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Highlights from the 2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure”

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

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“.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

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…

Archium Cellars
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.

Zach Jarosz & Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars

Zach Jarosz & Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars

Delicious '13 Grenache Rose from Archium Cellars

Delicious ’13 Grenache Rose from Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars

 

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”.

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Kyle & Savanna Knapp of Press Gang Cellars

Kyle & Savanna Knapp of Press Gang Cellars

 

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.”

Roark Wine Company

Roark Wine Company

Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company

Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company

Roark Wine Company's "Craigslist Cuvee" Red Wine Blend

Roark Wine Company’s “Craigslist Cuvee #2″ Red Wine Blend

 

Liquid Farm
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.

Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm's Winemaker, James Sparks

Liquid Farm’s Winemaker, James Sparks

 

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.

C Nagy Wines

C. Nagy Wines

C Nagy Wines

C. Nagy Wines

 

a-non-ah-mus
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.

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus

Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus

 

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…

Chris Carter of Weatherborne

Chris Carter of Weatherborne Wine Corp.

 

ONX Wines
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.

Jeff Strekas of ONX Wines

Jeff Strekas of ONX Wines

The '13 "Indie" Rosé of Tempranillo by ONX Wines

The ’13 “Indie” Rosé of Tempranillo by ONX Wines

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!

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2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” Returns to Solvang…

2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” Returns to Solvang…

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

As far as wine festivals go, there’s nothing quite like the annual Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles.  For the last 3 years, super small lot winemakers have descended upon Paso Robles to share the fruits of their labor with crowds of excited wine lovers.

These festivals provide a rare opportunity for wine enthusiasts to taste wines they’ve never heard of before, as well as a chance for artisan winemakers to share their passion – and often their very first vintage – with new fans face-to-face.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Over the weekend of March 29-30, 2014, Garagiste Events brings the festival to Solvang, CA with the 2nd annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure”.  This year, the festival expands to 2 days and will include an outstanding lineup of high-quality, obscure, low-production wines from the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County (as well as a few Garagistes from the Central Coast/Paso Robles).

Of the 56 or so winemakers that will be present, half are new festival discoveries, 1 in 4 will be pouring their first vintage, and 80% don’t have a tasting room.  Without these invaluable Garagiste Festivals, so much great winemaking talent would remain undiscovered.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

This year’s Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will feature two Grand Tastings, one on Saturday from 2PM – 5PM, and one on Sunday from 1PM-4PM.  Each day will showcase a unique lineup of winemakers.  In addition to the Grand Tastings, each day of Southern Exposure will feature one of the festival’s morning tasting seminars.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Kaena Wine Co. at the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

The Grand Tasting list for Saturday, 3/29 includes:  Archium Cellars, Ascension Cellars, Carucci Wines, Casa Dumetz, Cholame Vineyard, Cordon Wines, Crawford Family Wines, Dubost Ranch, DV8 Cellars, Graef Wines, Ground Effect Wines, Harrison Clarke Wines, Kaena Wine Company, Kessler-Haak Winery, Kita Wines, Larner Winery, Liquid Farm, Luminesce, Moretti Wine Co., Pence Ranch, Press Gang Cellars, Roark Wine Co., Ryan Cochrane Wines, Seagrape Wine Company, Shai Cellars, Tercero Wines, Transcendence Wines, Turiya, and Vinemark Cellars.

The list for Sunday, 3/30 includes:  a-non-ah-mus, Baehner-Fournier, Bradley Family Winery, Brophy Clark Cellars, C. Nagy, Cali Love Winery, Cloak & Dagger, Clos Des Amis, Dascomb Cellars, Desparada, Dilecta, DV8 Cellars, Fontes & Phillips, Frequency Wines, Gioia Wines, Guyomar Wine Cellars, J. Wilkes Wines, La Fenetre Wines, LaZarre Wines, Montemar Winery, Nicora Wines, ONX Wines, Plan B Cellars, Refugio Ranch, Scott Cellars, Solminer Wine, STANGER Vineyards, Weatherborne Wine Co. and Zinke Wine Company.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Tickets to the Garagiste events are very limited, so be sure to purchase yours soon.  The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure is a non-profit event with all proceeds benefiting the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture program.

Needless to say, I can’t wait for the festival and will do a post-fest write-up on my favorite wines.  Hope to see everyone there!

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Highlights from the 2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure”

3rd Annual Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles

3rd_Annual_Paso_Robles_Garagiste_Fest

Last weekend, some of the finest winemaking talent around gathered in Paso Robles to celebrate the 3rd annual Garagiste Festival.

Gorgeous day in Paso Robles

Gorgeous day in Paso Robles

Dedicated solely to showcasing small production wines handcrafted by talented and uber-creative artisan wine makers, the annual Paso Robles Garagiste Festival has become my favorite wine event hands-down.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to see what was in store this year.

Gorgeous Windfall Farms, Paso Robles

Gorgeous Windfall Farms, Paso Robles

We arrived at gorgeous Windfall Farms on Saturday morning and headed inside for our tasting.  I was particularly excited for the festival this year because I really hadn’t heard of most of the wine makers who were pouring.  In fact, half of the approximately 48 garagiste wine makers were pouring for the very first time.

This is exactly why I love the Paso Garagiste Festival so much – it’s an opportunity for undiscovered wine makers to share the fruits of their labor with those who truly appreciate unique, extraordinary wines.  The festival gives wine lovers a chance to try wines they may never hear about otherwise and offers them a rare opportunity to speak with wine makers one-on-one.

Baker & Brain Wines

Baker & Brain Wines

Our first stop was {baker & brain}.  {baker & brain} wines was founded in 2009 when two friends – Josh Baker & Matt Brain – realized they shared a common goal of creating a wine label that would highlight some of the best, consciously farmed vineyards from throughout California.  When they won a wine barrel in an industry raffle, they realized winemaking was their destiny.

Tasting at Baker & Brain Wines

Tasting at Baker & Brain Wines

We tasted three wines at {baker & brain} – a 2012 Grenache Blanc, a 2011 Central Coast Pinot Noir, and a 2011 Pendulum (60% Syrah/40% Grenache).  I personally loved the crisp, refreshing Grenache Blanc and the juicy, delicious Pinot Noir.

Our next stop was ONX Wines.  Last month, Wine Enthusiast magazine published an article titled “6 New Faces of Paso Robles” and ONX’s winemaker Brian Brown was featured.  I knew he was recognized for blending some interesting varietals and I was really excited to try his wines.

Jennifer Freck of ONX Wines

Jennifer Freck of ONX Wines

Honestly, I loved the wines of ONX.  There was not a single wine in the portfolio that I didn’t think was unique, well-balanced, and just plain tasty.  Brian uses Tempranillo and Zinfandel in a few of his GMS blends, which adds a whole new dimension to the wine.

The ONX Wines Portfolio

The ONX Wines Portfolio

We tried six different blends at ONX, all of which were outstanding.  If I really had to choose favorites, I’d probably pick the 2010 Reckoning (64% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah, 8% Zinfandel, 4% Tempranillo, 4% Grenache) and 2010 Praetorian (64% Tempranillo, 12% Malbec, 12% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre), but they were all great.  The wines of ONX are not to be missed.

After ONX, we headed over to Dilecta Wines.  Dilecta was founded in 2011 by winemaker Orion Stang, a certified Sommelier who previously served as assistant winemaker to Eric Jensen at Booker Wines (one of my personal favorites in Paso Robles).

Dilecta Wines

Dilecta Wines

Winemaker Orion Stang of Dilecta Wines

Winemaker Orion Stang of Dilecta Wines

Very cool Dilecta Wines business cards (artwork courtesy of Orion's daughter)

Very cool Dilecta Wines business cards (artwork courtesy of Orion’s daughter)

Orion was pouring his Dilecta wines for the first time at the festival, and had two inaugural wines to try – a 2011 The Tiller (64% Grenache/36% Syrah) and a 2011 Unorthodox Syrah from Caliza & Alta Colina Vineyards.  Both wines were great, but I thought the Unorthodox Syrah was incredible.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Dilecta in the future.

Ghost Cellars

Ghost Cellars

Next we stopped at Ghost Cellars where owner James Cooper was pouring his very first vintage from a single varietal – a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Even though there was only one wine to try at Ghost Cellars, it was a pretty damn good one.  You could taste the focus and attention to detail in the glass, and James’ passion for wine was infectious.

Ghost Cellars

Ghost Cellars

After some great wine and good conversation at Ghost Cellars, we finished our tasting at Aaron Wines.  Winemaker Aaron Jackson was also featured in the recent Wine Enthusiast article and definitely has winemaking in his blood (he made his first Petite Sirah at the young age of 22).

Aaron Wines

Aaron Wines

We unfortunately ran out of time for the media tasting while we were at Aaron Wines, but we managed to squeeze in a taste of all four of his wines – a 2012 Aequorea Pinot Gris, a 2012 Aequorea Pinot Noir, a 2011 Aaron Trespasser, and a 2010 Aaron Petite Sirah.

Aaron Wines

Aaron Wines

Aaron WInes

Aaron WInes

I thought the Aequorea Pinot Noir was one of the best I’ve tried, rivaling some of my favorites from Santa Barbara, and the Aaron Petite Sirah was truly extraordinary.  You could truly taste the passion in these wines.  Aaron’s wines can be tasted at Paso Underground – a collective tasting room that features a couple other small production wine makers.

Overall the talent at this year’s Paso Robles Garagiste Festival was unparalleled. Just this week, Wine Enthusiast named Paso Robles 2013 “Wine Region of the Year” – an award the area couldn’t deserve more.  Congrats to all the Paso garagistes and thank you for sharing your outstanding wines.  I already can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year…

2nd Annual Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles

By definition, the term “garagistes” refers to a group of innovative, renegade wine makers from the Bordeaux region who refuse to follow the strict French rules and instead, produce “Vins de garage” or “Garage wine”.

For the second year in a row, Paso Robles has celebrated the spirit of the garagiste movement by holding a festival focused solely on small production wines. Local artisan wine makers – some familiar and some unknown – gather together for a long weekend, giving wine lovers from all over an opportunity to taste the fruits of their labor.

The Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast – Per Cazo Cellars

This year was my first experience at the Paso Robles Garagiste Festival and I was thrilled to be part of it. On this particular trip, we stayed at the Creekside Bed & Breakfast at Per Cazo Cellars. I honestly can’t recommend Creekside B&B enough. From the comfy bed to host Lynn Teckman’s delicious gourmet breakfasts that were delivered to our room each morning, the entire stay was perfect. Creekside B&B was also very dog-friendly which made it extra convenient and comfortable.

The cozy Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

The cozy Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

The Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

Amazing breakfast #1: Egg & sausage scramble with fresh mixed fruit, fresh squeezed juice, and warm muffin

Amazing breakfast #2: French toast, thick bacon, and fresh berries

The Garagiste Festival opened on Thursday with a dinner at Thomas Hill Organics featuring the cuisine of celeb chef Ludo Lefevbre. Unfortunately I did not attend the dinner, but having experienced Ludo’s pop-up restaurant LudoBites in Los Angeles, I’m sure diners had an unforgettable experience.

Windfall Farms – Paso Robles

We attended the Garagiste Festival on Saturday, which was the day of the big Grand Tasting. We walked into the beautiful Stallion Barn at Windfall Farms where 48 independent and passionate wine makers were set up for tastings in the horse stalls.

Inside the Stallion Barn at Windfall Farms

It was difficult to decide where to begin, but I decided to head over to Liquid Farm. On a rare occasion, I’ve seen Liquid Farm Chardonnay and Rose on menus at some of the finer restaurants in LA, but I had yet to actually try the wine. Owners Nikki and Jeff Nelson took us through a tasting of two Chardonnays – both of which were unique and wonderfully balanced – as well as one Rose. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Liquid Farm, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Nikki & Jeff Nelson of Liquid Farm

After Liquid Farm, we headed to Nicora Wine where winemaker Nick Elliot took us through some outstanding Rhones. Right now, Nicora wines can be tasted by appointment only, but I highly recommend trying them next time you’re in Paso Robles. I can’t wait to see what else Nick comes up with in the future.

Nick Elliott of Nicora Wine

From Nicora, we headed over to Cloak & Dagger where Ray Schofield walked us through his portfolio of exceptional wines – all of which are “handcrafted in secret”. We were unsuccessful at uncovering any of the secrets of Cloak & Dagger wines, but we were very impressed with what we tasted. We tried two Pinot Noirs, as well as a delicious 2010 Illuminatus Sangiovese and a 2010 Skull & Bones Zinfandel.

Ray Schofield of Cloak & Dagger Wines

After Cloak & Dagger, we headed to Red Zeppelin Winery where the eccentric Stillman Brown introduced us to a couple really good Central Coast red wine blends. Finally, we ended our tasting with the latest offerings from our friends Lynn and Dave Teckman at Per Cazo Cellars. The 2010 Epi Telos and 2010 Zing were so good that I had to take home a couple of bottles when we checked out of the Creekside B&B.

Stillman Brown of Red Zeppelin Winery

Overall, I loved being part of the 2nd Annual Paso Robles’ Garagiste Festival and feel like there were so many more amazing wines to try. The wine makers who I met continue to inspire me and deepen my love for wine. It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to taste new wines with the passionate people who are hand-crafting them. I look forward to next year…