The Garagiste Festival: Grape Explanations

PGseminarBy Lisa Dinsmore

While everyone loves a good wine
tasting, what we're trying to do at the Festival is educate and entertain…while
enjoying some amazing juice, of course. We put a great deal of thought into our
Seminar topics, picking subjects that not only fascinate us, but that we think
our fellow wine-lovers and wine-makers would be interested to explore more
deeply as well. It’s about trying to understand how the vast complexities of
the winemaking process affects the final product in the glass. 2011PGevent(1)

How do we choose our topics? Well, the
first one was easy. With Paso Robles at the forefront of the Central Coast
"Rhone Zone", we decided to focus the first seminar on the granddaddy
of all Rhone grapes - our much-beloved Syrah. We drink a lot of it and just
can't understand why it hasn’t cracked the public consciousness like Cabernet
and Pinot Noir. Over 70% of the garagistes
in this year's Festival use it, either in a blendPGGlasses or by itself, so clearly
there's more to it than meets the eye. It’s my go-to grape. Period.

To truly showcase what this grape is all about, we wanted
panelists who had decades of winemaking experience devoted to the variety. And
we got them. These guys are serious about finding just the right terroir to
make Syrah shine.  Andrew Murray has been making wines of great depth and elegance from Santa Barbara
County for over 20 years. Jeff Cohn's winery, JC Cellars, is located in Oakland,
CA, where he’s been producing award-winning Syrah, and Zin, under his own label
since 2000. Justin Kahler of JK Wine
is both a vineyard manager and winemaker whose focus on
Syrah has him crafting versions from both CA and Oregon. Between them they make
14 single vineyard Syrahs.  That’s
passion, and frankly, we can’t wait to hear what they have to say or get to
taste what they’re pouring.

When we looked at all the various grapes our garagistes were using to craft their
wines, we were astonished at the variety. Thirty-eight different ones to be
exact. This made the second topic obvious as well. We just had to shine the
light on some of the fast-emerging varietals being grown on the Central Coast -
Albarino, Carignane, Grenache Blanc and Petite Sirah – that are going from
behind-the-scenes blenders to front page contenders. Our garagistes are serious when it comes to these wines and they’re
going to prove just how good they can be when given the proper care and focus. We
are not only tasting, but uncovering what makes these varieties worth our
attention. We’re thrilled to have Aaron Jackson from Aaron Wines, Alan Kinne from Bodegas M, Amy Butler from Ranchero Cellars and William Allen from Two Shepherds leading the charge.

We are trying to be informative on a level that we think
discerning wine lovers are looking for. One of the things I really love about
wine that is there's always something new to discover and we’re just as eager
to keep learning as everyone else.

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For the full Garagiste Festival line-up and to purchase
tickets, click here.

Lisa Dinsmore is the Event
Director for the Garagiste Festival.  She
is a devoted Paso wine lover, who’s been visiting and writing about the region
for over a decade. She has also achieved the WSET Level 3 Award in Wine and