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New Times / Cuisine
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 25
Small but powerfulThe garagistes are gathering in Santa Ynez Valley
BY KATHY MARCKS HARDESTY
Many readers first learned of the outstanding Garagiste Festival in Cuisine (Nov. 1, 2012) when I covered their second annual tasting event at Windfall Farms in Paso Robles. During those interviews, the event organizers admitted they were planning to start another Garagiste Festival in Santa Ynez Valley, and it happened much faster than I ever expected.
The inaugural event is titled “Southern Exposure,” a reference to the south Central Coast region. It takes place Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Solvang. Why is that important to you? You’ll meet the artisan winemakers who handcraft miniscule amounts of ultra-premium wines in an array of notable varietals and blends in Santa Barbara County. Attend this tasting and you’ll be among the privileged first to taste wines from more than 30 great Santa Ynez Valley wineries at what is certain to become an annual event.
My first visit was the second annual Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles last November, and it was quite unique. The world-class equestrian farm—Windfall Farms—features many large stalls with two or three winemakers pouring samples inside. It provides the opportunity for you to discuss the wines with the passionate man or woman behind the brand. The Garagiste Festival is limited to small producers who make less than 1,200 cases of wines annually, and most of these artisans only make a few hundred cases. According to their website, the French term “garagiste” (pronounced gare-ahg-east) was created by professional winemakers in Bordeaux, who used the term derisively to describe the small, unconventional winemakers making wine in their garage or root cellar. Such artisans are found in all major wine regions around the world, but it’s never been easy to discover them until now.
The garagistes make wine at co-op wineries or places where you can’t walk in and visit, as you can in our tasting rooms. Most of these winemakers don’t own their own winery, nor do they have a tasting room. And it’s safe to say few of them make enough wine to pay a distributor to sell them, let alone have the funds for PR and marketing. That’s why the Garagiste Festival pays off through extensive marketing and managing an elaborate website that introduces you to members. It also helps you place orders to buy, once you’ve become a fan. And it’s a nonprofit organization that provides some of the funds raised to support Cal Poly’s Wine and Viticulture Program.
Typically the only way you’ll have the remote opportunity to taste these exclusive wines is at a festival, but even that was difficult until now. The rarity of these wines makes them so highly sought after, once they’re discovered you’ll be lucky if you ever have the opportunity to taste or buy them again. I’ve seen it happen too many times. That’s why I recommend you join me in getting to know the rising stars of the excellent wine growing region of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Contact Cuisine columnist Kathy Marcks Hardesty at firstname.lastname@example.org.