Garretson was riding a wave of small successes and accolades with his winery when the economy took its toll on his business. He now works for a distillery. The Francis Berwyn Wineworks website - just a handful of blog posts from the same day around 5 years ago - explains that the name of this label originated from combining his sons’ names.
His other wine company website appears to be cast to the digital winds. A page of advertisements occupies that URL. There’s an interview with him on a blog from 2000, in which he talks a bit about the early days of the Hospice du Rhone, and a nice 2005 Wine Spectator profile about him. The Los Angeles Times mentioned him in a 2010 article about financial struggles in the wine industry.
Garretson and I messaged back and forth briefly, and I mentioned I was a bit sad that he was no longer making wine. His reply instructed me not to feel that way: "I enjoyed my time there, but family takes precedence over everything. Am back on the production side of things...but now making & selling whiskey."
Here is what Garretson wrote about his ‘08 Zinfandel five years ago:
“Paso Robles has a well-earned reputation for great Zinfandels. It seems these days most of them follow a similar path: big and bruising wines that deliver high-octane in every glass. After one glass of one of these 'monster Zins', I'm done...figuratively and literally. I choose to make a more refined, 'claret style' of Zinfandel. It exhibits textbook Paso Zin style, but in a much more elegant style.”
This wine's nose is unlike any Zin I’ve ever had. It bears an almost perfumed bouquet - and I mean that literally. Big, sweet, ripe fruit is matched whiff for whiff by a eucalyptus note. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such an overwhelming sense of both fruit and vegetation in the same wine. There’s a bit of bramble, but not so much that I’d call it rustic - it actually does smell rather elegant. The very full mouth is quite spicy with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blackberry and blueberry are both high profile in the palate. The wine has a great tannic grip and a slight bramble note shows up again on the finish.
Garretson produced 2000 cases of this wine, which carries a 14% alcohol level.
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