One of my favorite pastimes involves tasting wines made by small winemakers who either are just beginning their journeys to becoming more established, or those who are deliberately small and will always remain that way. And by deliberately small, I mean they make a couple of hundred cases of wine, have no tasting room and no vineyards to their name. California is full of these sorts of wineries, and while not all of them are great, these small estate-less wine brands can make some truly excellent wines.
Every region of the state plays host to some of these wine labels, but only the Central Coast has a festival that specifically showcases them. Enter the Garagiste Winemakers Tasting, originally started in Paso Robles, but now covering the whole of California’s Central Coast. The tasting highlights several dozen little wineries that many have never heard of, and might never hear of, except for this opportunity to stroll around and taste their wines on April 1st.
Of the many wineries showcasing their wares, a majority just come into existence in the last six years, and all but a couple dozen of them have no tasting room, and more than 90 percent of them have no employees other than the winemaker. The term artisan should probably be banned from overuse at this point, but here’s once place where it definitely applies.
Previous incarnations of the festival have been held in Paso Robles, but this event will be held in Solvang, with two days of tasty opportunities. The event begins on the evening of March 31 with a “Rare and Reserve” kickoff party that involves a lot of BBQ meats and a bunch of library and limited releases to taste from the vintners. Then on Saturday April 1, morning seminars will cover topics such as wine flaws and an exploration of Grenache, and then after lunch the Grand Tasting proceeds.
So if you’re down towards Solvang, or if you want to take a field trip, the weekend of April 1st might be a good opportunity to make some new discoveries.
2017 Garagiste Winemakers Tasting: Southern Exposure
Grand Tasting: April 1, 2017
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM (1:00 Early Entry available)
The Veteran’s Memorial Hall
1745 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463
Tickets for the tasting will run you $60 or if you want to attend seminars and get lunch you can get a VIP ticket for $110. They’re available on the event web site, and will likely sell out, so get yours soon.
My usual tips for such tastings apply: wear dark clothes; leave the perfume at home; drink lots of water; eat before or during the tasting; and spit if you want to learn anything!