California Wine & Food Events

Garagiste Southern Exposure 2019


Aka translated to “garage wines” from the french term “mechanic”. According to the Oxford Companion To Wine, an unofficial right bank Bordeaux phrase of the late 20th-century small quantity that a garage would suffice as a winery.

(ˌɡærɑːˈʒiːst) 1. a small-scale entrepreneurial wine-maker, originally from the Bordeaux region of France, esp one who does not adhere to the traditions of wine-making.

The 7th annual Garagiste Wine Festival southern exposure was held February 8-10th in Solvang, California. It brough 42 wineries and over 200 wines together under one roof. There are others held later this year in Sonoma, Los Angeles, Paso Robles respectively.


“Garagiste Festival produced by garagiste Events, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to furthering the education of future winemakers . Since its inception in 2011, the non-profit has donated proceeds (not ALL proceeds) from all of the Festivals to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program. Beginning in 2015, the Garagiste Scholarship program was created to help facilitate students in need to directly further their education in the Wine and Viticulture Program.” 

Saturday’s silent auction from wines donated by the wineries were awarded ALL funds to the scholarship. There’s two schools of thought going within the industry and could spill over confusingly to consumers as well potentially detracting from it’s organic symbolization.

The posed issue from Neighborhood wine merchants or buyers who support, local limited batch producers and wineries, is the Garagiste Inc. has diverged their conceptualization to continue to embody winemaking practices distinctly personified, not sourced winemaking. By interpretation, is someone who provincially vinifies their wines personally from vineyard to bottle.

Over the years the trade attendance has dropped, fees once waived to attend are now charged a nominal fee. Essentially by all accounts, Trade is complimentary in the industry in question, because they are the motivity to continue the exposure to the wines represented. Lastly, winemakers have expressed, once a participant, don’t feel it justifiable. They pay to be a member and donate their limited rations of bottles for the event.

With Garagiste Festivals dissected into specific regions in California, why are winemakers outside the hosted region allowed to enlist themselves? A blurred portrayal of a true Garagiste by the consumer and a frustrating one for the businesses. Wine drinkers today are younger and informed. They drink less but better, while fewer on the buzz, more on quality and value. Consequently brand loyalty is not a deciding factor when making a purchase. This can impose a challenge to a new wine proprietor, who markets their first vintage in a super premium price bracket without establishing a reputation or certitude of quality.

For Instance

The two Pinot Noir poured are priced between $90-$120 sourced from Santa Maria, CA by Owners Todd and Sara Elwood who live in Texas. The wines were textbook California Pinot Noir, ripe black cherries over filtered forward fruit, baked sweet spices, borderline alcohol burn and less than dramatic finish with no discernible difference between the two. goes without saying, there’s a palate for everyone.

Ask any winemaker ablazed about making QUALITY wine and why they started, and it isn’t for the capital…the ongoing unquoted joke is…”If you want to make a million producing wine, invest 5 million”


Metrick Wines from winemaker Alexander Jules, owns a Sherry label and a Spanish wine import company. He offered two Spanish varietal wines, Mourvedre (In Spain AKA Mataro or Monastrell) and Albarino as well as northern Spain’s popular varietal Sauvignon Blanc and the always fashionable Chardonnay. The wines may be ambitious, but are hollow to the finish. Exemplar, wines need to be meticulously cared for, like children. You can’t be a parent to all trades.


Gabriel Smith and Brian Wayne a jazzy pair of guys whose philosophy is innovation and expansion. The wines are definitive of their conception of their winemaking. Playful, abounding with sunkissed fruit, obvious and uncomplicated. Corner Cellars a garden variety for every occasion, palate and wallet. $25..(though $15 would be appropriate).

On the contrast:


Since 2007 owners and winemakers married duo Karen Steinwachs and Dave Robinson left the tech world to produce outstanding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from esteemed vineyards of the Santa Rita Hills. Grapes personally picked are from long time friends. Karen mastered skills from other revered wineries in the area, shoveling stems and hefting barrels. Now the labor of love is her own. Karen’s husband since has passed, but once you taste the Pinot Noir Jump UP, Ranco La Vina, Sta. Rita Hills 150 cases at $36 unfiltered, you could mistake it for a Burgundy from the Cote du Nuit..plush, elegant, seductive.


Marisa and Kris Beverly, Santa Ynez residents, whose nails are soiled with Santa Maria terroir, touch their grapes through vinification, and express each individual wine with it’s own personal design. Not confined to experiment with other grapes not commonly planted in the area, such as the Italian varietal Teroldego, while some wines are artistically blended with Syrah. These wines are independently sophisticated, floral fruit, savory spices, bright acid, lavish tannins, while giving way to rustic qualities, such as earth and restrained oak. $25-$40

What would you describe your style of wines produced?
Our style of winemaking is that of the old world. Minimal manipulation, focusing on balanced sugar and acidity in the grapes before harvesting.

What made you become a winemaker?
I’ve had the dream since I was a teenager. 100% because of the impression my uncle, Jim Clendenen had on me. My style of winemaking comes from him and what I’ve learned working at Au Bon Climat/Qupé/Verdad.

What is your ultimate challenge making the wines /or being a winemaker?
The ultimate challenge for being a winemaker is sales! When you want to be a serious winery, but are still in the boutique stages of production, the majority of sales have to come directly from you.

What impression would you want your consumer to walk away with?
We would hope that the consumer walking away was excited about finding Bevela Wines and enjoying the art that’s in and out of the bottle. Trusting our winemaking and having the confidence that their purchase can be enjoyed now or decades to come.

Do you make wine YOU like to drink or what the CONSUMER likes to drink?
We make wine with the consumer in mind, but find it’s not for the general mass market. We like to make wine that is food friendly and can age. This is something a specific clientele looks for, but one that we find appreciates the product of our work.


Anita Kothari and Varinder Sahi , an amorous couple producing sumptuous Rhone blends from Paso Robles. Anita worked hospitality in New York and Varinder an engineer united ther ingenuity and the aura of the central Coast to make accomplished wines. With the desire to continue improving while maintaining control of the process, is the object to their future. Tastings can be had at Paso Underground priced between $35-$60. While if you can’t pull away from this charming couple, they offer a beautifully appointed guesthouse 1.5 miles from the historic downtown district… upon reservation.

What would you describe your style of wines produced?
We like to make wines that are round, lush and seamless. We enjoy deep red fruit flavors with good acidity, tannic structure, soft texture and overall balance. We predominantly work with Rhône varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Grenache Blanc and Viognier at present. We have plans to also work with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and perhaps Pinot Noir in the future. Varinder is especially passionate about Syrah for its dark fruit flavor, peppery finish and gorgeous full body.

What made you become a winemaker?
Being passionate wine drinkers led us to having a passion for winemaking. For both of us, the journey has been a gradual one. Our collective professional background includes restaurants, real estate development and engineering – lending us some skills that translate to what we do today. We are also enthusiastic travelers who like to really delve into local cultures. This has afforded us the opportunity to try amazing wine from a wide variety of regions, learning all the whats, whys and hows behind the experiences. It’s had a major hand in motivating us to forge our own path. And in the end, as many people who love wine will tell you, while it matters what is at your table, it matters most who is at the table with you. Our lives have been full with wine memories and amazing, inspiring people that make wine or drink wine!

What is your ultimate challenge making the wines /or being a winemaker?
It’s not so much of a challenge as it is a personal mandate to be diligent, innovative and ever-curious. We’re dedicated to continuously perfect our craft and to learn more than we knew yesterday.

What impression would you want your consumer to walk away with?
We would like people to know that, as a small winemaker, we personally touch each and every lot of grapes and control each and every bin and barrel. It’s truly a handcrafted product from our hands to your hands. It’s how we prefer to operate.

Do you make wine YOU like to drink or what the CONSUMER likes to drink?
We can only make wine that we love to drink. Period.


James Sparks winemaker of single varietal, single vineyard approaches winemaking gentile with little extraction with his Grenache. For a varietal that lacks acid and color and can ripen to high sugar levels, these wines are perfumed though sharp and focused, embellishing brilliant acid. $35


Bolshoi Family Wines are what one would define a perfect food and wine pair. Lydia Bolshoi the driving dynamism and beauty, Adrian Bolshoi a hulking Moldavian, applying tradition and deftness to conceive fearless wines. Their late harvest Viognier is delightfully succulent.

The next two wines deserve merit even though they are not inline with the Garagiste Festival ideology


The name is inspired by original roller coasters in the 1800’s called Russian Mountains. Kevin Bersofsky a charismatic winemaker and personality left engineering roller coaster design to construct stimulating, heady Pinot Noirs, just like his roller coasters. It was thrilling to taste 4 2017 Pinot Noirs all from different vineyards, and they clearly demonstrated complex stylistic differences…. Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley $ 42-$70


Dewitt Vineyard from the California Sierra Foothills, with 15 years of estate grown grapes in Amador County, are wines made by zealous winemaker Mark Dewitt, approval given by wife Andrea Soils.Three varietals expertly executed, Tempranillo, Syrah and resourcefully planted Touriga Nacional. However, skip the Syrah and Tempranillo, and indulge in the Touriga Nacional, you will be well awarded. Explore brooding layers of dark fruit, sweet and savoury spices, with an opulent smoky finish.

These reviews are certainly not exhaustive, with over 42 wineries. To bring the point home, everyone ought experience this event, as these wines are not easily allocated. This will give an attendee an idea of what to expect from the festival. There’s a flavor for the everyman. If you are new to wine, your exploration can start here, but it shouldn’t end there either. Understand, a true Garagiste is a group of passionate innovators… who defined ONE local area to vocalize personally where their wines were birthed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via