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California Winemakers Pour Their Art At The Garagiste Wine Festival

Where can you find California winemakers pouring their art? During the Garagiste Wine Festival there was more wine poured by wine makers than we could enjoy in the hours allowed.

Of the 60 small batch winemaker offerings we were able to savor vino from 15 wineries. Bottles ranged from Picapoul to Cabernet Soviginon and all the blends in between. GSM, SGM, MSG, SMG, MGS fusions were everywhere along with pure, 100% varietals.

A plethora of wine festivals populate the length of California from Temecula, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Paso, Gold Country, The Bay Area, Sonoma to Napa and Lake County wineries. At these parties you’ll taste local products from folks with estates to industrial space.

But Garagiste is different.

Garagiste focuses on new winemakers, folks dreaming up their own New World creations, sharing their vision. What’s a Garagiste? Garagiste is a word spit out the mouth of French winemakers as a stinging rebute to beginners, to the folks making home wine in their, big gasp here, garage!

Winemakers creating less than 1,500 wine cases yearly share their wares here (and three other California events during the year.) Twelve years ago Doug Minnick and Stewart McLennan started their non-profit to support new winemakers. In 2015 they began spinning profits to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Wine & Viticulture program.

Today’s festival continues as an intimate conversation with the winemakers (required to be on-site pouring wine.) Some are young, some are old, all are passionate. They seek your approval and feedback. And when we say ‘intimate’ we mean it. We never had to plow through people to find wine.

The founders believe other large scale tasting events are judged by the number of tickets sold. But Garagiste Festival is the antithesis of big. In an email to CBW they tell us, “Garagiste Festival is (about) small wineries pouring for a limited crowd that creates the best experience for tasters and winemakers to interact, rather than spending time waiting in line and jockeying for position.” Their creation is just that.

We tasted wine from Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Edna Valley, Paso, Gold Country and Sonoma. Our personal favorites came from Gold Country (Sutter Creek) and Santa Barbara (Los Olivos.)

The young winemakers and owners of Corkwood Cellars in Jackson create no more than 200 cases of wine yearly. Derek Sanchez and James Campbell create a beautiful and interesting Zinfandel from grape planted in 1916. Ancient vine indeed.

The silent auction of Garagiste winemaker vintages raises funds for scholarships at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Winemaker Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines creates beautiful Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Mourvredre. He’ll share them with you at his Los Olivos wine taste room at the south end of Santa Barbara’s Foxen Canyon. And to top it off, he’s quite an opinionated character plying his thoughts of wine business as he poured.

Garagiste claims 650 winemakers in their universe. They’ll share their wares at other Garagiste events: Santa Ynez Valley, Sonoma and Los Angeles. At the Sonoma event 17 new winemakers join the frey. Purchase your tickets early as they can sell out.

We have a saying about wine tasting, ‘You have to kiss a lot of ugly wine frogs to find your beautiful prince or princess wine.’ The same is true here. Not all the wines will fit your personal palate. But the journey finding your favorite wine is part of the fun, part of the joy.

The Garagiste Fest gives you access to these interesting and flavorful wines in their embryonic stages. Come out and support them while expanding your palate.

Bill & Erin Hodge write about California Wine, the estates & winemakers producing them and educational information about Vino. Living in California Wine Country provides a front row seat to the places you want to visit the most here in the Golden State.

– -✰  means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰  means -Not liking it too much
✰ means  -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰+ + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+  with a slash, it means we disagree.