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Nick Peña, owner of New Mexico Food Tours, guides a tour group in December. The company is back offering tours under the state’s COVID-19 health guidelines.

Let’s make a list of all the things the coronavirus pandemic has canceled.

Wait, no. That’d be way too depressing.

Instead, let’s look for the events and activities that have reemerged, transformed, and so very welcome to those of us longing for ways to eat, drink and connect.

Two of those very endeavors caught my attention this week: the return of a revamped Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta and the newly tailored Food Tour New Mexico guided tasting excursions around downtown.

The Wine & Chile Fiesta has pivoted to a largely virtual set of celebrations this year, running from Thursday through Sunday. You can still indulge in special winery luncheons and dinners at various spots across town (including Izanami, La Boca, Sassella, 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar, Anasazi Restaurant and many others).

There’s also a virtual live auction Friday, a silent live auction that runs through Sunday and a set of virtual cooking demonstrations.

And while there’s no replacing the traditional reserve and grand tasting events, I’m most excited by the Fiesta’s virtual wine tastings this year. These interactive Zoom webinars will feature a global lineup of winemakers, winery owners and speakers who will guide you on a private tasting tour. Just buy your tickets online (prices range from $75 to $295) and pick up your three-bottle tasting kit in advance. For instance, on Friday evening, Ridge Vineyards Wines CEO Mark Vernon will conduct a tasting of the winery’s two flagship single-vineyard zinfandels from Sonoma and the current release of Ridge cabernet sauvignon from its Santa Cruz Mountain estate. The cost is $150, which also includes a bonus bottle of Champagne Palmer Brut.

For details, a full rundown of events and tickets, visit

Food Tour New Mexico returns

Just before the end of 2019, I joined Food Tour New Mexico founder Nick Peña and a group of fellow food lovers on a magical tasting tour of downtown Santa Fe. After being shut down by COVID-19, the popular business — which just received a Traveler’s Choice Award from Tripadvisor, putting it in the top 10 percent of food tours worldwide — has returned, adapting along with the state’s dining guidelines to bring guests on a trio of dining and walking tours.

That means more intimate group sizes, social distancing and masks required for both guides and guests except when eating or drinking. The business is also pursuing state COVID-19 safety certification, Peña said.

Even with the reduced operations, bringing back the food tours was a win-win for patrons and for restaurants eager to bring in customers as the difficult tourist season winds to a close.

“Most people are so excited that we’re even running the tour,” he said. “I think a lot of people still want to live their lives and go out.”

And while Santa Feans can’t fill the hole left by the pandemic’s freeze on tourism, Peña said it’s still important to support the local restaurants you want to see survive.

“A lot are just trying to break even. It’s tough,” he said. “I think we’re going to come back to a whole different world.”

If you’re looking to celebrate a sampling of Santa Fe’s rich culinary scene, head to foodtournewmexico.com for tour details and to reserve tickets. You’ll find information on the “A Taste of Santa Fe” wine pairing tour, the “New Mexican Flavors” tour of the Plaza and “Savor Santa Fe” wine-pairing dinner tour, all of which include multiple stops, food and drink pairings, and a hefty dose of locals’ insight into Santa Fe.

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