Monday, February 19, 2018

Garagiste Wine Festival: Southern Exposure

Here's a date to put on your calendar:  May 12, 2018.  That’s the next Garagiste Festival, a Northern Exposure event set for Sonoma.  I mention this because I recently attended the Garagiste Southern Exposure wine show, in Solvang, and I heartily recommend that you support them when they are near you.

The Garagiste Festival began in Paso Robles, an effort to spotlight some of the many small-production winemakers in that region.  The festival's name comes from the French word that describes small, maverick wine producers operating in garages instead of chateaux.  Most of the producers who pour at the Garagiste events have no "winery" - they buy grapes directly from choice vineyards and turn them into wine in low-overhead locations.  Most make fewer than a thousand cases per year.

Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick are co-founders of the Garagiste Festival, Lisa Dinsmore is the Event Director and Melanie Webber handles the public relations.  They once again rented out VFW Hall Post #7139 on a beautiful February day that cooled off a Southern California winter heat wave.  It was fitting to see the office of the Santa Barbara County Agriculture Commissioner right next door.  Forty-two low-production winemakers spilled more than 200 hand-crafted wines for the eager tasters, of which I was one.

Here are my notes from just a few of the wonderful wineries represented at the show:

Buscador Winery - Santa Barbara
2016 Chenin Blanc, Jurassic Vineyard - Winemaker Matt Kowalczyk got caramel on the nose (!) with neutral oak notes and a crisp mouthfeel.  $25

Byron Blatty Wines - Los Angeles
Mark and Jenny Blatty own the 750-case producer.  Their 2015 Agenda Syrah/Tannat is a blend from Malibu vineyards.   Dark and juicy!  $58

Cloak and Dagger Wines - Paso Robles
2014 The Defector Zinfandel Reserve - Huge peppery red fruit, still young.  50 cases.  $49

Diablo Paso Wines - Paso Robles
Enrique Torres makes a beautiful 2017 Guanabana Albarino, Paragon Vineyard.  25% new oak gives a great caramel-coated apple nose, with green apples on the palate.  1st vintage.  $30

Dusty Nabor Wines - Paso Robles
Dusty, the winemaker, makes a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Frankel Vineyard which is classic Paso Cab, Eastside chalk.  $65

Hoi Polloi Wines - California
Event co-founder Doug Minnick helped make this wine, a 2016 Grenache Rosé, Colburn Vineyard - picked early specifically for rosé. Wow! Cherry candy.  $30
The 2015 Illicit Pinot Noir, Santa Maria, comes from an unnamed but outstanding vineyard.  It's an excellent Pinot that's more Burgundy than California.  $52

March Wines - Santa Cruz Mountains
2016 Dry Riesling, Redwing Vineyard - petrol showing, 1st vintrage. GREAT!  $25

Marin's Vineyard - Monterey
Winemaker Marin Wolgamott produces the 2016 Estate Viognier - AWESOME floral nose, great palate. $20.  The 2015 Rancher's Daughter Malbec/Merlot is a really drinkable low-tannin BDX blend. $25

Metrick Wines - California
2016 Chardonnay Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria - awesome.  Steel for 8 months on the lees. $36

TW Fermentation Co. - Paso Robles
James Schreiner makes chalky, dusty BDX varieties.  The 2013 Straight Cab is superb, all Paso, more character than Napa.  $64


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