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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”

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…