Friday, April 11, 2014

Wining in Solvang with the Garagistes...

The Goddess of Wine was happy to attend the second annual Garagiste Festival's Southern Exposure event in Solvang at the end of March. Was that only 2 weeks ago? An easy drive on a beautiful Saturday morning got me to that charming Danish town early enough to grab some breakfast at a local eatery that shall remain nameless because the food was truly bad. How you can mess up breakfast, I don't know, but...anyway, on to the Garagistes!

As defined by the Garagistes themselves: GARAGISTES – (gar-uh-zhē-stuh) n, Fr. – A term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garage, who refused to follow the “rules.” Now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. Who’s laughing now, Francois? Syn: Rule-breakers, pioneers, renegades, mavericks, driven by passion.

Last year's event proved so successful that the team behind the event - Doug Minnick, Stewart McLennan, Lisa Dinsmore, and Melanie Webber - expanded it to 2 days, plus a Friday night kick-off dinner. This enabled a more relaxed tasting experience for those guests who wanted to get to as many wineries as possible without running madly from table to table. Additionally, both days provided geeky seminars from local winemakers, enhancing the overall wine-lover's experience.

Josh, Adam, Clarissa
Saturday's seminar, “Rhones Rule: The Wines of Ballard Canyon”, with Michael Larner of Larner Vineyards, Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines and Mikael Sigouin of Kaena Wine Company sounded like great fun, and I'm sorry I missed it, but Sunday's seminar, “A Pinot Noir Primer from the Roots Up”, with Joshua Klapper from La Fenetre Wines, Adam LaZarre from LaZarre Wines and Clarissa Nagy from C. Nagy Wines was everything I hoped it would be. Great geeky information, delicious wines and lots of laughs. Stewart did a great job moderating the enthusiastic and knowledgeable panel, as always.

Some of the wineries that stood out over both days included:

Saturday: Casa Dumetz (always a favorite), Cholame Vineyard (I especially like the '11 Zinfandel), Crawford Family Wines (great cool-climate wines), Harrison Clarke Wines ('10 Eve e Marie Syrah/Grenache), Kessler-Haak Winery (Sparkling Brut Rose - ooh!), Liquid Farm (wow - just wow), Luminesce/Luceant ('11 Semillon from Buttonwood Vineyard), Moretti Wine Co. ('13 Blanchetto white blend), Seagrape Wine Company (beautiful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), Shai Cellars (well, yeah), Sillix (my fave of the day - great Rhones), Vinemark Cellars ('12 Primitivo shows great promise).

Sunday: C. Nagy Wines (lovely, elegant wines, loved the '12 Viognier), Clos des Amis ('13 Sauvignon Blanc), Desparada ('13 Sauvignon Blanc - very tropical), La Fenetre Wines (Josh can do no wrong where the Goddess is concerned), LaZarre Wines (great to finally meet Adam and taste his lovely wines), Montemar Wines (a well-established, consistent winery), Nicora Wines ('11 Euphoric Grenache made me feel that way), Refugio Ranch ('11 RR Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend), Solminer Wine (I'm a big fan of the '13 dry Riesling), STANGER Vineyards ('10 Tempranillo), Weatherborne ('12 Pinot Noir), Zinke Wine Company ('12 Roussanne - gorgeous).

Georgia’s Smokehouse Food Truck was on site offering their Southern, smoked BBQ goodness to attendees for purchase. Gotta say, their bacon-cheddar hush puppies were to die for!

The Goddess & Susan
On Saturday, I also had the opportunity to taste some additional wines that were being offered at The Good Life, just a block or so away from Garagistes. Susan and Jim Mann and I tasted through four small-production wineries: Goodland, a project from Matt Dees, Chris Snowden (pouring) and Dave Potter; La Vie Vineyards, with winemaker Ariel La Vie pouring; Pace poured by winemaker Randy Pace, and Sanguis, poured by Gabriel Carter for winemaker Matthias Pippig. The wines were uniformly well-made and delicious, and covered a wide price range, from Pace's '12 Sauvignon Blanc at $20 to Sanguis' '11 "Mule" Proprietary Red Blend at $75. It was a very pleasant way to get some face time with up-and-coming winemakers. La Vie had an unusual '10 Viognier, 32 months in barrel; very aromatic and deep, deep gold in color. Jim bought a bottle for both of us, and we plan to taste them together - but separately - in the near future!

We finished Saturday evening with a scrumptious dinner at Mirabelle. By the time we got to dinner, I was kind of wined-out, so I had a crisp glass of Gruet Sparkling Brut from New Mexico, and paired it with a perfect salad of roasted pears with Manchego on a bed of arugula drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and I followed that with the most perfect lamb loin I've ever had. Chef Norbert came out to chat with us, and we discovered that he had worked at both Scandia and the Sportsmens Lodge back in the '70's, two places at which I spent a lot of time with family and friends. What a small world!

Congratulations all around to the Garagiste team and all the wineries who participated, and thanks to the Manns for their generosity in letting me bunk with them over the weekend.

Now on to the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Weekend!

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