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Monday, May 14, 2018

Garagiste Wine Festival, Sonoma

Garagiste is a term used to denote very small wine producers -- often making a few hundred cases of wine a year. There are actually a lot of them, but you've never heard of these wineries as they don't exactly have a marketing department. Their wines are generally sold to friends and folks that happen to stumble across their wines. Just like we did at this tasting.

Over half of all U.S. wineries make 1,500 cases of wine a year or less. Most of the ones at this festival were much smaller than that.

In California this movement started in the central and southern wine growing areas of the state and is taking its first steps moving north to Sonoma. There were about 40 wineries pouring about 200 wines. The tasting was heavy on Rhone varieties (Syrah, Grenache, etc.) and Pinot Noir, but there was a bit of everything. Following are my favorites and their listed retail price. If you wanted to purchase anything they are probably only available from their website or with a phone call.

Favorite Wines
  • Camlow Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé $25
  • Chenoweth Wines 2014 Pinot Noir Estate, $65
  • Lightning Wines 2014 Rhone Blend, $34. If you like a fruitier style Rhone at a decent price.
  • Mastro Scheidt NV Growler $39. It's a big jug of wine with everything from Cab Franc to Barbera -- there were five different grapes, I think.
  • Montemaggiore 2016 3Divas White Rhone Blend $30
  • St. Romedius NV Red (Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel) $29. A good bang for the buck wine. He makes a total of 75 cases of wine a year.
  • Theopolis 2015 Pinot Noir Yorkville Highlands $42
  • Tulocay 2014 Pinot Noir Haynes Vyd $40
  • Weatherborne 2015 Grenache Santa Barbara $35. I liked all of their wines (pouring Pinot Noirs, also). Said they are currently located in SoCal, but have bought land and are moving north.

Some takeaways
  • Loving the red Grenache wines.
  • Like the white Rhone-style wine blends, but reaffirmed my belief that Viognier never really caught on as a varietal on its own because it's boring.
  • The more famous Pinot Noirs have gotten quite expensive, but this event shows that there are good ones for $30-45. You don't have to pay 60 bucks.
  • Friendliness. Multiple times I was thanked just for trying their wine. Someone at the tasting told one of the winemakers he wanted to buy a couple bottles of his zinfandel. The winemaker said he wasn't allowed to sell at the event, but he'd bring the bottles to his house afterwards.

Garagiste Festival