Taste, Sip and Enjoy | Food, Wine and Travel

No One Fooled at Garagiste

No One Fooled at Garagiste

No one who attended the 2017 Garagiste Southern Exposure, over April Fools weekend, received an April Fools Day prank.  Instead, we were rewarded with two and a half days of education and a bounteous supply of wine from small lot winemakers.  Most do not have tasting rooms, so this was a golden opportunity to sip wine from some who only make 75 cases per vintage.  We even found one Estate Syrah where only 20 cases were made.

A highlight of the weekend was the Friday evening “Rare and Reserve Kick-off BBQ.” Eighteen wineries brought intriguing verticals, library, reserve, barrel samples and pre-release wines we would not be able to try at any other time over the weekend.

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Neighbor Tim’s BBQ provided an ample feast to pair with our wines.

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Classically trained actor, Stewart McLennan, has redirected his career by making a big splash in wine. As one of the founders of the Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles, he went on to bring the festival to Solvang and Los Angeles.  In addition, he has found time to open Golden Triangle Wines.  We tasted his “Club Only” Paso Robles 2013 Willow Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.  This 50% whole cluster was given 93 points by the Wine Enthusiast who said it was “deep and lavish.”  We felt it was spectacular and as elegant as his golden labels.

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Saturday, at the Grand Tasting, Stewart poured us his “match made in heaven,” 2013 Willow Creek 60% Syrah, 40% Cabernet.  In addition, he poured his “ebullient, structured, nascent” 2013 100% Syrah.  We are sure to follow Stewart and all of his “Golden” wine.

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Have you ever done a vertical tasting of the grape with the Spanish roots, Tempranillo?  Cholame Vineyard presented the years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 of their Bull Pen Tempranillo.

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In 2005 vintner, David Dubois, discovered the Cholame Valley, at the southern tip of Monterey County. On 75 acres he planted Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo.  Saturday we were able to taste four other varietals from Cholame Vineyards.

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David’s winemaker, Andres Ibarra, starting working with grapes in 1980.  By 1997 was he was named winemaker at Fess Parker Winery.  The awards followed him as he moved to other wineries.  His biography would inspire any aspiring winemaker! Certainly his talent has followed him to Cholame. David and Andres are a perfect pairing.  Watch for their opening of a tasting room in Buellton!

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A couple of years ago we met Scott and Andrea Williams, of Mattina Fiore Wines, at the Chardonnay Symposium.  It was a pleasure to meet Andrea again this weekend and sip their reds.  On Friday Andrea poured superb 2012 Syrah and 2012 Chardonnay library wines from the Murmer Vineyard in the southern Santa Maria Valley.  On Saturday, of the 1300 cases produced by winemaker, Robert Hensen, we also sipped Albarino, Grenache, Buona Derrata GSM and Fiorellino, a Late Harvest Viognier.  They have no tasting room, but appointments may be scheduled for a tasting at scott@mattinafiorewines.com.

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Friday, Brian Benson, was pouring his three-year vertical Rhone blends, Neapolitan Pussycat.   The vertical was:

2011 – 69% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre
2012 – 48% Grenache, 46% Syrah, 6% Roussanne
2013 – 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre

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Brian has been involved in wine since elementary school and is referred to as a “one man army.”  Being a new father, he drove the three-hour round trip to Paso Robles, returning Saturday to pour again. Included was a well-balanced 2013 Syrah Mourvedre from the James Berry Vineyard.  When in Paso Robles, be sure and visit Brian Benson Cellars at the tasting room in Tin City.

From Sonoma, two Pinots were poured on Saturday from Camlow Cellars.  Alan Campbell is the winegrower and Craig Strehlow is the winemaker, formerly at Keefer Ranch.  Definitely take note of  the 2013 and 2014 Magna Porcum Estate Pinot Noirs from Green Valley of the Russian River Valley.  The 2013 received 93 points from the Wine Enthusiast.  Friday we had sipped their 2016 Rose of Pinot Noir “Sus Volans.”  Only 50 cases were made of the Rosé of the total production of 400 cases per vintage.  Search out this winery!

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William and David Vondrasek, of Artisan Uprising, make only 300 cases per vintage. They feel their wine is a form of art. This can be seen in the label with the drawing by their sister.   Although the grapes are grown in Paso Robles, you can taste their wines in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

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Yearly we follow Bruce Freeman and his Clos Des Amis.  In a period of ten years he has planted various varietals throughout Ventura County.  The fruits of this labor of love shine in his Grenache/Mouvedre Rosé, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot.  He does not have a tasting room, but give him a call and arrange a tasting.

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Before the Saturday Grand Tasting we had the opportunity to attend two seminars.   This picture……

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displayed what we were looking at as we took out seats at the first seminar.  We all had a plastic glove and test tubes!  In what were we about to be involved? Immediately I recalled the title of the seminar, “What’s Wrong With This Picture? Educate Your Palate About the Most Common Wine Flaws.”

Each tube contained a particular aroma winemakers need to be able to identify in their wine.   Did you know when you say your wine is “corked,”  you are dealing with tricloroanisole?  Questioned by Stewart McLennan, our seminar leader, Marcy Mallette, from Laffort USA, said it made her think of “mouse pee on wet newspaper.” That is an aroma I have not had an occasion to identify.

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The ethylphenol brought horse stables to mind.  Some tubes we were cautioned to not open.  We could certainly understand because the aroma was present outside the tube.   Winemakers must know how it forms, or gets into the wine, and what it does to the wine.  Even more important, they must know what to do about the problem.  This seminar is an experience of which all wine-lovers should partake.  It will develop your appreciation, not only of the wine, but of its’ creator and his nose.

The second seminar was, “An Exploration of Grenache: Not Just for Blending Anymore.”   Sonja Magdevski of Casa Dumetz, Cris Carter of Weatherborne and Zac Wasserman of Frequency Wine Corp. made up the panel.  These three winemakers are making single vineyard Grenache bottlings.  This is becoming ever more popular in the Santa Barbara area.  Even though Grenache is very widely planted, it is most frequently used in blending.  We were able to taste as each winemaker discussed the unique terroirs and its great importance to each wine.  After this discussion, I believe I will be drinking Grenache more frequently with a bit more educated palate.

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The whole weekend was an outstanding success!  Not only educational, but inspiring to meet all the new, passionate winemakers who are following a dream.  Do not miss attending Garagiste Festivals and all they offer.  There will be others upcoming in Los Angeles and Paso Robles.  Sign up to receive “The Dirt” on the Garagiste web page and keep up to date with all their news.

Artisan Uprising; Brian Benson CellarsCamlow Cellars; Casa Dumetz; Cholame Vineyard;  Clos Des Amis; Frequency Wine Co.;  Garagiste Festival; Golden Triangle Wines; Mattina FioreWines; Neighbor Tim BBQ; Weatherborne Wine

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