LA UNION, New Mexico (KTSM) – La Vina Winery, about a mile outside of La Union along scenic New Mexico Highway 28, is the oldest licensed winery in the state of New Mexico, going back to 1977.

That nearly half century history, however, barely touches on the rich winemaking tradition of the region, said La Vina owner Ken Stark who bought the winery 30 years ago.

Wine has been made in the Rio Grande Valley for 400 years, ever since the Spanish arrived, making this region the oldest winemaking area in the country, Stark said.

This weekend, La Vina will be celebrating that heritage and highlighting its wide array of wines during its annual Spring Wine Festival.

This will be the second Spring Wine Festival since COVID-19 restrictions have been loosened up.

“I think it will be right back to normal,” Stark said. “Last year, you could feel the excitement of people ready to get out of the house and be able to get out and do something again.”

La Vina, located at 4201 S. New Mexico Highway 28, will be hosting its Spring Wine Festival from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30. Adult admission is $20, which includes a souvenir glass and a choice of five tastes or a full glass of wine. There is a $10 admission for guests 12 to 20 and children 11 and under are free.

New this year, there is VIP parking available for $10. All other parking remains free.

The festival will feature live music both days, more than 70 arts and crafts and food vendors and 20-plus wines to taste or buy by the glass. Free tours of the winery will be available during the festival.

The event can be fun for people of all ages but “of course it helps if you like wine,” Stark said.

“We have wines that taste like beer; we have wine that are really sweet,” Stark said. “We have wines that are dry. We will find something you like.”

Stark was the winemaker for La Vina when he bought it back in 1993. At that time, the winery was located in Chamberino, just up Highway 28 from its current location.

The original owner didn’t want to sell the land, so Stark looked around, found the current property and planted it with grapes in 1999. They have been producing wine there since 2001.

Stark says they produce 130 tons of grapes per year on-site and produce 28 different types of wine.

He says they showcase their white wines during the Spring Wine Festival and their red wines at a similar festival in September.

In the next couple of weeks, they will be installing new bottling equipment, from Italy, which will improve efficiency and improve quality, Stark said.

He says they currently have the capacity to produce about 100,000 bottles of wine a year.

The new bottling machine will be able to turn out about 3,000 bottles an hour when it operates at full speed, he said.

Stark is quick to give credit to several longtime employees who have been with the winery for more than a decade – winemaker Guillermo Contador, business manager Luz Bustamante and vineyard manager Jose Ruiz.

To remember the region’s winemaking roots, Stark has an old wine press made out of bull hide on premises that was used about 100 years ago to make wine only seven to eight miles from the current location of La Vina.

For more information about the winery and this weekend’s Spring Wine Festival, click here.