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2020 Sonoma Garagiste Festival: February 15, Sonoma

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, and generally 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, and keen attendees of wine tasting events will find them tucked in between the bigger more established players. But for anyone seeking exposure to many such producers, there aren’t a lot of options. Enter the Garagiste Wine Festival, originally started in Paso Robles, but now popping up in various places around the state. The tasting highlights several dozen little wineries that many have never heard of, and might never hear of, except for the periodic opportunity to stroll around and taste their wines that this little tasting affords. Of the many wineries showcasing their wares, a majority have 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.

The latest version of this tasting is coming back to Sonoma County this coming weekend, held at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Sonoma. If you like exploring what’s next in the wine world, this coming Saturday might be a good opportunity to make some new discoveries.

2020 Garagiste Wine Festival
Grand Tasting: February 15th, 2020
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM (Noon Early Entry available)
Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall
126 1st Street W
Sonoma, CA 95476 (map)

Tickets for the tasting will run you $65 or if you want to spend a bit more, you can get access to the Rare and Reserve tasting at 1 PM for $90, or get the full VIP experience which includes lunch from The Girl & The Fig and get into the tasting at Noon for $130. 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!