Written by Staff

Monday, 28 April 2008

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Booming down a two-lane highway toward the border, past snatches of cotton-snagged fences and around hay-hauling trailers in the dappled shade of the budding pecan trees, it's easy to forget there's a destination — until you reach the lively, adobe-colored compound of La Viña Winery.

It's either the 14th or the 15th annual spring Blues & Jazz Festival, says co-owner Denise Stark, who anticipates 5,000 to 8,000 attendees at this year's event.

From as far away as Chihuahua and British Columbia, thousands gathered Saturday for on the first day of the festival to enjoy sweet port, chilled wine-topped margaritas, some tunes, maybe a cigar, and more than 60 vendors of specialty chili, jewelry, tie-dye clothing, gorditas, rock climbing and a jumping castle.

Volunteer Kathy Gil said over the years the fair has gotten "bigger and better every year — the people are coming out in droves." Fellow volunteer Barbara Delgado, at the wine counter, said festival-goers were going wild for the reds this year.

"The hot wines are usually your sweet wines, port, the late-harvest Viognier," Delgado said. Most people "like the sweeter wines, the bubblies, the Caliente, the Dulcinea, or the rojo loco or the oro loco, which are semi-sweet table wines."

Sandy Taylor and Kevin Bunce, who've been living in Canutillo for less than two years, said they were determined to come out to the festival since moving to El Paso.

"It's been talked up since we arrived," said Taylor, who prefers dry red cabernets and merlots but said the novel wine-margarita was "tasty" enough for a try.

Bunce, who admits he's not much of a wine person, said he was surprised the weekend was about much more than vino.

"We had no idea that it was set up like this, like a fair, with the music and everything," said Bunce, who was one of the many attendees to cruise out on his motorcycle, a 2000 Honda Gold Wing. "It's a beautiful day. We travel (Highway) 28 a lot and we've always gone past here and said, 'we should make a point to stop here sometime.'"

Taylor said the best part was the mixed crowd and variety of people — families with strollers, bikers in leather and hippies in sandals and couples young and old. And the fine wine was lovely too, she said: "We'll probably take back a bottle or two."

Grace Gomez compliments her merlot with a cigar as she takes a drag after a sip Saturday at the La Vi a Winery in La Union. The woman traveled from El Paso to the winery to enjoy "music, wine and a cigar" during the 2008 Blues and Jazz Festival.

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