Taste, Sip and Enjoy | Food, Wine and Travel

Celebrate With the Garagistes

Celebrate With the Garagistes

You will not be a fool on April Fools Day weekend if you come to Solvang, California, and celebrate.  It is the fifth anniversary of the Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure on March 31st, April 1st and 2nd.  Sip hand crafted red, white and rosés poured by over 40 garagiste wineries.  What an opportunity! Go to one spot and spend time speaking with winemakers about their micro-production wines from the varied climates represented in the Santa Barbara County AVAs.

A Rare and Reserve Kick-Off Party on Friday evening, March 31st will start you fun weekend.  At this event you will sip limited Club Only, Verticals, Library and Pre-Release bottles.

Saturday, begin your day with tasting and comparing wines in seminars.  The two seminars are titled “Grenache” and “What’s Wrong with This Picture?  Educate Your Palate About the Most Common Wine Flaws.”  The seminars are followed by a Grand Tasting on Saturday afternoon.  Sunday is Passport day! The passport will allow you to sip at the actual wineries  Go to the Garagiste Festival web site for the details on discounts, specials and events at local wineries and, most important, to purchase tickets.  This will sell out, so do not hesitate!

We have attended this event since its inception and have thoroughly enjoyed every weekend.   It has been a pleasure  following individuals from the first event and watch them develop into first class winemakers. Read below about our Valentine experience last year. We encourage you to attend this year.  Discover a new winemaker and begin your journey following their progress during the forthcoming years.

One of a Kind Event-The Garagiste Festival

Our Valentine weekend was very special due to the one of a kind wine event we attended.  The Garagiste Festival is the only festival in the United States dedicated to micro-production winemakers.  It is not easy to find winemakers who handcraft under 1,500 cases of high-quality wine in one setting, but that is what we found at the Mission-style Veterans’ Memorial Hall in Solvang, California. The majority do not have tasting rooms which adds to their dilemma of getting exposure to the public.  Attending the Grand Tastings on both Saturday and Sunday allowed us to sample many of the 50 wineries that came from Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles and Napa.planted their vineyard 10 years ago.

Our first taste was the award-winning wines of Baehner Fournier.  Dr. Bob Baehner, and his wife Vickie, They are fortunate to have the notable Steve Clifton as vineyard manager and winemaker of their Bordeaux-styled wines.  Per vintage they make only 475 cases and today we were able to sip the 2012 “V3” Bordeaux Estate Blend; 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “Solus,” 2013 Estate Merlot; 2013 Petit Verdot and the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from the Vogelzang Vineyard.


An intriguing aspect of meeting the winemakers are their personal background stories.  One such person is Scott Pagter with his many titles ranging from composer, director and sound designer.  He is best known as producer of the Power Ranger television series and the voice of the villain Porto in Power Rangers: Turbo.  He and his brother, Gib, began Pagter Brothers Wines in 2013.  They currently produce 200 cases of bold Syrah and Pinot Noir which we thoroughly enjoyed and look forward to tasting again and again.


Over forty years ago I lived in the high desert.  On Sunday we would go to Lake Los Angeles for brunch.  The restaurant sat on a desolate piece of land surrounded by a dry lake.  The food was always enhanced with their marvelous ramos gin fizz.  I would never have guessed one day I would be drinking wine from the Antelope Valley of the California High Desert AVA!  Coruce Vineyards and Winery is the creation of Bruce Burch and Coreen Savikko.  They began to grow wine grapes in 2000.  By 2013 they had progressed to the point of hiring a winemaker, Bob Balentine.  They are already winning awards and we look forward to following their progress.


An exciting and unexpected find was meeting Brian Ojalvo and his Italian varietals. Brian is a partner with John King in a boutique winery, West of Temperance, based in Marin and Napa counties.  The  Aglianico is a black grape and its colorful history began with the Greeks who brought it originally to southern Italy. We tasted their superb 2012 Aglianico and proceeded to the 2013 Teroldego from the Heringer Estates Vineyard.  The red Teroldego grape comes from the Trentino-Alto Adige wine region of northern Italy.  Both were absolutely outstanding!  In addition he poured a 2012 Pinot Noir, Rio Vista Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills and a 2013 Zinfandel, Poor Ranch, Hopland.  We are eager to keep an eye on Brian and John and find out when and where they will be pouring again.


Eric Trojak and Jim Knier are also from Napa Valley.  Trojak-Knier Winery only produces 450 cases and they say the intent is to keep the production at that level.  They have been commercially producing wine since 2009 following a start-up in their garage in 1993.   They consider themselves “non-interventionists” who truly hand-craft all steps of winemaking.  With the amount of awards they have accumulated, it seems they know a secret.


There are many ways to link music and wine.  Spencer Daley has done so using the word “Coda” which describes a portion or structure of a piece of music. Under the Coda Winery label each wine is named with a musical term Cadence Syrah, Overture Sauvignon Blanc and Boogie with Stu.  You might want to become a “fan” and “join his band.”  We are sure you will drink in his music with great satisfaction and for years to come since Spencer is only 25 years old.


If you think Riesling is too sweet, you haven’t met Ryan Stirm of Stirm Wine Company.  His mission is to “pioneer a new age of California Riesling.” He is definitely off to an exceptional start.  We were able to sip his 2013 Kick-On Riesling; the 2014 Kick-On Eolian Riesling and the 2014 Kick-On Riesling. (Kick-On refers to the vineyard six miles west of Los Alamos and ten miles east of the Pacific Ocean.) They were dry, crisp and absolutely delicious!  Do not miss the opportunity to experience his impressive wines.


Each year there are three wines we enjoy and look forward to an update.  If you are in Ventura County, be on the lookout for Bruce Freeman and his Clos Des Amis.


J.C. was happy to tells us The Central Coast Group Project, made by Scott Sampler, can be found on the wine list at the Santa Barbara Four Seasons Resort and Spa.  He has a very limited quantity with only 260 cases produced.


By all means, never miss sipping the Sangiovese from Scott Cellars!   Peter Scott Fraser is the dedicated winemaker and a fountain of knowledge.  Any opportunity to attend a seminar where Scott is speaking should immediately put on your calendar. If you don’t see one scheduled, visit him at his tasting room.


From professional actor to Garagiste, Stewart McLennan, has an intriguing life story. As a co-founder of the Garagiste Festival, with Doug Minnick, the Festival has expanded to three locations.  It began in Paso Robles and then Solvang and Los Angeles were added.  Not only does he support other low production winemakers, but today he has also become a Garagiste.  As winemaker for Golden Triangle his grapes come from the westside of Paso Robles where a few elevated vineyards form a geographical “golden” triangle.  His ultra low production of 150 cases of Syrah and Cabernet/Syrah can only be obtained by registering on his allocation list.


Stewart and the Garagiste team have announced a permanent scholarship fund has been established at Cal Poly for future winemakers.  These will be awarded to “high-performing undergraduate wine and viticulture department students who have demonstrated leadership and entrepreneurial creativity.”   The fifth anniversary of the Garagiste Festival will be celebrated at the Paso Robles Festival, November 11th to 13th.  Plan to attend and not only taste great wine, but find out the recipients of the scholarships for 2015 to 2016.  The Garagiste Festival in Los Angeles will be July 9th.  Follow us on Facebook for up to date details.

For further information on the wineries and details on how to order their wines, click on the following links:

Baehner Fournier Vineyards; Clos Des AmisCoda WinesCoruce VineyardsGolden Triangle WinesPagter Brothers WinesScott CellarsStirm Wine Company; The Central Coast Group Project;  Trojak-Knier WineryWest of Temperance;

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