Growing up in southern Colorado, I’ve always associated the beginning of fall with the smell of roasting green chiles. I still have a preference for the hot Pueblo (aka Mira Sol) and more mild Anaheim varieties harvested in the farm fields near my childhood home, but the season offers plentiful opportunities for finding new favorites.

During yesterday’s Dairing Food & Wine Pairings seminar at the 20th Annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, I learned the finer points of why Albariño is best with a halibut ceviche in pico de gallo, or how a spicy burst of red chile can be tamed with a Torrontes.

While the critically acclaimed chefs and nationally renowned master sommeliers (including Joseph Spellman and the Little Nell’s Jonathan Pullis) at this astute gathering are well worth the ticket prices, this weekend’s Chile and Frijoles Festival in Pueblo is a great budget-friendly alternative that’s closer to home for Denverites.

While you’ll likely find some New Mexican varieties at this gathering, opt for a bushel or two from the local farms—and have them roasted on site. (The Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University has information on how to freeze and can your peppers.) While gourmet seminars aren’t on the schedule, the Chile & Salsa Showdown competition is ripe for educating yourself in innovative ways of using peppers. And, for the brave, the jalapeño-eating contest will test your pain threshold. The idea might seem silly or masochistic, but a New York Times science writer recently discovered it to be a “sign of high intelligence.”

Both the Santa Fe fiesta and the Publo festival run through Sunday, September 26. Click the links above for a full schedule and more info.