The mission (of the Garagiste wine festivals) is to support the small guys and girls who don’t have big marketing budgets or the time to get out there and sell their wine. These small-lot wines can be very hard to find. Over 60% of these winemakers don’t have a tasting room…
However, on July 9 dozens of these small wineries took center stage and commandeered the full auditorium of the LA Wiltern Theatre for an audience of appreciative wine learners and tasters. (Check them out here in this YouTube slideshow.)
Learning On The Stage:
Understanding Oak Varieties, Tasting the Winemaker’s Spice Rack
What does oak really taste like? French oak, American oak, neutral oak, heavy toast… these are some of the words we hear all the time in the wine world, but what do they really mean? How do you tell the flavor of oak from the flavor of the wine itself?
Ryan Render, representative for French tonnellerie (another word for a cooperage, which is also another word for a barrel maker) Cadus and winemaker at Rendarrio Vineyards, Larner Vineyards winemaker Michael Larner and Garagiste co-founder Stewart McLennan led our class.
Our first flight was the same grape, same year, same winery in three different oak expressions: a Larner 2014 Syrah. The aromas on each were remarkably different to me. With neutral oak (which means the oak barrel had been used four to five times and would no longer impart an oak flavor) the wine had the brightest, reddest fruit. The second wine, aged in French oak and is used the most by Larner, had an incredible amount of spice, which I happen to love in a Syrah, and bluer fruit. The third oak was American and gave off a creamy scent with a lot of blue to black fruit.
(Chatting with a friend after the class who doesn’t reside in California but is a huge fan of the event and flies down for it, she said that she preferred the American oak the best. I asked if she drank much French wine. She said none at all, mostly Paso Robles. So I thought that her preference might have been due to what her palate was used to in her home state and from Paso. Though like Larner there are California wineries using French oak too.)
Our next trio to taste was of another wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, in unoaked (stainless steel only), a medium grain oak barrel and then a tight grain oak barrel. Again I got some interesting notes. In the unoaked wine it was all red fruit (like it had been in the neutral oak we had tasted earlier), the medium grain gave off distinct aromas of a sweet Port wine and blueberry, while the tight grain was all cigar smoke and had what one winemaker called a “tighter” feel on the palate.
Auditorium: Favorites from the “RARE and RESERVE” Tasting Hour
Archium Cellars 2012 “Haven” Grenache, Stolpman Vineyard.
Artisan Uprising 2014 Tempranillo.
Brian Benson Cellars 2013 Mr. Pickled Cabernet Syrah blend.
Caldera Cuvee 2009.
Cholame Vineyard vertical tasting of Bull Pen Tempranillo 2010/2011/2012 with the 2012 being my favorite of the three.
Cloak & Dagger Wines 2013 “The Assassin” Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah blend.
Deno Wines 2010 Two Bill’s Zinfandel Grenache blend.
JP3 Wines (the “JP” formerly of Stanger) 2013 Pinot Noir, Willow Creek.
MCV Wines 2013 Black Petite Sirah blend
Pagter Bros. Winery 2013 Lucky Club Syrah Reserve
Paso Port 2006 Violeta blend of Touriga, Tinta Cao and Souzao.
The Farm Winery 2010 “the Big Game” Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
Vines on the Marycrest 2006 Field Blend, Victor Abascal’s first planting.
Favorites Wineries of the Day are highlighted:
Alma Fria Winery, Alma Sol Winery, Alta Colina, Archium Cellars, Artisan Uprising, Ascension Cellars, Bellissimo Cellars, Bodega De Edgar, EVERYTHING THEY POURED at Brian Benson Cellars, Brophy Clark Cellars, Caldera Cuvee, Caliza Winery, The Central Coast Group Project, Chene Wines, Cholame Vineyards, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Cordon Wines, Coruce Vineyards, Deno Wines, Dreamcote Wines, El Lugar Wines, Golden Triangle, Graef Wines, EVERYTHING THEY POURED at Hoi Polloi Winery, Hoyt Family Vineyards, JP3 Wines, Kaena Wine Co., Kaleidos Winery, Kimmel Vineyards, Larner Vineyard and Winery, Leverage Wines, Marin’s Vineyard, MCV Wines, On Your Left Wines, Pagter Bros. Winery, Per Cazo Cellars/Paso Port, Powell Mountain Cellars, Press Gang Cellars, Prizm Winery, Pulchella Winery, Ranchita Canyon, Rendarrio Vineyards, Rhythm Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Tao Vineyards, EVERYTHING THEY POURED at The Farm Winery, EVERYTHING THEY POURED at Theopolis Vineyards, Tierra y Vino, Tlo Wines, Trail Marker Wine Co., Turiya Wines, EVERYTHING THEY POURED at TW Fermentation Co., Two Shepherds, Vinemark Cellars, Vines on the Marycrest, Weatherborne and West of Temperance.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com