Wine festivals are fun things to go to–an impressive number of wines to taste as you wander at your own pace. Who wouldn’t have fun doing that?
But the California Garagiste Festival, which has its 6th annual event in Paso Robles this weekend, is a little different than your usual wine festival.
Why? Story. Everything comes back to story (stay with me, I’ll explain). As I’ve mentioned here previously, and as I detail on my “about” page, story is what took my interest in wine from whatever I could pick up at my local wine shop that tasted good to wanting to know everything about wine, and being able to do so with no pretense or intimidation. By story in this context, I’m talking about the opportunity to find out the who/what/why behind a bottle of wine, the opportunity to talk to the person who made the wine, to hear their . . . story. Story goes a long way in making wine approachable and engaging.
So if you like that, if you’re intrigued by the “why” that went into that bottle of wine on your shelf, you will find no better event to indulge that than the Garagiste Festival.
What the heck is a Garagiste? From their website:
GARAGISTES – (garage-east) n, Fr. – A term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garage, who refused to follow the “rules.” Now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. Who’s laughing now, Francois? Syn: Rule-breakers, pioneers, renegades, mavericks, driven by passion.
The California version of this movement has embraced the name as a way to bring together micro-producers (usually no more than 1500 cases per year production, some produce much less) and use this festival platform as a way to bring their wines to the public in a way they’re not otherwise able to do individually. Some of the Garagistes have tasting rooms, but some (the majority, I think) do not. Many of them are new-ish to the winemaking game, but there are some seasoned old-timers as well, who continue to produce wine in small lots and with little interest of scaling up. They do what they do because they love it, and the wines reflect this beautifully.
I attended the Los Angeles Garagiste festival this summer, and was so impressed with the wines I tasted, and had a wonderful time talking to the winemakers. This is an up-close-and-personal event in a way that other wine festivals are not.
The Paso festival begins tonight with a wine and (grilled) cheese event in Atascadero–sadly, that’s sold out (but let’s just hope they repeat this particular party for next year’s festival, because let’s be honest–GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES). There are still tickets available for Saturday’s events, which include a pair of seminars, the Grand Tasting, and the after party. Tickets are available at the door, but in the event of a sellout, I’d highly recommend buying them now via this link. Your best deal is the day-long VIP pass, which gets you into both of the seminars, the Grand Tasting, and the after party.
I haven’t tasted wines from every producer who’ll be there, but I’ve tried a LOT of them–here are my don’t-miss recommendations: On Your Left, Pulchella, Caliza, Bodega de Edgar, Vinemark, and brand-spanking-new Garagiste, Serrano. If you recall my profile of Rabbit Ridge winery, Serrano is RR’s second generation getting into the game (and their inaugural 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon has already racked up some impressive accolades–I’ve had it, it’s TASTY).
The always outstanding Vivant Fine Cheese will be serving cheese and charcuterie during the Grand Tasting, and other vendors will offer their wares as well (think: estate olive oils that will rock your world).
The all-day event runs from 11:00 a.m. (with the first seminar) to 5 p.m., The Grant Tasting is 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the after party is 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. All events are at the Paso Fairgrounds, 2198 Riverside Ave, Paso Robles, CA 93446