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From Southern to Urban Exposure The Garagiste Festival exalts wine to new levels

The Garagiste Festival is about learning about the wines of boutique wineries such a Shai Cellars whose wine is depicted in this photo.
The Garagiste Festival is about learning about the wines of boutique wineries such a Shai Cellars whose wine is depicted in this photo.
Ken Bornstein

Garagiste signifies those wineries that produce small lots of wine. They are the artisan winemakers who push the envelope in setting trends and placing their mark in the wine industry. To promote these wineries The Garagiste Festival began. This summer will be the premier of the first Los Angeles Garagiste Festival called Urban Exposure. As I ponder the 40 wineries participating in the upcoming event, I am reminded of The Garagiste Festival, Southern Exposure that took place this past spring in Solvang.

The Garagiste Festival showcases the small lot wineries who may or may not have a tasting room.
The Garagiste Festival showcases the small lot wineries who may or may not have a tasting room.
Ken Bornstein

The Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure brought together 60 wineries at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Solvang. After having attended the Paso Robles Festival in 2013, this smaller festival was more congenial and easy to get around, making this wine tasting more enjoyable. The festival gives attendees the opportunity to discover many wineries that are so small they do not have tasting rooms.

Many of the wineries that participated in Garagiste Southern Exposure will be featured in Los Angeles on July 12, 2014. Here are some of the many outstanding wines I discovered at the spring event.

Beginning with probably the smallest producer at the event and presenting their very first vintage, Weatherborne has tremendous potential. Winemaker Chris Carter had a dream to become a pilot like his father and grandfather. Attending UC Davis he figured he could study wine while learning to fly. As his passion for wine grew he decided to make a career change. Working harvest in Napa, New Zealand, Santa Barbara and Oregon, Chris developed an intense love for Pinot Noir and the cool climate regions that produce this varietal. After four years as assistant winemaker at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Oregon, Chris came back to California to start Weatherborne. The winery’s name symbolizes his family’s background in aviation and the weather that plays such an important part in growing the Pinot Noir grape. While working at a brewery in Los Angeles, his goal is to each year make the best single wine. Chris says, “I aim to make wines that are reflective of where they're grown, allowing the grapes to show through, rather than which cooper I like.” Simplicity is the best word to describe Chris goals in making Pinot Noir. The 2012 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills is outstanding. This fragrant full-bodied wine is very fruity and is a true expression of the vineyards, 75% John Sebastiano and 25% Melville that make up the fruit in this Pinot Noir.

I have tasted on other occasions Nicora, but at this event, I found this winery to have a very consistent body of wines, excelling the winery to a new level. The 2011 GSM is balanced smooth and velvety displaying the fragrant flavors of berries. The 2011 Buxom a blend of 94% Syrah, 6% Grenache is another velvety and smooth wine exudes its cherry flavors. Finally I sampled the 2011 Law Vineyard, a blend of 54% Grenache and 47% Syrah.

Anyone that meets Adam LaZarre will have fun tasting LaZarre Wines. Adam is a character and perhaps that speaks for what he infuses into his wines. His 2012 Vin Gris Rosé is made from Pinot Noir. This soft Rosé is aged in neutral oak. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, citrusy and herbaceous. The 2012 Albarino exudes flavors of green apple and melon with a bit of zip.

Gioia featured some wonderful blends. Gioia means joy in Italian and it is certainly that when you taste the wines. It also symbolizes the joy owner, Teri Love had for her son Tyler, who this winery pays tribute to. The 2011 Bacia Bianca combined Chardonnay, Pinto Gris and Muscato to create a tropical, crisp and refreshing wine. It had hints of pineapple with spice on the finish. You might say this wine is fresh and spirited like Gioia’s owner, Teri's Italian Greyhound, Bacia who this wine is named after. The 2009 Dax Ryder Red pays tribute to one of Teri’s grandsons and is a light and spicy blend of 86% Sangiovese and 14% Petite Sirah.

Dubost Ranch featured a 2009 Negrette. Negrette is black grape is from the Toulouse area in the South of France. The wine is a soft silky wine. It is earthy and as owner Kate Dubost describes, “Black silk stockings in a bottle.”

Turiya Wines’ 2008 Hither, a blend of 65% Petite Verdot and 35% Malbec was a winner with its cherry and it smooth texture.

Larner’s 2012 Viognier had the aromas of honeysuckle and the flavors of sweet nectarine and apricots.

Seagrape Wine Co. featured two 2012 Pinot Noirs. Jump Up a playful and lively light Pinot blending 667 from Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard and 777 from Rancho La Viña and the more serious Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir. The later was more complex with white pepper and blueberry flavors.

Shai Cellars poured three wines that were all excellent showing how consistent, balanced and elegant Shawn Shai Halahmy can make Rhone styled wines. One must try the 2010 Syrah, 2010 Adome and the 2009 Adome

Despara Wines presented some of the biggest wines at the event. The 2012 Borderlands is an equal blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a rich, velvety and full-bodied wine with notes of Cherry. The 2012 Sackcloth & Ashes is a Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Again a full-bodied rich wine with black fruit flavors juxtaposed to the some hints of espresso and pepper.

There were several wineries that are my old time favorites and have new releases.

Crawford Family Wines 2012 Walk Slow, a blend of 50% Babcock and 50% Bentrock is a very complex and rich Pinot Noir. The wine is a fine example of the outstanding quality of wine that one can discover in the Sta. Rita Hills.

C Nagy exhibited wines that sparkle like winemaker owner Clarissa Naggy. You might say she is a shining star and her wines are just that. From the 2011 Pinot Blanc, 2013 Rosé, 2011 Pinot Noir SMV Gary Ranch to the 2011 Syrah, you cannot find fault with any of these wines.

Kessler-HaakWines released their 2011 Chardonnay, the perfect wine for the summer with its sweet pineapple flavors.

Transcendence presented the 2012 Chardonnay SRH, a 2012 Pinot Noir, La Encantada and the 2012 Parea, which is a Syrah based wine. All three are excellent.

Tercero Wines is always a favorite with their 2013 Outliner. The latest release has hints of pear with a wonderful sweetness. Pears were also quite evident in the 2012 Roussanne and I absolutely love the 2013 Mouvédre Rose.

Alta Colima’s 2013 Grenache Blanc is bright, crisp and very drinkable with flavors of pears. The 2011 Toasted Slope Syrah is a big wine with cocoa aromas and hints of cherry.

Garagiste Urban Exposure is July 12, 2014 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. at the Union Station and will feature 40 winemakers who produce fewer than 1500 cases of wine per year.

Some of the Garagiste Urban Exposure participants that were my favorites at the Solvang and Paso Robles Festival are Alma Sol Winery, Alta Colina, Archium, Frequency, Kessler-Haak, Kita, Le Fenétre, Onx, Samsara, Shai, Turiya and Weatherborne.

For wine enthusiasts who want to try new and different wines, The Garagiste Festival and the wineries represented is the place to make these discoveries, taking your wine tasting experience to a new level of appreciation.

For more information and to purchase tickets:

The Garagiste Festival Urban Exposure