Last weekend, Brandon and I had the chance to attend The Garagiste Festival “Southern Exposure” held in the Santa Ynez Valley. There were many events held over the course of the weekend and we made it to Santa Barbara Wine Country just in time for Sunday’s Grand Tasting. This event brought together 30 artisan ‘garagiste’ producers along with food vendors. While most of the wineries were based out of Santa Barbara, there were a few labels from places like Sonoma, Paso Robles, and San Diego.
Brandon and I tasted our way through most of the wineries and there were definitely a few that stood out. Our first stop was at J. Brix Wines and it ended up being our favorite tasting of the day. J. Brix is a boutique winery based in San Diego (that’s right, San Diego!). Winemakers Jody & Emily Towe started making wine in their garage and have since grown production to 700 cases. While most of their grapes come from Santa Barbara County, they also produce “Rougarou” Carignan from McCormick Ranch in San Diego. This unfined and unfiltered wine is balanced with tastes of red fruit and hints of earth. A super impressive effort that will make you rethink San Diego’s potential.
Another winery that really stood out in the tasting was Ryan Cochrane Wines. Owner and winemaker Ryan Cochrane was pouring his newly released 2013 Solomon Hills Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County (alongside Santa Barbara Pinot Noir) and it was showing really well. Nice texture along with vibrant acidity and bright fruit. A great wine from a winery that is only producing 150 cases!
Brandon and I wrapped up our tasting with bubbles from Flying Goat Cellars. Their 2012 Cremant was an excellent way to rejuvenate our palates. It is made from the Pinot Blanc clone 159 from Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley AVA. This sparkling wine is refreshing and crisp with notes of melon and citrus.
Overall, The Garagiste Festival is an excellent way to explore wines from small production, artisan wineries throughout California. If it comes to your town (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, & Paso Robles), you should definitely check it out!