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Women winemakers lead Garagiste Festival 

Women winemakers, owners and co-owners are well-represented at The 2012 Garagiste Festival, accounting for nearly 60% of the garagiste wineries pouring at the festival (50% of owners/8% of winemakers). To highlight these remarkable women and their wines, a special pre-festival “Women of Garagiste” tasting, as part of Garagiste Festival Week, will take place at 15C Wine Shop & Bar in Templeton, CA on November 3rd.

The 2012 Garagiste Festival comprises four days of wine tastings, winemaker seminars and events during Garagiste Festival weekend November 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th in Paso Robles. It is the first and only festival dedicated to discovering and promoting artisan ‘garagiste*’ winemakers and showcases high-quality, cutting-edge, small production wineries that produce fewer than 1,200 cases a year. The Garagiste Festival was named one of the ‘Top Nine Incredible Epicurean Vacations’ in the world by ABC News.** The non-profit festival benefits the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program.

“No one thinks twice about whether a winemaker/owner is male or a female, but the fact remains that today less than 10% of women are leading the winemaking in California wineries(l), which is why we are so pleased that so many women are represented at our festival as owner/co owner and/or winemaker,” said Garagiste Festival Co-Founder Doug Minnick. “Historically, the small number of women in the field has been a reflection of the pure physical challenges of winemaking, but current technology and equipment equals the playing field. Plus, garagiste winemaking provides a unique environment — the businesses are small and, by nature, hands-on, so they provide rich opportunities to learn winemaking on the job and to maintain control. And the proof is in the bottle: the garagiste women winemakers and owners pouring at our festival are experimenting with, and making, some of the best artisan wine in the world.”

Giornata, J Dusi Wines, Ranchero Cellars and Rangeland Wines are wineries pouring at the festival whose wines are crafted by women winemakers: Stephanie Terrizzi, Janell Dusi, Amy Butler and Shannon Gustafon, respectively. Meanwhile, about 50% of the garagiste wineries at the festival have a female owner or co-owner, like Jennifer Abascal, co-owner of last year’s Spirit of Garagiste festival award winner, Vines on the Marycrest (and location of this year’s festival winemaker mixer). Abascal typifies the hands-on, ‘multiple hats’ ethic of the garagiste: she handles marketing, sales and distributor relations; serves as bookkeeper/accountant, supplies procurer, inventory tracker, tasting room manager, wine club manager and events coordinator, and has served as stand-in or co-winemaker during crush (not to mention being the mom of two).

“We may not be as glamorous as the larger, well-capitalized winemakers who don’t actually make their wine in a garage,” said Abascal, “but we small-producers have ultimate control throughout the winemaking process – and because of all the hats we wear, we might be covered in grape skins or mud when customers visit!”

The Women of Garagiste Festival Pre-tasting will be held at 15C Wine Shop & Bar at its brand new location 624 South Main Street, Templeton, CA on Saturday November 3rd and features the wines of five of the women winemakers/owners pouring at The Garagiste Festival. A $15 flight gets you in the door for tastes of two wines each from: Alta Colina Vineyards, Ambyth Estate, Giornata, J. Dusi, and Ranchero Cellars.

The Garagiste Festival kicks off on November 8th when world-renowned master chef Ludovic Lefebvre guest chefs a garagiste winemaker dinner November 8th at Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles.

On Friday, November 9th, “Samples, Shiners & Secrets” Winemaker Mixer will be held at the brand new tasting room of last year’s “Spirit of Garagiste” Award Winner, Vines on the Marycrest (this event is sold out).

Saturday, November 10th is the main event at beautiful Windfall Farms with two winemaker panel and tasting seminars. Andrew Murray, Jeff Cohn and Justin Kahler lead Digging Deep Into Syrah: Microclimates, Terroir and Stylistic Decisions and Aaron Wines, Bodegas M, Ranchero Cellars, and Two Shepherds Vineyards are featured in A Look at Emerging Varietals. The Grand Tasting follows, featuring 48 garagiste winemakers. The day finishes with the Winemaker After-Party, featuring Aussie country rocker Stephen Rowe, Firestone 805 (a craft beer only available locally from Friestone Walker Brewery) and The Porter’s Truck.

On Sunday, November 11th the festival’s So You Want to Make Wine? symposium will be held at The Vintner’s Vault. This is an event for serious avocational, and aspiring, winemakers — and those who simply want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of the winemaking process. Click here for full festival line-up and ticket info:

The Garagistes
Artisan winemakers already slated to showcase their wines at the 2012 Garagiste Festival include Aaron Wines, Alta Colina Vineyards, Ambyth Estate, Anglim Winery, Argot Wines, Barton Family, Bodega de Edgar, Bodegas M, Bon Niche Cellars, Caliza Winery, Cayucos Cellars, Center of Effort, Changala Winery, Cloak and Dagger Wines, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Edmond August Wines, Filipponi Ranch Cellars, Giornata, Ground Effect Wines, Henson Wines, J Dusi, Jacob Toft, JK Wine Company, Kaleidos Winery, La Filice, Les Deux Chats, Liquid Farm, Luminesce, Nicora, Paix Sur Terre, Paso Port Wines, Per Cazo Cellars, Pipestone Vineyards, Ranchero Cellars, Rangeland Wines, Red Zeppelin Winery, Rendarrio Vineyards, Sinor La Vallee, St. Hilaire, Stage Left Cellars, STANGER Vineyards, Thomas Alexander Wines, Two Shepherds, Vin Alegre, Vines on the Marycrest, Von Holt Wines, Westberg Cellars and Zin Alley.

Last year’s festival sold out and the 2012 festival is expected to sell out early. To buy tickets go to For breaking news about The Garagiste Festival sign-up for The Dirt at Or follow us on Twitter (@PasoGaragiste).

Sponsors for The Garagiste Festival include: Airspeed Wireless, Cass Catering, Clever Concepts, Central Coast Tent and Party, Harvey’s Honeyhuts, 15c Wine Shop & Bar, Firestone 805, Glenn Burdette, KCBX, KCOY/KION, Kirk Consulting, Krush92.5, KSBY-TV, La Bellasera, La Quinta Inns and Suites, Paso Robles Wine Country Association, Safe Haven Wine Services, Tasting Panel Magazine, The Wine Down on TheLip.TV, Travel Paso Alliance, Vintners Vault, mWEBB Communications, Windfall Farms, Wine Country Pack & Ship and XpressFill.

For sponsorship opportunities, contact or go to

*Garagistes (gar-uh-zhē-stuh) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. Click here for more info and proper ‘garagiste’ pronunciation:

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.