Saturday’s first ever the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure in Solvang featuring the wines of small "garagiste" producers from the Santa Ynez Valley was a sold-out event. Held at the Mission-style Veteran's Memorial Building in Solvang, it was exuberant, crowded — and fun.
The 32 vintners pouring their wines were arranged along the two long sides of the hall. Winemakers didn’t have much elbow room, but everyone was cheerful and voluble, relishing the chance to introduce their latest vintages to a wine-loving public.
Many of these wineries are so small, they don’t have distributors and sell their wines exclusively through mailing list. This was the chance to get on the email list and find out about new offerings or how the vintage is going, as well as make a rewarding personal connection. Unlike wine events that seem more like raves than tastings, this one is small enough and focused enough that it’s still enjoyable.
Wines that caught my attention included 2010 Pinot Noir "Presqu’ile Vineyard" from Joshua S. Klapper at La Fenêtre, 2009 "Watch Hill" Grenache and 2009 Mourvèdre from Larry Schaffer at Tercero Wines, 2010 Pinot Noir "Uplands" from Blair Pence at Pence Ranch Estate Vineyard and 2010 Syrah Kevin Law at Luminesce. The oldest garagiste wineries in the tasting were Kaena Wine Co. And J. Wilkes, both founded in 2001. The youngest? Cholame Vineyard, Frequency Wines, Ground Effect and Ryan Cochrane Wines, all from the class of 2010.