Year Seven for Garagiste Festival Highlights Paso Robles’ Wine Diversity

This year's Garagiste Wine Festival in Paso Robles, November 10-12, marks the 18th wine festival produced by Garagiste Events. In 2011, winemakers Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick saw a movement taking root in Paso Robles - a growing population of under-the-radar winemakers were handcrafting small lots of cutting-edge, and incredibly delicious, wines from the ground up - literally!

Many of these winemakers were doing it purely out of passion for the craft, and a desire to innovate winemaking on their own terms. Some were well-known winemakers at larger wineries, starting their own micro labels. A few had their own small vineyards and many more had day jobs from the OC to LA to Sonoma ... one was even a rocket scientist!  

The “little festival that could” certainly made its name in Paso and seven years later, over 500 of these wineries have shared their wines with tens of thousands of delighted attendees at Garagiste Wine Festivals and events across California. Millions more have learned about these winemakers through the national and international attention the festival has attracted. Many of our winemakers have had a breakthrough at the festival and gone on to broader success to the point of exceeding the 1,500 case limit to be considered a “garagiste.” We are proud that these winemakers always refer back to their garagiste roots. 

The alchemy that grew the garagiste movement is the region’s extraordinary diversity. From soils to micro-climates, Paso Robles offers winemakers the opportunity to work in innovative ways with a plethora of grape varieties. This year, festival attendees will have the opportunity to taste Albariño, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Verdejo, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Carignan (as well as the flagship grapes of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhône regions) - with as many interpretations of each variety as there are winemakers pouring it.

Highlighting diversity, the festival spotlights Rhône and Bordeaux varieties. Paso helped popularize Rhône varietals in the U.S. and, today, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier are cultivated, vinified, blended and treasured by multiple Paso area winemakers with stunning results. The Garagiste Grand Tasting alone offers over 50 wines that include Rhône varieties. The Festival’s tasting seminar, “What's in a Rhône? Demystifying the Flavors of White Grapes from this Classic Region,” offers insights and wines of Alta Colina’s Bob Tillman, San Liege’s Curt Schalchlin and Clavo Cellars’ Neil Roberts.  

Bordeaux is arguably the most famous wine region in the world, and dramatically different in terrain, climate, winemaking techniques and grape varieties from the Rhône. However, all traditional Bordeaux varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon - can also be found in Paso area vineyards and in over 30 of the wines to be poured at the festival. The seminar “Breaking Down Bordeaux, An Exploration of the Classic Varietals a la Garagiste” explores these grapes and features the wines and insights of Rendarrio’s Ryan Render, Vinemark Cellars’ Mark Wasserman, Artisan Uprising’s David Vondrasek and Brecon Estate’s Damian Grindley.

While Paso shares with its Rhône and Bordeaux brethren stunning blends of these grapes, Paso garagistes have the advantage of a renegade freedom that allows them to not only blend against the French rules, but also to produce stunning examples of these varieties as stand-alone wines. You can experience it all in one day under one roof! The Garagiste Festival is held November 10th – 12th in Paso Robles. Go to www.garagistefestival.com for tickets and more info.