Posts Tagged ‘garagiste’

This Weekend in Paso Robles a New Type of Wine Event Emerges: The Garagiste Festival

Massive walk around tastings have to evolve. This is a point I have been evangelizing for over a year. Wine sales, more focus, smaller more committed attendees, reasonable pricing – all of female viagra australia these are elements to be considered to draw enthusiastic consumers and buyers in, as opposed to an event of staggering drunks with their glasses waving in your face, like baby birds, five persons deep.

This weekend in Paso Robles, a new idea and venue emerges: The Garagiste Festival

The Garagiste Festival

This weekend is the first annual Paso Garagiste Festival: Celebrating the Artisan Winemaker. The event will be held November 11-12 at the beautiful 724-acre Windfall Farms in the heart of  California’s Central Coast.

“The mission of the Paso Garagiste Festival is to focus on the undiscovered artisan producers who are making some of the most thrilling wine on the planet right now,” said Co-founder Doug Minnick. “Our event is unique in the industry because it gives a home to the smaller, trail-blazing wine producers who don’t have huge marketing resources, while also introducing wine lovers to winemakers on the cusp of discovery.”

“The Central Coast garagistes are one of the best-kept secrets in the wine world and their excellent wines can be almost impossible to find — unless you know the right people and places to go,” added Co-founder Stewart McLennan.  “The Paso Garagiste Festival will have forty of them, gathered in one place for the first time ever. The festival is the place for passionate wine consumers to come face-to-face, wine glass-to-bottle, with the undiscovered future rock stars of the wine world.”

Personally I am very excited about this event. Both as a wine writer/blogger, passionate consumer, and now as well as a small Vintner with my Rhone label, Two Shepherds, that launches the end of November. Unfortunately not in time to pour at this event, plus I’d miss all the fun tasting as media.

Last I heard, after a flurry of media, tickets were selling out. (The VIP/Seminars are now sold out.) I’d recommend you grab some if interested. If you are a reader and are attending, do let me know, I will be at the Tasting and 6-9 pm Wine Maker party.


You can also follow the fun, photos and updates on their Facebook page. 


The Winemakers

Artisan winemakers slated to showcase their wines at the festival include Aaron Wines, Alta Colina, Bodegas M Winery,

Brochelle Vineyards, Caliza Winery, Cloak and Dagger Wines, J Dusi Wines, Giornata Wines, Grizzly Republic Winery, Hammersky Vineyards, Indigene Cellars, Jalama Wines, La Filice Winery, Nicora Wines, Per Cazo Cellars, Poalillo Vineyards, Ranchero Cellars, Red Zeppelin Winery, Rendarrio Vineyards, Stanger Vineyards, Symbiosis Wines, Tassajara Cellars, Vin Alegre Winery, and Vines on the Marycrest.

I visit Paso Robles 3-4 times a year and haven’t heard of many of these – what an exciting day of discovery!

The Venue

 Situated in the heart of beautiful Central Coast wine country, Windfall Farms is a spectacular 724-acre horse farm with one of the finest equestrian facilities in the Western United States.  It features stunning brick buildings with glass and copper steeples and is surrounded by vineyards, fenced pastures, green sprawling lawns and panoramic views of the majestic, oak-studded rolling hills of the Central Coast.

Check out a video of this great venue here:

This may be the hot new venue for Paso Robles. The Rhone Rangers Paso Robles chapter will also be hosting their annual seminar an event here. (Another do not miss event.)

What is A ‘Garagistes’

 Garagistes (gar-uh-zhē-stuh) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. Click here for more info and proper ‘garagiste’ pronunciation.

 Related Articles

Gathering of Garagistes: Proudly Small-Time Winemakers Show Off Hard-to-Find Stuff at Paso Robles Festival  (Santa Barbara Independant)

Wine Tasting Events Must Evolve – An Example at the Saturday June 11th Vinify Winery Collective Event in Santa Rosa

Monday June 13 – Another Evolution in Wine Events – The Taste of Mendocino












Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed

Finally, a quiet afternoon emerges (Thanks to a cancelled Viticulture class) to continue the 2010 Garagiste Saga. Picking up where we left off was my flurry of a weekend, getting my beloved Grenache Blanc up from Santa Ynez, neutral white barrels strapped in tow.  (As told in Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance.)

The weekend went mostly as planned, albeit with less sleep planned Friday and Saturday night. The Bonny Doon Cigare Volante Retrospective dinner was incredible, and a thrill. Beside’s getting some chat time with icon Randall Grahm, I managed to sneak in some tastings, served personally by GM, Heather who was a friendly wealth of knowledge. The Bonny Doon team is genuinely enthusiastic about what they do – and who could blame them.The dinner meant to end at 9ish went nearly til Midnight.

Saturday cellar work and tasting with Anthony Yount of Denner, and his own label Kinero, as well as Amy of Ranchero Cellars, (former winemaker at Edward Sellers) who makes an amazing Carignan, was a blast, and I stayed up too late having dinner with friends, cutting short the sleep for Sunday’s long day….but sleep is replaceable; time shared with special people isn’t.

Sunday went mostly to plan, with a minor trailer mishap. It was a 16 hour day; exhausting, but incredibly gratifying.

The Next Marathon Begins

The following week brought a new set of challenges. I still had Syrah, Grenache, Marsanne, and Roussanne to pick at Saralee’s Vineyard. Two were about ready, two needed a tad more hang time. Murphy’s Law rose its head; Mother Nature flexed her biceps, we had rain, coming, lots of it. Then that thing called work (my real job) reared it’s head with an emergency trip 3 timezones away AND With more behind it. ALL of the fruit would have to come in and I was gone part of the week. After suppressing some panic, I mapped out the plan.

It worked out, despite almost no margin for error. Up early Monday morning (right after the Grenache Blanc journey), blaze to SFO, travel East, full day of meetings, race back.

Russian River Madness

Thursday morning at Saralee’s it was a like a battlefield; every Vintner wanted their fruit off, many thousands of tons. Unruffled, Saralee sat amidst it all, phone in hand, never terse, always calm and friendly, marshalling troops like a General, as trucks rolled in and out. “This one to Napa” “That one to

Saralee Kunde

Crushpad” “The next to San Fran”. I sat in awe and renewed admiration that my 4 half ton lots even registered, but she treated me as if I was some major label driving off with a semi truck load, not a trailer behind my Toyota FJ.

Where Are You Doing All This AnywayCrushing at Old World Winery

Technically, most of my harvest this year isn’t really “garagiste” depending on your definition. I have a crusher/destemmer and a basket press at home; but it simply wasn’t practical for this scale, nor do I (yet) have a forklift, and I needed a better press to whole cluster press the whites. I have small lots of each fermenting in the garage, and I did 1/4 ton of Sangiovese again this year by hand; but I decided at the beginning of Harvest, given I was paying 2k/ton for high quality fruit, a better facility was needed.

I lucked out in that I had friended Steven Washuta, a bright young gentleman, and recent graduate of Oenology from Walla Walla, who  relocated here this summer to start as an Assistant Winemaker at a nearby, small winery, below radar to many, called Old World Winery. Darek Trowbridge is the winemaker and proprietor. Darek is an affable, hard working, passionate wine maker; we hit it off right away, and he agreed to let me to the bulk of my project at his facility.

Darek is a huge proponent of Natural Wine Making, long before it became the cool thing to do. This meant I had to jump more quickly dainto things I had planned, like native yeast fermentation, but I am glad I did. Darek has been supportive, patient, and he (and Steve) have been a Godsend. As blessed as I am to live in this wonderful region surrounded by wines; its in many ways the people here that enrich and fulfill my life, and I have been blessed, via the wine industry, to make the friendships of many great people, such as these too. (I have more to thank as well…next post.)

More on Old World Winery in a future post;  now that Darek is focused on making them no longer a secret, the word is already spreading quickly, as popular wine writer and reviewer  Steve Heimoff wrote about Darek and Old World this week.

Back To Harvest

Thursday was a busy day, but went quite well. My biggest disappoint of the day was I got a good bit less grenache than hoped, the oneRaining Grenache I actually wanted more of. Nothing could be done, and I was damn lucky I got what I got. (I am looking for more still, realizing at this point its going to be already fermenting or done. Will gladly pay for 200-500 pounds of crushed or pressed if know if any excess.)

We whole cluster pressed the Marsanne and Roussanne. For experimentation  I kept a small portion of each aside and did some skin contact for 24 hours. The Grenache and Syrah were destemmed (a small amount of whole cluster with stems went into the bottom of each bin) lightly crushed to break the skins, and briefly cold soaked. I took a small amount of Syrah and Grenache must (grapes and juice) home and pressed it for a 5 cases of a blended Rose.

The next day the rain began, and didn’t end for days. The cold temps and native yeast took a while for fermentation to kick off, but all are happily fizzing and bubbling away, and I beam over them like a proud expecting father.

The Quest for M – Mourvedre

One dilemma loomed…as I have shared, one of the main reasons I did so many varietals was for blending…and I really wanted to make a GSM. (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.) I thought I had lots of time…Mother Nature was throwing me curve balls. I had banked on Paso, as they usually harvest right before Thanksgiving. Rarely seen frost, and rain blew this. I knew I had  to drive elsewhere, little exists (for sale) in Sonoma County…but more widely grown in Paso Robles, Santa Ynez, Lake County and Livermore. Calls everywhere were coming up empty. The GSM was going to be a bit lopsided without any ‘M’ and I was already short on Grenache which I had hoped to be a dominate varietal. What would this hopeful Rhone Ranger wannabe do? Stay tuned!

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed

Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance

It’s about to kick into over drive. Over the years I have been described with a number of terms, ‘Tasmanian devil’  ‘energizer bunny’ and a few others of color, as a compliments (one assumes) to my drive. This weekend it kicks off a whole new level and test of my endurance, especially Sunday.

If you know me personally, or follow my Tweets or Facebook updates, you know I am a massive fan of the Rhone white varietal called Grenache Blanc, which is growing in popularity in the US amongst knowledgeable consumers, branching out.

Of all the Rhone whites I wanted for my ‘project’ this year, this topped my list. Sadly its not widely grown in Sonoma County, and the few growers I talked to had lost some due to sunburn in this years challenging harvest. It’s grown much more abundantly in Paso Robles (a Rhone wine heaven) and Santa Ynez.

The Rhone Ranger Comes to My Rescue

I had been putting out on the Social Media wire for awhile I really wanted Grenache Blanc, and with some luck and karma, a source was revealed, through none other than the Father of California Rhones, the original Rhone Ranger, and a man I deeply respect and admire: Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. (And of course, love his wines.) The source was in Santa Ynez, 6 hours away. I get to thank Randall personally tonight (as well as pick up my wine club and re-stock) at his Le Cigare Volant Retrospective dinner tonight in Santa Cruz. I can’t wait.

I called the Santa Ynez grower Randall tipped me to: my luck seemed to expand; the fruit was ready now, and I was already going to be in Paso Robles Saturday for the Grand Opening of Edward Sellers new tasting room. Thats four of the 6 hours already behind me. I have a new trailer I purchased for reasons like this why not. The plan aligned well; Friday night in Santa Cruz, Saturday in Paso, a leisurely day exploring Santa Ynez Sunday, and then leave early Monday morning with my grapes, and process them early afternoon back home.

The luck slipped after that, bringing back the theme, “No Plan Survives Battle’. A major account we have been pursuing in my real life job (that pays for all this) popped up and requires an on site Executive  meeting on east coast that required Monday travel.  (Additionally complicating the week as it looks like that my Saralee Vineyards Marsanne, Grenache (Noir), and Syrah will be ready as well! )

Now it all compresses and looks like this.

Sunday, Marathon Madness:

  • Leave Paso at 5-6 a.m. Drive two hours to Santa Ynez.
  • Help a (now reduced) crew of 3 pick 3/4 ton of grenache blanc, load up, dry ice it and head north with a 6 hour drive home.
  • Quick stop in Santa Maria to pick up as many neutral white oak barrels as I can fit on the trailer with 2 bins of fruit.
  • Pull into North Sonoma late afternoon and process the fruit. (Haven’t decided vinification process yet.)
  • Collapse in bed a sometime, then get up early morning to drive to SFO.
  • Fly across the country, have a day of meetings, cross it back, and then pick/process at least 3 more varietals. Whew!

Saturday in Paso: Garagiste Training

One highlight that emerged, I had planned a casual day Saturday in Paso. It’s their Harvest Festival and town is jammed pack, so any serious private tastings were out.

I had been communicating with Anthony Yount, the head winemaker at Denner, as well as his own brilliant label Kinero. (I will be writing more about Anthony later, and one of the best vineyard tours in my life.) He is a brilliant young wine maker, off the cuff, colorful, yet an old soul, whose knowledge, confidence, and wines belie his youth. This is a man to watch in my opinion.  His Kinero Grenache Blanc and Roussanne sell out very quickly each year, and are two of the best expressions of the varietal I have ever had.

He has a new release,  I wanted to  try, buy: 2009 Cabrida Blanca (34% Picpoul,33% Grenache Blanc,33% Chardonnay). I also asked if I could have a few hours of consulting time as I have so many decisions still to make and love what he does stylistically. Turns out he is picking and processing Grenache Blanc that day and offered insight in exchange for help. Jackpot! I can always come taste wine, but a chance to do my favorite hard work on a varietal I love with Anthony is a not to be missed opportunity for this wine geek.

Never A Dull Moment:

For those interested, I will as best as time, cell coverage and batteries allow, leave a trail of updates and pictures on Twitter and Facebook.

To the local wine industry; I apologize for the decrease in blog coverage of events and things I said I’d cover, those who have reached out for my help. I am temporarily saturated, but promise to get my head back above water, very soon.

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed
how to earn money fast

Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)

Second in the Series of  My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagista or Passion Gone Runaway? aka: Continuing on my dilemma on how much fruit to source and where. (Sorry it wasn’t next day, my now ‘3’ jobs are keeping me very busy.)

As I discussed last article, small lots of grapes from established growers can be hard to source, it’s not worth their effort and paperwork. Scouting around websites and asking friends,  there were people offering Rhone fruit in smaller quantities, but often unknown, ranging from Marin to Lake County.

If I am going to put my ‘name’ on these wines, (even if not selling) and make the time investment; I want high quality fruit from a reliable source.  I believe wine making is done on the vineyard, with minimal manipulation, and I want to let it express itself. (Funny how every Vintner says this, only to bury a wine in oak, extraction or high alcohol.)

So where would I find fruit? While a half  ton per varietal is a small amount for a grower, it’s a lot for a garage project; 6 different varietals would mean 6 barrels, or 150 cases.

I kept asking friends and winemakers, and focused in on one of my favorite Kenwood/Glen Ellen Vintners, Eric Luse of Eric Ross; whose’ Marsanne/Rousanne captured me when I first met him several years ago.  It’s sourced from Saralee’s Vineyards, operated by Richard and Saralee Kunde, the Russian River Valley’s well known Grower, for over 20 years. (Eric’s Saralee Pinot is also amazing.)  Assuming someone of this size and reputation wouldn’t touch me, so I asked Eric if I could piggy back onto his order, get it from him when delivered.

Eric, being the straight up guy he is, wanted to ask Saralee for permission. To my surprise she said ok, and that she would sell to me direct, as an exception. Looking over her varietal list, I decided why not focus on one Vineyard and source everything I could from here, especially since I favor cool climate conditions for many varietals.  How awesome would it be to showcase most of the fruit sourced from this world recognized wine grower?  Would good fortune play my way?

Saralee and I spoke live, and she agreed to sell me Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier, which I plan to bottle separately as well as make 1-2 small lots of  white Rhone blends.  While the size of my order was atypical, Saralee was enthusiastic  to support the project, both for the rare Rhone focus (a large vintner who had acquired a small one with a cool Rhone white blend, just ceased making it and cancelled their fruit); as well as she quipped “Everyone has to start somewhere.”

My luck expanded –  for reds she had Grenache (my favorite) and Syrah she would also sell.  I agreed to a ½ ton (60-70 gallons, 1 barrel, 25 cases, 300 bottles) of each.  I need only now source Mourvedre so I can make the classic Rhone GSM red blend, and I intend to bottle separately as well.  Mourvedre is one of the last varietals to come in; and worst case I’ll source and drive some back from Paso Robles around Thanksgiving if need be. No luck on my white rhone Grenache Blanc yet, but will engage resources to look shortly.

It’s a big investment of time and money; grapes alone I will be spending 7-8k, and have been outlaying for barrels, gear, and all the misc. items that add up.

People are already chuckling in conversations; 150 cases; that’s 1800 bottles; from the guy who already complains about his 650 bottle collection he can’t drink. No, I don’t intend to sell it. I don’t plan to become a winemaker or start a winery; I want to become  be a Rhone grower who makes small lots to showcase his fruit. I know what I want to achieve stylistically with these wines, and to share with the world, but lack the experience (my 3rd go at winemaking), the OCD nature, and completely abhor chemistry, so its hard to imagine this path unfolding, at least without a partner.

So then, why so much wine? Well those that know me here, understand well I have two speeds; Go big or Go home. And I need the volume – these 6 varietals are a canvas for a myriad of blends, and experiments. And wine is ‘lost’ along the way in some processes, from sterilizing, to bottling.

I have some ideas and possibilities what to do with the wines, assuming they come out well. I won’t do anything that’s not legal, risk anyone’s bond, and I have some more investigations to do.  Plenty of time right now, bottling is a ways off, even for the whites.  At the very worst case, we’ll have some great Rhone parties, and Rhone consumer education events.

Next in the series; The first of the 6 crushes; or “No Plan Survives Combat”, as well as an article spotlight on Saralee Vineyards and Saralee Kunde. Hope you will follow along – cheers!

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?

2009 was my first year living immersed in the middle of Sonoma Harvest. I had taken severance from my employer in July and had planned to take 4 months of work to complete a semester of wine and wine business classes, as well as spend time as a harvest volunteer and cellar rat. After years of home brewing I also decided to jump in both feet into home wine making, or being a garagiste.

For someone on ‘sabbatical’ I was buried – Simple Hedonisms was in the middle of being birthed, was carrying an overload of classes, creating the blog from scratch learning new frontiers, diving headlong into establishing my Social Media presence; so unfortunately I didn’t capitalize and capture my harvest or home wine making experiences in blog posts.

My harvest volunteer experience was shortened on both ends by two phenomenon; I broke an outer bone in my foot and was in a boot cast early harvest, and then received an offer to return to my previous role in the technology space (VP Sales/Marketing) that couldn’t be passed up.  In between that though I was fortunate to be able to spend time with great people and  wineries like Mounts Family Winery, Hobo, and C. Donatiello; doing everything from picking,  sorting, pressing, and of course the habitual cleaning rituals. I loved it immensely.

I also made two small batches of wine; an unoaked “naked” Russian River Valley chardonnay, and a Sangiovese (Barolo clone not yet bottled) from Alpicella Vineyard; which I picked, and crushed at home.  It was a special thrill, hand cranking to de-stem, crush, and press on my improvised crushpad at home.

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I still aspire to focus on being a grower over a winemaker in future years, but the small hand production is thrilling. This year I strongly desired to marry my love of Rhone varietals with my garagista hobby.

This presented several challenges:  (a) Rhone varietals, especially some of my favorites, are not widely grown in Sonoma County, especially available in small ¼-1/2 ton lots that a home winemaker would want; it’s too much of a hassle for the grower. (b) Rhone wines often shine best when blended (white combos of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc (the latter my fave, and near impossible to source here) and my beloved red GSM combo – Grenache (noir), Syrah, and Mourvedre. (Again the latter hard to obtain, especially in small amounts.) And I also wanted the option to bottle some as single varietals, depending how they came out.

The amount of work to process a ¼ ton, versus 1 ton, is quite similar. Indeed, fermentation, and aging vessels, like barrels (especially neutral, since not a new oak fan) for ultra small lots are hard to obtain as well. So why not just make less varietals, or more amounts of each. Would any grower of reputation even deal with a guy that wanted so many small lots? What the heck would I do with 100-150 cases of wine? (1/2 ton = barrel= 25 cases.)

I cast the Net and got lucky. Very lucky. (Although I am still looking for Mourvedre and Grenache Blanc. )

Tomorrow (which is the first varietal crush as well) I will reveal just how lucky I got, and my decisions.

Stay Tuned – Cheers!

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed
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