Tag Archives: Garagiste Festival

The Garagiste Festival – Celebrating the Artisan Winemaker

Xochitl Maiman – August 2015

The Garagiste Festival offers wine enthusiasts endless adventures in wine discovery.

The Garagiste Festival

As their website describes it… “Garagiste, a place for the underground, the different, and the cutting edge of small production winemaking with no rules.” The Garagiste Festivals, now at three per year, embody this definition and showcase the artisan winemakers of California, all with production under 1500 cases of ultra-premium, hard-to-find wines. Indeed, many of the wineries have no tasting room and their production is so small you won’t find their wines on store shelves. So, the only way to explore and experience these wines and the artisans that create them, is at one of the 3 annual festivals.

The first Garagiste Festival was held in November of 2011 in Paso Robles as a way to showcase the garagiste movement which had clearly taken a hold in that wine producing region. The event also served to raise funds for the Cal Poly Wine & Viticulture Program, which provides future winemakers with an education in all aspects of the wine business from the vineyard to the table. The Festival continues to support this program and its young winemakers of the future. With the movement growing throughout the California wine producing regions, and interest and awareness growing on the part of the wine consumer, the annual event schedule has grown to accommodate 3 festivals – adding festivals held in the Santa Ynez wine growing region of Santa Barbara County and in Los Angeles.

Garagiste Festival Paso Robles 2015Traditionally, the Santa Ynez Garagiste Festival, named “Southern Exposure” is held in the spring, the Los Angeles Garagiste Festival, “Urban Exposure” in the summer, and the Paso Robles festival in the fall.  So with just one more event left for 2015, now’s the time to save the date for November 7th. Actually, the November Festival has been expanded to include events over a 3-day period, beginning with a “5th Anniversary Dinner” at the Carlton Hotel in nearby Atascadero on Thursday, November 5th.  A “winemaker mixer” follows on Friday, with a series of events scheduled for Saturday, November 7th, including seminars, the Grand Tasting and an after-party.

With all the wine tasting events held every year, the Garagiste Festivals are my favorite, providing a fun and unique opportunity to taste wine while meeting and chatting with the actual winemaker. Hearing from them personally, as opposed to distributors or reps, takes the tasting experience to a much higher, memorable and more meaningful level.

While I have made friends of many of these winemakers over the years and enjoy visiting with them and tasting their new releases, I also always look forward to meeting the “new guys” or first-timers to the festival. Dozens of varietals and blends means there is something for every palette. From Albarino to Viognier, this is one tasting event you won’t want to miss.

Garagiste Festival at Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles 2015Here are some of my favorites from this year’s Southern Exposure and Urban Exposure Garagiste Festivals:

Alta Colina Vineyards – Paso Robles – Consulting winemaker: Jeff Cohn  Cases per vintage: 1500

  • 2014 Grenache Blanc
  • 2011 GSM

Archium Cellars – Santa Barbara – Winemakers: Zack Jarosz & Ian Sergy  Cases per vintage: 300

  • 2013 “Haven” Grenache

Ascension Cellars at Garagiste Festival 2015Ascension Cellars – Paso Robles   Winemaker: Erick Allen   Cases per vintage:1000                         Fruit sourced from the CASS Vineyard.

  • 2013 Halo Viognier
  • 2013 Gossamer Wings White Rhone Blend

Artisan Uprising – Paso Robles – Winemakers: William & David Vondrasek   Cases per vintage:275

  • 2012 Merlot
  • 2012 Malbec

Diablo Paso – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Enrique Torres   Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2014 Albarino – Edna Valley
  • 2013 Tempranillo

Larner Winery – Santa Barbara –  Winemaker: Michael Larner   Cases per vintage: 800

  • 2014 Malvasia Bianca
  • 2010 Elemental GSM

MCV Wines – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Matt Villard   Cases per vintage: 500

  • 2014 Viognier

Shai Cellars Garagiste Festival 2015Shai Cellars – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Shawn Shai Halahmy  Cases per vintage: 350

  • 2009 Adome (65% Syrah/35% Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2009 Grenache

Stanger Vineyards – Paso Robles – Winemaker: JP French   Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2008 Syrah, Library Reserve
  • 2010 Master (55% Cabernet Sauvignon/36% Syrah/9% Tempranillo)

Tercero Wines – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Larry Schaffer  Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2010 The Climb (Syrah/Petite Sirah)

The Farm Winery – Paso Robles  – Winemaker: Santiago Achaval   Cases per vintage: 650

  • 2011 Touchy-Felly (Grenache/Syrah)
  • 2011 The Big Game (Cab/Petit Verdot/Syrah)

Vines on the Marycrest – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Victor Abascal   Cases per vintage: 1500

  • 2014 Summertime Rosé

Weatherborne Pinot Noir Garagiste Festival 2015Weatherborne – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Cris Carter   Cases per vintage: 400

  • 2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills

The Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles, is scheduled for November 5-7, 2015. The fall is a beautiful, and popular, time to visit wine country. Plan your visit early by booking your lodging and ordering your Festival tickets as soon as possible.  For more information on The Garagiste Festival events, participating wineries, and to purchase tickets, visit The Garagiste Festival website.

Wine is an adventure, with every bottle offering a new experience. Thank you to the passionate and talented garagiste winemakers for your perseverance, dedication and for sharing your art. Thank you also to the outstanding team at The Garagiste Festival for bringing all these fine winemakers together under one roof where we can meet and celebrate them and their wines. Happy 5th Anniversary!


Archium Cellars

by Xochitl Maiman   March 27, 2015

Archium Cellars at Garagiste Festival-Solvang

One year ago, at the Garagiste Festival in Solvang, I met Ian Sergy and Zach Jarosz of Archium CellarsIan and Zach of Archium CellarsActually, it was the night before at a pizza party “sneak peak” at Cecco Italian Restaurant in Solvang. They were tucked away in a corner with really poor access as the crowd of tasters continued to pack the space. I think it was the label artwork that first drew my attention as I was trying to leave at the end of the night and almost out the door. So I decided, one more, why not? Good move on my part…

Archium Cellars Dissident




Zach was completely personable, (never ceases to amaze me how the winemakers stay personable after hours of pouring for the masses), and introduced me to his small, but impressive line up of wines. (They produce about 250 cases per year, at this point) Their first vintage was 2011, and that weekend we were tasting their ’12’s and a simply wonderful 2013 Rosé of 100% Grenache. Archium Cellars Rosé Inspired by the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, their wines are all made from Rhone varietals, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, sourced from renown Santa Barbara County vineyards such as Stolpman, McGinley and Watch Hill. They do have a small “test vineyard” planted in the Thousand Oaks area where Zach and Ian hone their vineyard management skills, and which actually produces the fruit for their “Briar Bluff Vineyard” designate, Syrah.

Archium Cellars - Briar Bluff Vineyard

Archium Cellars Briar Cliff Syrah









Like so many other passionate winemakers, Zach and Ian both have careers in other industries, which adds time management to the myriad challenges a winemaker faces. Ultimately, like most passionate winemakers, they find making their own wine to be a truly rewarding endeavor. Their pride in what they do was evident as they showed me around their Ventura Briar Cliff Vineyard Archium CellarsCounty vineyard one afternoon last May. They view each vintage as an archive of their efforts in winemaking, thus their name, “Archium”, latin for archive. As a consumer, that really brings home the concept of taking in and appreciating all that goes into that glass of wine, even before tasting it.

Earlier this month Archium Cellars bottled their 2014 Rosé and I’m anxious to taste it and any other new releases they may have at this weekend’s Garagiste Festival. Like so many of the wineries pouring at the festival, they do not have a tasting room, so this is a rare opportunity to taste their wines and over 250 other wines being produced in small quantities in the Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles wine regions. Here is a complete listing of the wineries pouring each day at this year’s event, March 28-29, 2015. Who will stand out this year?




The Garagiste Festival – 2nd Annual Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival

by Xochitl Maiman             April 9, 2014

The Garagiste Festival – Southern Exposure Grand Tasting expanded to two days in 2014 – so much wine – so little time!

The original Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles has now become almost legendary in its fourth year – a festival dedicated to showcasing high-quality, cutting-edge, small-production commercial wineries that produce fewer than 1,500 cases a year. Last year the festival launched its “Southern Exposure” Festival focusing on the artisan winemakers of the Santa Ynez Valley. This year their there were so many wineries that the event added a second day with each day featuring different wineries. As I said, “so much wine – so little time!”

In fact, I was only able to attend the first day of the festival, but I did jump start the weekend (March 28-30), by attending the Garagiste “Kick-Off” Party, a pizza and wine pairing at Cecco Ristorante in Solvang. Eleven “garagiste” wineries, including 2 that would not be participating in the main event, poured while Cecco tray passed piping hot pizzas and other yummy appetizers. The patio was packed with wine enthusiasts all anxious to learn more about these small wineries, most with no tasting rooms, making this a rare opportunity to taste these gems.  While it’s always so good to meet and speak with the owners/winemakers, I especially enjoyed meeting Deanna King of De Su Propria Cosecha and Zach and Ian from Archium Cellars.

Garagiste Pizza Party


Archium Cellars – 2011 “Dissident” Rhone Blend (82% Syrah/18% Grenache)

Zach and Ian of Archium Cellars

Zach and Ian of Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars Dissident

De Su Propria Cosecha – 2011 Roussanne, Stolpman Vineyard and 2009 La Cosecha Central Coast Red

Vinemark Cellars – 2009 Reserve Primitivo

Press Gang Cellars – 2010 Syrah, Harrison Clarke Vineyard

Calilove Wines – 2013 “Gold Rush” Chardonnay, Presqu’ile Vineyard – Barrel Sample

The following morning, after a hearty breakfast at our hotel, we headed over to the Veterans’ Memorial Hall for a couple hours of tasting. Of the 30 wineries pouring and the countless wines of all varieties, these were some of the standouts for me from wineries I was not already familiar with:

Archium Cellars – 2013 Rosé of Grenache

Carucci Wines – 2012 Viognier, White Hawk Vineyard

Cholame Vineyard – 2012 Grenache Blanc “Summer Shade”

Crawford Family Wines – 2012 Pinot Noir – Zotovitch Vineyard

Wendy and Mark Horvath - Crawford Family Wines

Wendy and Mark Horvath – Crawford Family Wines

Dubost Ranch – 2009 Reserva (70% Syrah/30% Tempranillo)

Liquid Farm – 2013 Mourvedre Rosé, Vogelzang Vineyard and 2012 Chardonnay – “White Hill” – Sta. Rita Hills

Moretti Wine Co. – 2013 Vermentino

Ryan Cochrane Wines – 2012 Pinot Noir – Solomon Hills Vineyard

Ryan Cochrane Wines Pinot Noir

Ryan Cochrane Wines Pinot Noir – 2012 – Solomon Hills Vineyard

Shai Cellars and Tercero Wines were also there, and while I’m quite familiar with their wines, it’s always good to taste the latest offerings from Shawn Halahmy and Larry Schaffer, respectively. Two favs are the 2009 Shai Cellars Adome (65% Syrah/35% Cabernet Sauvignon) and Tercero’s 2009 Cuvee Christie.

Denise Lowe, the Goddess of Wine, Shawn Halahmy and Sandy Grazziani of Shai Cellars.

Denise Lowe, the Goddess of Wine, Shawn Halahmy and Sandy Grazziani of Shai Cellars.

A large selection of grape varietals were represented including genache, syrah, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, primitivo, roussanne, gewurztraminer, chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel, tempranillo, sauvignon blanc, negrette, chenin blanc, riesling, mourvedre, semillon, vermentino, merlot, petite verdot, petite sirah and malbec.

I love the wines from this region – the pinot’s are earthy, but with fabulous fruit, the chardonnay’s have complexity and balance, the rhones and bordeaux varietals are complex without being too heavy, and with good fruit and elegant mouthfeels. All in all, this was a wonderful tasting and not only do I look forward to next year’s event, but I’m anxious to track down some of my favorites from this event and add them to my cellar!

More winery information.

While the details for the 2014 Paso Robles Garagiste Festival have not been announced yet, stay up to date with all the latest news on their website.

The Garagiste Festival – Southern Exposure 2013

Wine glasses Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure 2013

In November of 2011 The Garagiste Festival held it’s first event in Paso Robles showcasing the “maverick” wine makers of the area and their wonderful limited production wines. The event was a huge success and the word was out in a big way – small wineries, creative winemakers, delicious wines! 2012 brought the second Festival and once again the public was wowed by the passion, vision and wines of  forty-eight artisan “garagiste” winemakers producing wines from thirty-eight varietals.   With an estimated nearly 200 garagiste winemakers in the Paso Robles area and on down the Central Coast of California into the Santa Ynez region, clearly there was a need for another Garagiste Festival a little further south. Enter The Garagiste Festival – Southern Exposure!

Last weekend, once again, 32 winemakers pouring close to 100 wines, let the wine world know they were playing for keeps – whites like chenin blanc, grenache blanc, viognier and chardonnay – crazy yummy rosés and reds – oh the reds! While you might expect plenty of great pinot noir from this area, and there was, grenache seemed to win the day. The event, held at the Solvang Veterans’ Memorial Hall, was sold out and social media is all a buzz about the great time had by all.

Garagiste Festival - Southern Exposure - 2013

Garagiste Festival - Southern Exposure - 2013

A “more or less” complete list of wineries and what they were pouring:

Who's Pouring What? at Garagiste-Southern Exposure-2013

Who's Pouring What? at Garagiste-Southern Exposure-2013

Some of the highlights:

Always good to see Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines. Especially liked his ’11 Viognier, White Hawk Vineyard, ’09 Mourvedre and his 2012 Rosé of Mouvedre, soon to be bottled.

Tercero Wines - Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure 2013

Tercero Wines

Shawn Shai Halahmy of Shai Cellars, was there pouring his very popular ’09 Adome (Cab/Syrah blend) and his ’09 Grenache. He had excellent help pouring from good friend, Denise Lowe, the Goddess of Wine.

Shawn Shai Halahmy of Shai Cellars with Denise Lowe

Shawn Shai Halahmy of Shai Cellars with Denise Lowe

The “king of grenache”, Mikael Sigouin of Kaena Wine Co. had 3 grenache wines from different vineyards to pour along with barrel samples of his soon to be released ’12 Grenache Rosé. All were delicious!

Kaena wines at Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure 2013

Kaena wines at Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure 2013

Good to re-connect with James Ontiveros of Native 9 (’09 Pinot Noir) and to meet Jeff Fink, the winemaker for Pence Ranch. He and owner Blair Pence had 3 pinots, all 2010, but from different areas of the estate. All got top marks in my book!

Jeff Fink, winemaker, Pence Ranch

Jeff Fink, winemaker, Pence Ranch

Other notables were C. Nagy (’11 Pinot Blanc-Bien Nacido Vineyard), Larner Winery (’10 Estate Viognier, ’09 Elemental and ’09 Syrah), and Storm Wines (’09 Pinot Noir,Santa Maria Valley). Best car of the day clearly went to El Rey Wines, who also poured two pinot noirs, both very good.

El Rey Wines - very cool car!

El Rey Wines - very cool car!

So much great wine under one roof! Congratulations to the folks at Garagiste Festival for providing another great wine-tasting opp! After a couple of hours tasting and schmoozing, we took a walk through picturesque Solvang, bought cookies and danish, ( a must when visiting the town), and finished the day with a detour to some tasting rooms in Los Olivos to pick up wine to take home. A great “day-cation”!  One more treat on the way home….a perfect California sunset…..

Sunset at Ventura Beach

Sunset at Ventura Beach

A Taste of Garagiste in Hollywood

The 2nd Annual Garagiste Festival will be held November 10, 2012. This unique wine festival is the first and only festival dedicated to small lot production wineries, (under 1200 cases annually), from the Central Coast wine regions of California. These passionate winemakers are producing some of the most exciting hand-crafted wines and the festival showcases the wines and the winemakers at this festival held in Paso Robles at the stunning Windfall Farms.

As they did last year, the festival producers are holding a series of small “sneak peak” events leading up to the festival and today one such small tasting was held on the back patio of Wood and Vine in the heart of Hollywood. Warmly greeted by members of the Garagiste team, Doug Minnick and Lisa and Dave Dinsmore, I got my glass and off I went ……

First up a quick stop at the Les Deux Chat table to start the tasting off with their 2012 Roussanne, a perennial favorite of mine. Chris Connolly who owns Les Deux Chat with his wife, Patty, was also pouring their 2010 Viognier and 2010 Dante Dusi Zinfandel.

Chris Connolly of Les Deux Chat Winery

Next up was a lovely unfiltered Rhone white, 2010 La Marjorie, a blend of 75% Roussanne and 25 % Grenache Blanc. Winemaker and proprietor of Thomas Alexander Wines, Thomas Pitchon, was on hand to talk about his Chateauneuf du Pape style wines including  his 2009 Le Tigre (50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre) and 2009 Les Origines (50% Syrah, 43% Grenache, 8% Mourvedre). Looking forward to tasting these wines again in November.

Thomas Pitchon of Thomas Alexander Winery

I was especially happy to finally meet Aaron Jackson of Aaron Wines, whom I had been corresponding with over the years via e-mail. I had been following this young winemaker, whose motto is,  “Life should be outrageous. Go Big or go home.”, and was intrigued with his creative approach to his grape of choice, Petite Sirah. His offerings this day were a clear reflection of that creativity. Tasted first his 2010 Rosé of Petite Sirah, which I really enjoyed, and am wishing I had a bottle of it to carry me through another hot LA evening. His 2009 Petite Sirah was luscious as was his unique 2010 Red Blend, pretty much a 50/50 blend of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel with a splash of Viognier added for an elevation of aromatics.

Aaron Jackson

Aaron Wines

After hearing good things about the next winery, Westberg Cellars, I spent some time chatting with owner/winemaker Donald Burns. For you Chardonnay lovers who have a hard time finding much of it in Paso Robles, Don creates his 2010 Simply Chardonnay just for you. Fruit is from the Santa Lucia Highlands and sees no oak and no malolactic fermentation. Another crisp white, 2010 Willow White, boasts a blend of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. Oh so good in this summer heat. Bottled under his other label, Turtle Rock, his 2008 GSM is a winner, but I really loved the 2009 Red Blend, a unique blend of 48% Tempranillo, 29% Syrah and 23% Zinfandel. Wouldn’t mind having a few of those in my cellar!

Westberg Cellars Turtle Rock/Westberg Wines

Did you know there are Riesling vineyards in Cambria, California? Well there are and Cutruzzola Vineyards is making two different wines from them. I preferred the drier 2009 which would be great paired with Asian food or anything with a hot spicy kick. The only Pinot Noir of the day , their 2009 Gloria from their Cambria estate vineyards, was elegant and lovely.

Cutruzzola Vineyards Gloria Pinot Noir

Clearly the word is out that fantastic handcrafted wines are being produced up and down the Central Coast and the great turnout at today’s event is testament to that. But if you still need convincing, get your tickets for the Garagiste Festival including their winemakers seminars and special social events here. These winemakers are looking forward to sharing their wines with you!

A Taste of Garagiste


Les Deux Chats bottles their 2010 Viognier and Rousanne

The late afternoon before we were to drive to Paso  Robles for some badly needed down time we discovered that our tires were bald and had to be replaced before we could hit the road. We picked up the car in the late morning and left an hour later than I had wanted to. And who knew that the weekend we had planned to go to Paso Robles  was also the same weekend that families were busy moving their college kids onto campus and into their rooms in Santa Barbara? While the weather was perfect, traffic was terrible! And yet, with all that, we only arrived an hour later to Paso than I had hoped. Still had time to catch up with some friends who were bottling that day…I hoped.

Made a call and yes, Chris Connolly of Les Deux Chat said to come on over to In Vino Veritas – they were still working.

We had met Chris and his wife, Patty, at a Paso Robles wine tasting in LA a few years back. We were introduced by mutual friends who knew them from the entertainment industry and we all ended up having dinner together that evening. It was then that I found out they were making wine in their garage, making them the first garagiste winemakers I had actually met. Viognier and Zinfndel were the grapes they had chosen and they had just put their first vintage into barrel.

Well things have evolved nicely for the Connolly’s and while they have not given up their day jobs, they are pursuing their passion to make fine wine. We had the pleasure of joining them, their family and friends, as they were bottling their 2010 Ripken Vineyard Viognier and Roussanne. Tasted both and am happy to say they are indeed making some fine wine.

Also happy to say that Les Deux Chat will be participating in the Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles on November 12, 2011. This is a new festival celebrating the artisan winemaker and over 40 Central Coast wineries with small case production will be pouring their wines. As many of these wineries do not have tasting rooms, this will be a unique opportunity to taste and purchase these wonderful wines and meet the passionate people behind them. And don’t forget to say hi to Patty and Chris! Cheers!



Bottling of Les Deux Chat 2010 Viognier 047