Tag Archives: winemakers

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.

Family Winemakers of California – Pasadena – 2012

With all the wine tasting events held each year in California, Family Winemakers of California is always a favorite of mine. First of all, the event is all about exactly what the name implies. It truly celebrates family owned wineries, big and small. But mostly small. And every year there are so many new wineries to get to know, winemakers to meet and wonderful wines to try. What’s not to like?

With close to 200 wineries represented, some pre-event planning is definitely called for. This year I pulled the exhibitor list off the website with the site map and highlighted the tables I would give priority to. While there were so many old favorites I wanted to visit, I tried to choose those wineries I had heard about over the last year, but had yet to try.

Family Winemakers of California Pasadena 2012

Somewhere in the vortex of the internet I had heard about  A Cellar Full of Noise, operated by two charming young men, James Judd and Eric Alvarez. Their reds, made from Paso Robles area fruit, were rich and full, the Cab and Malbec with their other label, James Judd & Son, being standouts.

Just prior to the event I had received an invitation to taste from BX of Napa Wines. Her label logo is BX, and since those initials are near and dear to my heart, I was intrigued. I also liked the fact that she was a one woman show producing only 100 cases of wine in her inaugural release. This release was comprised of 3 wines, a Syrah, a Chardonnay, and the only 100%  Ruby Cabernet in America! I loved the Chardonnay and the Ruby Cab is a light, fruit forward red which would make an easy sipping wine with summer bbq’s. Owner/winemaker Bex Bishop is charming, knowledgeable and passionate and I really enjoyed meeting her.

Bex Bishop of Bex of Napa Wines

Bex Bishop of BX of Napa Wines

I first tasted the Chardonnays and Pinots of Fog Crest Vineyard at last year’s event, so this year I was anxious to try their just about to be released 2010 Pinots and say hi to James Manoogian, owner and passionate force behind these fine wines. (Daniel Moore is their winemaker). The 2010 Estate Pinot Noir , Russian River Valley,  (200 cases produced),  is a beautifully balanced wine with long lingering fruit, and upon release I’m sure will be a hit with Pinot lovers.

James Manoogian, owner, Fog Crest Vineyard

James Manoogian, owner, Fog Crest Vineyard

I really enjoyed the wines from Harrington Wine, a new find for me this year. They are producers of an extensive line of Pinots, but they had brought with them this year their new releases which included a  Grenache Blanc and their 2011 Fiano, a white varietal I hadn’t heard of before. Fiano was a popular grape in ancient Rome, now primarily grown around the town of Avellino in the southern Italian region of Campania. The wine was similar to a Pinot Grigio, crisp and clean, but with a lusher, fuller mouth feel. I’m generally not a fan of Pinot Grigio, so this Fiano would be a welcome summer white at my house.

Getting back to reds, I really enjoyed those of Muscardini Cellars. Their Zinfandel was big but not jammy, their Syrah, lush, and my favorite was the “Tesoro“, a Super Tuscan style blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Some old favs visited were Buttonwood Winery, Cass (never want to miss an opportunity to say hi to co-owner Ted Plemons), Les Deux Chats (love their Roussanne and Viognier), Eberle, and Tercero, where I found owner/winemaker Larry Schaffer almost unrecognizable with a new, way shorter haircut.

Ted Plemons, co-owner, Cass Winery, Paso Robles

Ted Plemons, co-owner, Cass Winery, Paso Robles

Eberle wines

Larry Schaffer, owner/winemaker, Tercero Wines

Larry Schaffer, owner/winemaker, Tercero Wines

The wonderful whites of Les Deux Chats

The wonderful whites of Les Deux Chats

Hope your own tasting adventures have led you to some delicious new finds, and I totally recommend you seek out and try some, (or all), of the wineries I mentioned here. Support family owned business… of any kind – it’s a really good thing. Cheers!