Quick Report: Garagiste Festival L.A. 7/11/2015

The Garagiste Festival is an event that tours California highlighting the wines of small producers generally making less than 1,500 cases of wine per year.  It is a non-profit event, sending its proceeds to invest in future winemakers and grape growers in the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture program.

We attended one of their events in Solvang a few years ago, and were glad to have a chance to catch them here in L.A. at the Wiltern yesterday.

61 wineries were represented.  In most cases the winemaker/owner was pouring the wines and taking questions and making new fans.  For them, this is a chance to build their fan base and wine clubs.  For us, on the consumer side, this is that opportunity to discover some gems and get in on the ground floor of an allocation list.  Most of these producers don’t have tasting rooms.  Their wines aren’t sold in stores.  They may have some restaurant placements.  You are not likely to find them on your own.

For a wine enthusiast, this is the thrill of the hunt.  Their are approximately three bajillion wines released in the world each year (you can verify those numbers on your own time).  Your chances of discovering all of the good ones are nil.  Events like this bring them to you and give you the chance to sniff out the ones that match your palate.  So we strapped on our pith helmets and loaded our taste buds and headed into the bush.  Here are some of our favorite catches:

Dilecta Wines – www.dilectawines.com

Winemaker/Owner Orion Stang is producing Rhone varietals and blends with Paso Robles fruit.  We tried his 2012 “Unorthodox” (42% Syrah, 42% Mourvedre, 16% Grenache) and 2012 “the Tiller” (65% Grenache, 35% Syrah).  Both were excellent.  We love Rhone blends and all things Grenache.  These had some of that Paso power and intensity with spiciness and lush fruit, well balanced and lingering on the palate.  Very good stuff for his second vintage.

Dilecta wines can be tasted at the Paso Underground collective tasting room.  Put it on  your list for your next visit to Paso.

Kaleidos Winery – www.kaleidoswine.com

Winemaker/Owner Steve Martell brought his Paso Robles sourced Rhone blends and Syrahs to the party.   The 2012 “Morpheus” (54% Grenache, 39% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre) was our favorite with the 2012 “Osiris” (83% Syrah, 13% Grenache, 4% Mourvedre) a close second.  His two Syrah’s were also very good.

According to their website they do have a tasting room in Paso shared with another winery.

Tercero Wines – www.tercerowines.com

Winemaker/Owner Larry Schaffer has been on our radar for a few years.  We had visited his tasting room in Los Olivos a few years back and have been wanting to revist as he slings Grenache and Mourvedre expertly.  He is also outspoken and active on social media and a great source to add to your feeds.  He brought a big line up of wines to pour and they didn’t disappoint.

We started with his 2014 Mouvedre Rosé.  Larry is making this wine as a true Rosé from start to finish.  Meaning like any other wine, he presses the grapes, removes the skins early to achieve the color and style, and ferments the whole pressing as a Rosé.  Most Rosés these days are being made using the saignée method, where they steal some juice from the tank of one of their red wine pressings rather than dedicating grapes to Rosé.  This is much cheaper for the producer and can also help them concentrate their reds.  Larry’s dedication to the Rosé pays off in a delicious dry wine with structure and acidity which is rarely found in a Rosé.   There is so much Rosé being sold these days that it is hard to find those that standout.  Seek this one out.  You won’t be disappointed.

We also tried his 2010 Grenache and 2011 Mourvedre.   Both were great.  Extra kudos for producing a Mourvedre.  Making a straight red Mourvedre wine is a real challenge but we just love them when done well.  We taste more disasters than winners in this category and this one was a definite winner.  ‘

We’re a fan of Larry’s sourcing choices as well.  He gets grenache from Larner Vineyard in the Ballard Canyon AVA.  Most of our favorite SYV grenache wines are coming from Larner grapes.  For his Rosé he is using mourvedre from the well loved Volgezang Vineyard in Happy Canyon.  There are several great mourvedre Rosés coming out of Volgezang in addtion to Larry’s including Liquid Farm and Vallin.

Tercero is also participating in a fun event called Grenache Wars being hosted by Ian Blackburn at WineLA.  A head to head tasting of Grenache wines from Paso Robles producers vs. SYV producers.  As you might suspect, we are planting the Couch firmly in the middle of this event covering our favorite grape.  It’s happening at La Brea Bakery on Friday, July 31st.  Come and join the party.

Vinemark Cellars — www.vinemarkcellars.com

Winemaker/Owner Mark Wasserman is one of those guys living the dream of having retired from his day job and taken up his passion.  We have had the pleasure of tasting his wines and meeting him a few different times now and really enjoy his work.

The real gem of his collection for me is the 2013 Cabernet Franc.  This wine has a beautiful, feminine style with floral notes and plenty of support in the finish.  Just delicious.  Reminiscent of Cru Beaujolais in its expression.  I also loved his Primitivo which comes off like a big spicy, jammy Zinfandel (Primitivo and Zin are twins).  It has all that punch up front you seek from a Zin and that made the Cab/Zin mashups so popular.

All in all, Garagiste was a great success.  While we couldn’t taste every producer in the room, we had a great time and definitely discovered some new wineries to keep our eye on.

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Published on: July 12, 2015

Filled Under: Reviews, So. Cal. Scene, Tasting

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One Response to Quick Report: Garagiste Festival L.A. 7/11/2015

  1. Don Ward says:

    Unfortunately missed this event. I couldn’t agree more with your reviews of Larry’s wines – Absolutely fabulous! We had a wonderful tasting yesterday in Los Olivos with Larry, Meapple, and some of his freshly made blueberry scones.

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