It was about a year and a half ago that I first met Doug Minnick. At that time, Doug and co-founder Stewart McLennan had just announced the first Paso Robles Garagiste Festival, focusing on wineries with annual production of less than 1,200 cases, many of which you wouldn’t find anywhere except at this event — unless you managed to get a private tasting with the winemaker. Doug was clearly passionate about the project, but also understandably nervous, going through a lot of sleepless nights – “What if we have the festival and nobody comes?”
Well, after two hugely successful festivals at Windfall Farms in Paso Robles (see photos below from the most recent one), Doug and his partners feel it is now time to expand the Garagiste concept. For those people who felt Paso Robles was a little too far, or just for the rest of us who love what they are doing and want MORE, they recently announced:
Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure is being held on February 16th, 2013 at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall.
As you can read on their website www.garagistefestival.com, the term “garagiste” originated in France, used to denigrate small winemakers who made wine in garages rather than the big chateaux. Now, it is a badge of honor for those winemaking pioneers who have the courage to go it alone.
The event in Paso Robles included primarily wineries from that area, although a few wineries came from the south (along with some from Sonoma and the San Francisco area). The February 16th event will showcase wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. Again, wineries attending will have annual production of less than 1,200 cases, and many don’t have their own tasting rooms, so this will be your only chance to taste all these wines under one roof. Wineries attending so far are: Altman Winery, Autonom, Baehner Fournier Vineyards, Blair Fox Cellars, Casa Dumetz, Center of Effort, Cordon Wines, Deovlet Wines, El Rey Wines, Frequency Wines, Ground Effect Wines, J. Wilkes Wines, Kaena Wine Co., Kessler-Haak Wines, La Fenetre Wines, Larner Winery, Luminesce, Nagy Wines, Native9 Wine, Pence Rance, Piedrasassi, Refugio Ranch, Roark Wine Co., Ryan Cochrane Wines, Shai Cellars, Storm Wines, Tercero Wines and Transcendence Wines. This list is not final.
As at the Paso festivals, there will be a seminar in the morning. This one promises to be great, with a comparison barrel tasting, using samples from McPrice Myers’ wine from the iconic Larner Vineyard.
Doug told me that this is a great opportunity for attendees to “reset their palates” and really experience all that the Santa Ynez Valley has to offer. I’m a great believer that great things start with small businesses and “trickle up” to the big companies, and I definitely see this with wineries as well. Sure, this area is known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and rightfully so. But the Rhone varietals are incredible here too, and with the diverse microclimates in this area, Bordeaux varietals are also tasting great.
Kady Fleckenstein, Executive Director of the Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association told me: “We’re very excited to have the Garagiste Festival come to the Santa Ynez Valley and feature local artisan winemakers. What makes the Santa Ynez Valley so special is precisely that: mom and pop businesses and wineries. Small, boutique winemakers live their passion and it shows in the quality of their product. We love that you can visit a tasting room and often times meet the winemaker. As a consumer, you also get quality attention and the opportunity to get to know each wine rather than being forced to drink and get out, a problem that can occur in the really big wineries found in other wine regions.”
The selection of the venue (Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall) was very important to Doug. The beautiful spacious mission style building located right in Solvang will not only enhance the experience but also provide easy access, especially for those who want to walk to it from their Solvang hotel rooms.
Tickets are on sale now. VIP passes are $80, which include the 11:00 AM seminar, lunch and early entry into the grand tasting. Tickets for the grand tasting only, which starts at 2 PM are $50. Subscribers to The Dirt newsletter can get a 15% discount.
Net proceeds from the festival benefit the Wine and Viticulture Program at Cal Poly.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who puts up with him. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting tasting rooms and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, Michael had the amazing good fortune to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. At the same time, in his day job he provides outsourced controller services to companies that do not need a full-time controller. One day, he hopes to be able to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. (2013 Update: Eve and Michael announced Eve Wine 101 Consulting. Info is here: http://evewine101.com/press-releases/)