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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Garage Doors – Opening Unknown Wines

The French have a word for everything and we Americans adopt many of those terms in the wine world. I’m not sure why, but I guess tedious American words don’t have the same panache and sex appeal as French words. Anyhoo, Garagiste is one of those French words. It means, as the word implies, garage. Which brings us to the Garagiste Festival. The point of this wine festival is to showcase small wine producers (as in working out of their garage, though not literally), most without a tasting room, distribution or much exposure except what they have managed to cobble together on their own. Think of this as the Sundance Film Festival for independent wine.

Cloak & Dagger wine labels
It started in Paso Robles and I attended the first iteration, which has grown to include 300 wineries and has become immensely popular because we all want to be on the cusp of the next big thing. Why it’s important to showcase small, relatively unknown wineries should be obvious but especially for people like me, a wine writer and a wine buyer for an upscale market in Montecito, California, is that I can bring more attention to the little guy by way of articles and wines on a shelf.  Since the public can attend, you should consider going, especially if you’re a wine nerd.

For Garagiste Southern Exposure held in Solvang, standout wines included Alta Colina - who by now actually don’t fit the exact terms of Garagisite as they produce about 2,000 cases, but they were one of the founding members and now receive national press (including my article in The HollywoodReporter). Alta Colina showcases the best of Paso Robles and Rhone wines. Also noteworthy is Baehner Fournier from Santa Barbara and their 2013 Petite Verdot. And Larner whose Syrahs and Rhone wines coming from Ballard Canyon are exceptional. “There is Syrah planted in every AVA in Santa Barbara, but the reason it does well in Ballard is because we don’t have to work hard at it,” Michael Larner told me when I interviewed him for The Tasting Panel Magazine. “We have the Golidiocks syndrome - It’s not too hot, not too cold. Our Syrah has the pepper spice from cooler areas like Santa Rita Hills, it has the abundant fruit you get from Happy Canyon (Santa Barbara’s warmest growing area) solid tannins and acidity structure.” If you’ve not tried Larner wines, you need to check them out. 

I also found Small + Tall who is creating dynamic Pinot Noir from both the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara. There are many other wines of course and I cannot list them all here, but consider any of the Garagiste Festivals and new wine doors will open for you.

1 comment:

  1. Garage Doors – Opening Unknown Wines. The French have a word for everything and we Americans adopt many of those terms in the wine ...