BOSS Soldiers savor NM vineyard, volunteer at annual event
Sgt. Ida Irby,
24th Press Camp Headquarters:
The tradition of energetic wine festivals dates back to Spanish wineries along the Rio Grande where people enjoyed food, dancing, music and, of course, bottles of wine. The historic grapevines have made a future for a new generation of wines available to New Mexico and the surrounding community.
Members of Fort Bliss Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers volunteered at the La Viña Spring Wine Festival in La Union, N.M. April 28. BOSS program members have volunteered at the wine festival for about the last 10 years.
Annual wine festivals promote awareness of the growing New Mexico wine industry. Jazz music, arts, food and crafts vendors filled more than 70 tents.
Ken Stark and his wife Denise Stark have been co-owners of the vineyard since 1989.
“BOSS volunteers have assisted in every facet of our festivals, from working at the entrance gates, putting on bracelets, pouring wine, bar tenders’ assistants and tours of the winery. Soldiers never fail to offer assistance wherever it is needed,” said Denise.
Sgt. Muhammad Sheikh, Fort Bliss BOSS president, has volunteered twice a year at the vineyard since 2010.
“Helping at the winery is a great way for Soldiers to network and build good relationships with the community when they are off duty,” said Sheikh.
From pinot noir, La Viña’s newest vintage estate wine, to la dolce viña, the most popular wine, more than 20 varieties of red, white and sparkling wines were available for tasting.
More than 15 Soldiers in the BOSS program traveled with Sheikh from Fort Bliss to volunteer at the Spring Wine Festival.
“Soldiers enjoy learning about wine and doing something out of the ordinary,” said Sheikh. “Soldiers have an opportunity to volunteer in the community where their discipline, integrity and hard work are a valuable asset.”
“La Viña is New Mexico’s oldest operating winery and currently the only estate-bottled winery in the state,” said Matthew Kahl, assistant wine maker.
He added that more than 25 acres of the vineyard produce various grapes that contribute to more than 20 different estate-bottled wines.
“We bottle wines in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, because some wines need aging time to create aromas, taste and complexity,” said Kahl.
Denise Stark believes her husband considers their winery to be the culinary art of grapes.
“When people visit the wine festival I don’t want them to go away without finding a wine they love,” said Ken. “The community has an opportunity to try all the wines at our estate and become educated on the rich culture.”
A young Ken Stark became intrigued with the pairing of wine and food that led him to begin his career in wine at the age of 39. He implied that being in the wine business is like romantic farming. “If you’re just farming wheat or corn, you wouldn’t have as much fun.”
This year look forward to the Harvest Festival, Grape Stomp and an old fashioned country picnic and open house July 4. To learn more, call the La Viña Winery at 575-882-7632.
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