Last weekend, some of the finest local, small production wine making talent around gathered at the Veterans Memorial Building in Solvang, CA for the 2nd annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure“.
This year, a Grand Tasting was held on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon, with a different lineup each day. With 60 wineries pouring over the course of two days, and only a limited amount of time, I feel like I only scratched the surface.
While I had a hard time choosing favorites among all the incredible wines I did get to taste, I managed to narrow my list down to a few stand-outs. If you can get your hands on any of the wines below, I highly recommend you do…
Garagistes Zach Jarosz and Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars poured their 1st vintage at the festival, which included a delicious portfolio of Rhone varietals. I particularly liked the Provencal-style ’13 Grenache Rosé and the juicy ’12 “Haven” Grenache.
Press Gang Cellars
Press Gang Cellars is winemaker Kyle Knapp and his wife, Savanna’s labor of love and true passion. The Press Gang Cellars portfolio included some outstanding Rhone varietals, including a ’10 Grenache and a crisp ’13 Grenache Rosé “Savanna Rhea”.
Roark Wine Company
Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company takes a minimal approach to wine making and truly lets the grapes speak for themselves. I liked his multilayered, unfiltered ’13 Sauvignon Blanc and his modestly priced ($15/bottle), non-vintage red wine blend he calls “Craigslist Cuvee #2″.
As Ryan puts it, “where do you go when you are looking for a deal? Craigslist! What do they have on Craigslist? Everything! This wine is a blend of loose ends, things that didn’t have a home but that together tasted awesome.”
I’m a long-time fan of Liquid Farm’s Chardonnay and Rosé, so I couldn’t resist stopping to try the latest vintage (which of course, was as good as ever). The ’13 Mourvedre Rosé was dry, crisp, and just heavenly.
C. Nagy Wines
It was difficult to pick favorites from Clarissa Nagy of C. Nagy Wines’ current portfolio. I particularly liked her ’11 Pinot Blanc Bien Nacido Vineyard and ’12 Viognier White Hawk Vineyard – both a little taste of summer in a glass. I also liked her ’10 Garey Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir, which had an elegant balance of vibrant fruit and spice.
Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus released the label’s first vintage in 2007 and he’s been producing impeccably crafted Rhone varietals ever since. I really enjoyed the ’12 Viognier which had a beautiful, crisp acidity and the tart, juicy ’10 Alisos Vineyard Grenache.
Weatherborne Wine Corp.
Winemaker Chris Carter of Weatherborne Wine Corp. was pouring his first vintage (2012) of the one & only varietal he produces (a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir). That being said, it was probably one of the best Pinot’s I’ve tasted – the perfect balance of juicy fruit and a hint of spice. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Weatherborne…
I had the opportunity to try ONX Wines at the last Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with the unique blends ONX produces – particularly their Tempranillo based “Praetorian”. When I found out they were debuting a ’13 Rosé of Tempranillo called “Indie”, I had to try it.
Just like all the other wines ONX produces, I can’t recommend the ’13 Indie Rosé enough. Delicious.
Once again, “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” provided an invaluable opportunity to taste some outstanding, yet-to-be-discovered wines and to talk to the friendly, passionate artisans who make them. I hope to see everyone at the next one… Cheers!