Paso Robles winery honors tradition with 24-foot ‘altares de muertos’
Some believe spirits from the dearly departed come back to this realm to provide advice to loved ones. The Mexican traditions of visiting gravesites, maintaining, and setting up altars of remembrance for the celebration of the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, have been happening for around 3,000 years. In Mexico, altars are placed in homes and in churches, however, the United States typically uses them in museum exhibits. In Paso Robles, a special winery has joined in. For nine years, the small 15-acre family farm, Via Vega, hosts an annual Día de los Muertos Fiesta, and they have set up a sprawling altar of heartfelt photographs and offerings. Altars traditionally known as altares de Muertos, or ofrendas, are the most prominent feature in the celebration, because they guide the souls back home. At Via Vega, the tasting room transforms from a casual place to an exceptionally decorated and emotionally moving space.
“It’s not just a party, it’s a remembrance, every year we learn something new,” said April Gomez. For Larry and April, the owners of the winery, it is an authentic honor to share moments with people in the tasting room who recognize people in the photos. “It grows every year, people come from all over the place and see the altar, and send pictures for it. It’s an educational experience.” Personal losses from the family have been added to the altar and it has helped to comfort them and all the other people who get to come and see it. “People even bring photos of their pets to the altar,” said April.
Via Vega Vineyard and Winery in Paso Robles has built a twenty-four foot long altar, and welcomes visitors to join in the winery’s Day of the Dead tradition. The beautiful winery has rich scene of cultural magic, colorful ambiance, and delicious wines. For almost 10 years, Via Vega Vineyard has been celebrating Día de los Muertos in their own unique way. People may bring photos to leave on the altar and light a candle. Honor your loved ones at the altar from Oct. 13 through Nov. 5. A public altar blessing is held with the Catholic Church, and a Native American Blessing is performed the afternoon of Oct. 29. Tickets for Saturday, Nov. 4, the formal event with dinner, folk dancers, catered dinner, and musicians are available to wine club members, and leftover tickets for non-members may be purchased after Oct. 15.
Día de los Muertos isn’t about mourning or sadness; it’s about joy and remembrance, and to join the living and dead together to celebrate. The ritual of Day of the Dead goes back to Mesoamericans, and continues to this day, because it is relevant for so many multi-cultural people. Day of the Dead is spreading nationally, and it appeals to people who are connected in spiritual ways, and who are esthetically pleased, by the wide array of colorful décor and festivities that the holiday encompasses. Celebrating the dead and honoring the ones we have lost is done comfortably and beautifully in the tasting room of Via Vega.
Bring to Via Vega your precious mementos, and pay your respects to the past, enjoy the present, and toast to the future. The winery is located in the scenic and historic city of El Paso De Robles at 2378 Adobe Road. Find more information at www.viavega.com or call (805) 423-2190. Via Vega’s tasting room is open Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.