SONOMA, Calif., May 18, 2018: Wine festivals are not a new idea of course. But wine events that allow you to meet and talk to the winemakers of micro wineries are a little harder to come by. This is exactly what you get at the Sonoma Garagiste Wine Festival. Here it is a celebration of the micro-artisan, small lot winemaker.
Last Saturday afternoon, 40 boutique wineries and a few hundred wine consumers gathered in Sonoma to meet, talk and taste over 200 tiny production wines. So, you might be asking, why is that cool? Well, once a winery starts making 50,000+ cases of wine a year, much of the TLC and handcrafting is lost to the larger production processes involved in winemaking. In addition to that, forget about ever meeting one of those winemakers. They rarely attend the events themselves. They’re simply too busy.
If you’re a wine novice, it is ok here to ask “silly questions.” Or if you are more of a wine aficionado, you can ask the “wine geek” questions too. It’s akin to a safe place in a therapy session. Like many small production wineries, most do not have a tasting room. In fact, 90 percent of the wineries participating in the event do not have a tasting room. This means that the Sonoma Garagiste Wine Festival is your only chance to try these wines before you buy. Unless you personally know the winemaker. Which, after this event, you actually might.
In addition, the festival is dedicated to furthering not only the consumer education, but also that of budding winemakers. Garagiste Events is a non-profit dedicated to furthering education of future winemakers and those training for employment in the wine industry. Their scholarship program was created to help facilitate students in need to directly further their education in the wine industry.
To date, the Garagiste Festival has only happened a bit further south in California, in Paso Robles, Santa Ynez and Los Angeles. “Sonoma-area winemakers and winelovers have been asking us for quite some time to bring the Garagiste Festival further north,” said Garagiste Festival co-founder Douglas Minnick.
“In the wake of the Northern California fires, we are glad to spread the word that this part of California not only remains open for business, but is thriving,” stated festival co-founder Stewart McLennan. Hence, the new Sonoma Garagiste Wine Festival.
The VIP Wine Tasting Seminar
But now, on to the wines and the wine tasting. The Sonoma event kicked off with a VIP tasting seminar that featured four producers in three different flights. The tasting was emceed by Stewart McLennan and featured winemaker panelists Randy Hester (Lightening Wines), William Allen (Two Shepherds) and Paul Gordon (Halcon Vineyards).
The room was intimate, the crowd was engaged and the winemakers were ready to talk wine. Attendees tasted through a total of 6 wines (2 wines each in 3 flights). Standout wines were the 2015 Lightening Wines CdP Blanc (250 cases, $24), 2015 Two Shepherds Ancient Vines Cinsault (75 cases, wine club only), 2017 Barrel Sample Halcon Vineyards Mouvedre (wine club only) and 2014 Lightening Wines Grenache (48 cases, wine club only).
Grand Tasting Standout Wineries & Wines
Winemakers: Tom & Michele Gendall
Total cases: 150
- 2013 Sylvia Drive Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Mountain, $68
- 2014 Sylvia Drive Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Mountain, $68
A very special mention here about Tom and Michele and their resilience in the face of tragedy. Tom and Michele have a ranch and vineyard in Glen Ellen at the base of Moon Mountain. Unfortunately, wildfires destroyed this area last October. If that wasn’t enough, Tom and Michele also had a newborn baby to care for at the time. After literally running for their lives, they went back to their property to access the damage. Nearly everything was lost. Nearly.
Somehow, a portion of their 2013 vintage was spared. Out of the rubble of their lives, they pulled about 20 cases of the 2013 vintage that was salvageable. Not only was it salvageable, it was spectacular. True, those bottles on the outside of the cases were fried, but the ones on the inside were intact and tasting fabulous. In fact, it’s amazing how those bottles taste like they have at least 5, if not 10 years of additional age on them. These 20 cases truly are rare gems that not only represent their personal triumph, but also that of this region and of winemakers in Sonoma, Napa and beyond.
Owner: Tracy Nielsen; Winemaker: Andrew Berge
Total cases: 1,200
- 2017 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, $28
- 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, $48
- 2014 Pinot Noir, Holder Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $68
Winemaker: Richard Davis.
Total cases: 1,200
- 2014 Cuvee Ann Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, $40
- 2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, $33
- 2012 Pinot Noir, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $40
Winemaker: Garry Brooks.
Total cases: 850
- 2017 Pinot Blanc, Shrader Vineyard, Mendocino, $24
- 2016 Chardonnay, Monroe Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $30
- 2017 Rose of Pinot Noir, North Coast, $24
Owner: Jim Demuth; Winemaker: Greg Adams
Total cases: 800
- 2014 Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, $45
- 2014 Pinot Noir, Hawk Hill Vineyard, $48
Winemakers: Charlie & Amy Chenoweth
Total cases: 230
- 2013 Pinot Noir, Treehouse/Bootlegger’s/Estate Vineyard, $55
- 2014 Pinot Noir, Treehouse/Bootlegger’s/Estate Vineyard, $65
Owner: Russ Fields; Winemaker: Ryan Sherman
Total cases: 1,200
- 2016 Syrah, Whole Cluster, Lodi
- 2014 Tempranillo, Lot 13, Lodi, $28
Winemaker: Stewart Johnson
Total Cases: 900
- 2017 Estate Viognier, $28
- 2013 Estate Pinot noir, $38
Winemaker: Randy Hester
Total cases: 1,000
- 2016 Grenache Rose, $20
- 2016 CdP Blanc, $24
- 2014 Grenache, $34
Winemaker: Brie Cadman
Total cases: 1,000
- 2016 Cadman Chardonnay, Berry Lane Vineyard, $32
- 2016 Chardonnay, Berry Lane Vineyard, Napa, $38
- 2014 Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, $60
Owners: Chris & Pam Von Hold; Winemaker: John Fones
Total cases: 900
- 2014 Chardonnay, Heintz Family Vineyard, $35
- 2014 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, $45
Winemaker: Andrew Carni
- 2013 Grenache, Besson Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
You might be wondering about the best way to get a hold of these wines. The absolute best way is to go to their website and join their mailing list. Then you will be notified of wine releases as well as any possible events such as this one where you can taste the wines. Or better yet, join their wine club.
In addition to the Sonoma Garagiste Wine Festival
As we noted earlier, the Garagiste Wine Festival also puts on events in Paso Robles, Santa Ynez and Los Angeles. Check out their website for more details and join their list to be notified of future events. Their next event is their 5th Annual Urban Exposure: Los Angeles tasting on Saturday, July 21st in Santa Monica. Check out their website for details and tickets.