This month, RG|NY is celebrating both life and death with a new take on an old tradition. In honor of Dìa de Muertos, the winery has constructed a vibrant, seven-tiered ofrenda in their tasting room.
An ofrenda is a traditional Mexican altar often topped with symbolic items like candles, sugar skulls and Aztec marigolds, as well as personal items like photographs of loved ones who have passed away.
“The ofrenda is something that we traditionally do every year in Mexico,” explained Maria Rivero González, CEO of RG|NY. “It’s a way that we celebrate the people that left before, especially people that we love.”
Rivero González is from Parras, a small city in the Mexican State of Coahuila, where her family has been growing wine for almost 25 years. Since starting RG|NY in 2018, she’s found ways to incorporate parts of her culture into her North Fork business, like featuring hand-crafted goods made by Mexican artisans at her store.
“Ever since we came here, we’ve felt strongly about our Mexican roots, teaching people what we do, and why we do it,” she explained. “We thought it would be cool to show people what we do on this special day in Mexico.”
Every year, families across Mexico build altars in their homes as a tribute to deceased loved ones. Traditionally, an ofrenda has different layers, meant to represent a staircase to the afterlife. It’s believed that souls can return to earth on this special day, and each layer of the ofrenda is designed to help souls with their journeys. Bright orange marigolds, with their strong scent, are laid out to guide the souls to the altar, while favorite foods of the deceased are left on the ofrenda for the souls to feel at home when they return.
“The main reason to do this is to celebrate them — you invite them to come and visit — but also to help those still in transition go,” Rivero González explained.
On many traditional ofrendas, a saint is chosen to go at the top. At RG|NY, a portrait of San Lorenzo, the patron of viticulture, was fittingly chosen for the altar. Towards the bottom, the staff placed picture frames with photographs of their loved ones to honor those who have passed.
Until November 2, visitors are welcome to view the ofrenda and participate in the tradition. Blank pieces of paper have been left near the altar for people to write notes to those who have parted. After November 2, the notes will be burned, symbolizing their departure to heaven.
In honor of Dìa de Muertos, RG|NY is also hosting what Rivero González hopes will become an annual event.
“We decided that if we are celebrating the dead, we should also be celebrating life, so we’re throwing a party,” Rivero González explained.
On Oct. 29 at 7 p.m., RG|NY is hosting a night of Mexican food and desserts, burlesque performances, tequila, dancing, and plenty of wine.
Guests are invited to interact with the ofrenda installation and enjoy a multi-course meal prepared by Mexican Chef Gerardo Alcaraz of Aldama, a highly rated Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn. The entertainment will be provided by House of Yes NYC, a creative collective known for their funky theater and cabaret performances.
“We’re celebrating life and death like nobody else,” said Rivero González. “Hopefully people come to see what we do!”
Tickets are $275 per person plus tax and can be purchased online here.