News: BOSS savors New Mexico’s family vineyard
Story by Sgt. Ida Irby
LA UNION, N.M. - 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 and bottles of wine. The historical grapevines have made a future for a new generation of wines available to New Mexico and the surrounding community.
The U.S. Army Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers program volunteered at the La Viňa Spring Wine Festival, April 28, in La Union, N.M. The BOSS program has volunteered at the wine festival for approximately 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, making the festival a sensation.
Ken Stark and his wife Denise Stark, natives of Hereford, Texas, are 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 assistant, and tours of the winery. Soldiers never fail to offer assistance wherever it is needed,” said Denise Stark.
Sgt. Muhammad Sheikh, Garrison Command BOSS representative, has volunteered twice a year at the vineyard since 2010.He said, “helping at the winery is a great way for soldiers to network and build good relationships with the community when they are off duty.”
From Pinot Noir, La Viňa’s newest vintage estate wine, to La Dolce Viňa, 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, Texas, to volunteer in 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 Viňa is New Mexico's oldest operating winery and currently the only estate-bottled winery in the state.” More than 25 acres of the vineyard produces various grapes that attribute to more than 20 different estate-bottled wines, said Matthew Kahl, assistant wine maker. “We bottle wines in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, because some wines need aging time to create aromas, taste, and complexity.”
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 Stark. “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.”