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Review: Garagiste Festival delivers ‘wow’ factor 

Grand Tasting event features nearly 60 winemakers

Don Sonderling, Garigiste Festival, Grand Tasting, Paso Robles.

Freelance writer Don Sonderling, center, enjoys an afternoon with friends at the 4th Annual Garigiste Festival Grand Tasting in Paso Robles.

Walking into the crowded Ponderosa Pavilion at the Paso Robles Event Center on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 8, an immediate feeling of electricity and enthusiasm filled the air. Close to 60 of Paso Robles’ fines“Garagiste” winemakers, including about a dozen newcomers, were sampling their small production, artisan wines for those wine enthusiasts fortunate enough to be present.

The Grand Tasting is a rare opportunity to sample wines from a large selection of “Garagiste” winemakers, and to be able to talk to the winemakers as well. Accompanying the incredible assortment of wines, representing a broad spectrum of Paso Robles micro climates and terroirs that produce dozens of different varietals, were delectable food samplings provided by the likes of Vivant Fine Cheese, Heaven Squared Brownies, Templeton Toffee and other fine specialty food purveyors.

High quality, hard to find wines

The Garagiste Grand Tasting provided the perfect venue for those seeking to discover high quality, hard to find wines from many of Paso Robles – and California’s – premium niche producers while giving the winemakers an opportunity to sample their products to the discerning wine lover.

As Pam Martin of 7 Angels Cellars commented: “If it weren’t for festivals like the Garagiste, people would not be able to taste handcrafted wines from small producers; we would have limited means to introduce people to our wines.”

Many of these wines have been receiving accolades from the wine community, and the Garigiste Festival offered an opportunity to taste what the excitement is all about. Walking through the pavilion, the energy and enthusiasm from winemakers and wine lovers alike was nothing short of electrifying.

Valencia resident Steve Rogers commented: “I think this is the best grouping of small fine winemakers in Paso. There is no other place we could come to be able to try such a great variety of quality and hard to find wines.”

Winemakers embody spirit of Garigiste

Nick Elliott of Nicora embodies the true spirit of the Garagiste winemaker. Starting out as a cellar rat, Nick literally traded work for grapes. In three short years Elliott and his wines have earned a stellar reputation and are highly sought after.

“The Garagiste Festival is by far the best event Nicora does,” Elliott said. The focus on small producers really helped put us on the map. This is a wonderful event to be part of.”

Another young winemaker, also an avid Garagiste supporter, is Ryan Pease of Paix Sur Terre. In production since 2010, Ryan said the Garagiste Festival is the only event the winery participates in.

“They have created an event that is fair to the wineries as far as cost and amount of wine poured,” Pease said. “The diversity and creativity in this event is staggering as there are really no rules for the Garagiste winemaker. Funky varietals, unique packaging and very personal connection to the wines is the norm – as far as I am concerned, it is the best wine event on the Central Coast.”

Event delivers artisan wines

This same spirit, philosophy and enthusiasm was prevalent at the 4th Garagiste Grand Tasting – winemakers intent on giving fans a unique, quality experience. The event delivered an amazing assortment of Paso wines giving a true “wow”factor to the hundreds of wine lovers who were able to spend three hours tasting, talking to winemakers, and experiencing small lot, artisan wines – definitely NOT the wines your parents grew up with.

As Dana and Matt Saly from Woodland Hills said, “We have been attending this event now for three years…not only have we discovered outstanding and unique wines we would never have been able to sample elsewhere, but we have become friends with many great winemakers. We’ll be back to support our favorite garagistes and continue to discover the next new gems Paso has to offer.”

Check out more information on all things Garagiste at