Fort Davis toasts legalization of alcohol sales with inaugural wine and food festival

Fort Davis toasts legalization of alcohol sales with inaugural wine and food festival

FORT DAVIS — Jeff Davis County recently voted to allow the sale of alcohol in all precincts, legalizing alcohol sales throughout the whole county and sparking the idea for a wine and spirits-focused outdoor market. 

“We’re hosting the event as our post-prohibition celebration,” said Melissa Henderson, executive director of Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce. 

The first-ever alcohol-centric affair, designated The Davis Mountains Wine, Beer, Spirits and Food Festival, will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Stone Village Market in Fort Davis this Saturday, December 4. Vendors will have their products set up to sample outside in the lot in front of the market. The event is free to attend. 

The decision to legalize alcohol sales in the entire county passed in the November 2 special election with an overwhelming majority and unified all precincts under the same law, where different rules per precinct previously served as a source of confusion for locals and visitors alike.

The event seeks to uplift Davis Mountains’ growing viticulture tourism industry by including wineries Chateau Wright, Alta Marfa and Sharp Family Vineyards, as well as other regional alcohol purveyors Desert Nectar Mead, The Marfa Spirit Co. and Brick Vault Brewery based in Marathon. 

“The future of Texas wine is really in Jeff Davis County. This event is going to highlight the wineries as well as other businesses in the region that are making spirits and beer. We want to show off not just Fort Davis, but Brewster County, people from all over the area,” said Henderson. 

The Big Bend Fungi Company, which grows and sells mushrooms to some restaurants in the Big Bend region, will showcase mycological marvels. Stone Village Market will be open for snacks, sandwiches and holiday shopping. Henderson said she imagines the event will one day become as big as Fort Davis’ Coolest 4th of July extravaganza. She was able to put the event together in just a few weeks after the news of the vote came out in early November. 

“We want to encourage people to shop small businesses and support local small businesses and local small business owners,” said Henderson. 

Aaron Kinzie, self-described “founder, CEO and janitor” of Desert Nectar Mead, will be sampling mead made from his Chihuahuan Desert honey at the market. He’s chosen to keep the recipe simple—using just honey, water and yeast to make the ages-old alcoholic beverage.

“This mead is going to have an amber color to it and be very effervescent, kind of like a champagne. It’s sweet but it’s still got a dry, acidic bitter taste to it,” said Kinzie. 

Kinzie began partnering with Chateau Wright to oversee the fermentation and production of the mead in 2020. Their second batch, which is currently on shelves at Cactus Liquors, Marfa Wine Co. and French Co. Grocery in Marathon, features a label by local artist Brenden Cicoria. 

The honey is sourced from an apiary outside of Chihuahua City. Kinzie says they keep their practices as close to Mother Nature as possible, cultivating only indigenous plant life so pollinators aren’t exposed to monocropping. 

“It’s another way to be able to taste what this desert provides,” said Kinzie. “The whole thing is just to be the catalyst between the bees, apiary and the general public.”

Mead itself, sometimes referred to as “nectar of the gods,” is an ode to the past. Kinzie said he’s excited to bring the ancient tradition of making mead to a new audience.

“Mead is different from wine, but it’s still something produced from our area, just like everything else. It’s really exciting to be on the ground floor of something,” said Kinzie. “The change in alcohol sales laws brings a whole other economic opportunity for Fort Davis.”