your composure;
No. 2, arrange to never be driving; and No. 3, sound like you know what the hell you’re talking about after shelling out serious cash for the privilege of such casual carousing. You’re on your own for the first two, but if you’re nervous about discussing nose with a bunch of cork dorks, here’s a tip: The likelihood of being stuck with someone who has even a remote idea of what he is talking about is next to nil. Relax.
Take a deep scent of each wine you taste; suck it into your pores with excessive voraciousness; and be honest. Being honest, de facto, means you will not be talking about roses, apples, blossoms or any of the other expected wine tropes. Wine does not smell like those things. It smells like decay. It smells like despair and revenge and evil genius. If you just admit that the wine you are drinking reeks of something equally human—desperation, madness, adultery, wisdom, fallibility, intuition (anything but fruit and flowers)—you will be mistaken for an expert. People may even clap. Remain humble in this case, as it will add to your composure.
Your second challenge will be food. There will be a lot of it, and much will be rich and spicy. Have a breakfast of rice and simple, absorbent breads. Consider spicing your pregame meals with epazote. Remain hydrated. Eat delicately and with great attention to flavor and chewing. Food smells and tastes better than wine. Do not have second or third portions of any particular food. As an alternative, indulge ravenously to the point of illness. Should you need to puke among a crowd, you have myriad excuses, as long as you’re not also obviously and demonstrably drunk.
Finally, pay attention. Fellow fiestagoers will be your worst enemy. Focus on nothing, but perceive everything. Control every encounter, and trust no one. After all, your life is on the line.