We Want to Hold Your Hand

Symposium 12 2If you can’t attend Viticulture college, mentoring is a great way to go, and Paso’s Garagiste Festival is a great place to start...

It all seemed so impossible, so out of reach.

Driving past Paso’s beautiful vineyards those many years ago when I first started to explore wine country, I would dream of making wine. I had no idea how that was ever going to actually happen. I had no background in farming. Heck, I struggled to keep my houseplants alive. And let's not even discuss how I would ever afford that vineyard. 

That dream was filed away with a few other long-shots, like playing major league baseball and Dougvineyardselling a million records (let's face it, I'm not exactly a pioneer when it comes to choosing dreams), but I kept coming back anyway. If I couldn't buy my own winery, at least I could hang out in somebody else's beautiful tasting room. That's one of the great things about the wine business - it's not quite that easy to visit the dugout at Dodger Stadium or backstage at Staples Center. So I hung out. In Paso. A lot. And I learned.

It seems obvious now, but it was a revelation when I first realized that I didn't have to own any land at all to make wine. Fruit was available for purchase! Excellent fruit, too! In fact, many of my favorite wines are made with sourced (i.e., not estate) fruit. It began to dawn on me:  maybe I could do it that way, too.

Yes, there was still much to learn, a garage to clean out, equipment to buy, stuff to move, and mistakes to make, but at least my winemaking pals and I had a way forward now, so we jumped in.

The past four years have taught us much, especially the fact that there is no end to learning. We've been extremely lucky to have excellent and generous mentors – Paso Robles is full of them - who have helped us in so many ways - including how to interpret chemistry numbers and how to react to those numbers to make the best possible wine. This kind of generosity is commonplace in Paso, by the way, and another reason why making wine in Paso Robles is the way to go, especially for we newbies.

Garagiste Logo- 2013Winemaking involves chemistry, there's no way around that. What each winemaker chooses to do with those numbers that come back from the lab is a big part of the creative process. How to protect the wine from spoilage, how to solve problems, how to intervene the least to get the most out of your fruit, these are the decisions a winemaker has to face each year. Grapes left to ferment without guidance end up as vinegar. The winemaker makes the choices that prevent that from happening, and in the best possible way.

The Garagiste Festival is about discovery, certainly the discovery of new wines and winemakers, but also discovery of the process of making wine. The more you know about what goes into making great wine, the more you can enjoy and understand that wine.

Whether you want to make your own wine or simply get a deeper understanding of the process, be sure to attend the Garagiste Festival’s Winemaking Symposium on Sunday, November 10 entitled. “Nothing’s Perfect - How to Manage and Influence Your Wines to Greatness.” 

We’ve arranged university-level instruction with Cal Poly professor and winemaker and Baker and Brain Wines, Matt Brain, along with renowned winemaker Adam LaZarre who will explore some of the common hurdles faced by winemakers and attendees will have the rare opportunity to taste the influences of various remedies commonly used to craft the best possible wine. All sponsored by the good folks at Laffort. Plus you will be introduced to some of the many supporting facilities in Paso that make it possible to turn the dream of winemaking into a reality.

So the choice is yours, if you’ve got the same impossible dream I had, or just want to explore the world of wine in more depth, you can enroll at Cal Poly… or come to our Sunday Seminar.

For tickets to the Garagiste Festival Winemaker Symposium and all festival events and for more info, go to http://www.garagistefestival.com.

Doug Minnick is the co-founder of The Garagiste Festival, coming up November 7– 10 in Paso, with an added tasting event scheduled for Happy Hour on Friday, November 8.. Doug can be found this time of year punching down and pressing Cab and Pinot Noir in a garage with his fellow winemaking stooges, Ted Behlendorf, Dan Andersen, and Scott Gruber.