Spring for Festivals: Essentials in LA, Garagiste in Santa Ynez

Now that spring has sprung, it is officially festival season! No matter where you live, there are great festivals about! Coming up this Sunday April 26 is Essentials in downtown Los Angeles and the following weekend March 30-April 2 is the Garagiste Festival in Santa Ynez!

ESSENTIAL : top 99 restaurants as determined by LA Weekly

GARAGISTE Syn: Rule-breakers, pioneers, renegades, mavericks, driven by passion.


First up, Essentials this Sunday from 2-5pm benefits Food Forward and will take place at California Market Center located at 110 E 9th St., Los Angeles, CA 90079. Curated by LA Weekly’s food critic Besha Rodell, The Essentials food and wine festival showcases over 50 of LA’s best restaurants from LA Weekly’s annual 99 Essentials issue. (Now the name makes sense, yes?) A GA ticket runs $65 and gets you unlimited samples from Animal, A.O.C., Baroo, Bestia, Beverly Soon Tofu, Burritos La Palma, Cacao Mexicatessen, Chengdu Taste, Chichen Itza, Coni’ Seafood, Dune, Guelaguetza, Guerrilla Tacos, Guisados, Jitlada Southern Thai, Jon & Vinny’s, Kogi BBQ, La Casita Mexicana, Le Comptoir, Lucques, Lukshon, Maude, Night + Market, Park’s BBQ, Pine & Crane, Providence, Racion, Republique, RiceBar, The Rose, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen, Salt’s Cure, Szechuan Impression, Sotto, Spago, the hungry cat, Trois Mec, Union, Wexler’s Deli, The Bellwether, Bigmista’s Barbecue & Sammich Shop, Elf Cafe, ERB Bar, LocoL, n/naka, Pok Pok LA, Angelini Osteria, Chi’SPACCA, Colonia Publica, El Coraloense, Love & Salt, Mélisse, Summer Rolls, El Huarache Azteca, Isaan Station, and Tsujita LA as well as wine pairings from a bunch of different wineries including one of my favorites, Italian sparkling wine house Ferrari Trento. 

Next weekend, The Garagiste Festival celebrates wine that is made very much by hand and in very small lots. The term garagiste comes from the idea of people making wine in such small batches that they are making it in their garage. At first, this was a derogatory term for people who weren’t making wine in a real winery but today being a garagiste is a badge of honor, especially at the Garagiste Festival of the Central Coast of California. You’d be surprised how any winemakers start in the garage and work their way into a professional capacity!

I attended this event a few years ago when it was held in Paso Robles and I loved tasting so many unusual wines and talking with the winemakers. It’s a great education! And a lot of fun too.

Benefiting Cal Poly’s wine program and held in THE VETERANS’ MEMORIAL HALL 
1745 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463, the Grand Tasting on April 1 charges one tasting fee in one place for over 200 wine choices. 
This saves you from driving around trying to find these very small scale producers (and their garages); most of these lack a tasting room and if they are open for tasting, it is by arrangement only because the majority of these wineries do not have tasting rooms and aren’t on “wine country” maps.

The event kicks off on Friday night, March 31st, with a ‘Rare & Reserve’ Kick-Off Party with tastings of limited Club Only, Verticals, Library and Pre-Release bottles. Saturday features two seminars from 11:00-12:30am: “What’s Wrong With This Picture? Educate Your Palate About the Most Common Wine Flaws” and “An Exploration of Grenache: Not Just for Blending Anymore.” Both sound fascinating to me!

And until March 26, you can purchase a weekend pass for $130 which allows you to attend the Saturday seminars and tasting events all day plus taste over 30 high-quality, rare and reserve wines on Friday night that won’t be poured on Saturday, enjoy a Texas-Style BBQ buffet from Neighbor’s Tim’s BBQ on Friday, and a Wine Country Box Lunch on Saturday.  No coupon code is necessary to purchase these tickets here.

With a focus on small-production winemaking, this is a very unusual festival. Unlike last month’s World of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara with its focus on that one grape or other festivals that focus on a region and with wineries from small to large, the Garagiste Festival offers a wide range of wines from all over California: from Paso Robles to Napa to Sonoma to Santa Barbara to the Sierra Foothills and beyond. With a total case production limit of around 1500 per vintage, this is hands-on, high-quality winemaking at its best.

Can you believe you can taste over TWENTY different varietals at Garagiste?

Varietals include Cab, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Zin, Teroldego, Albarino, Riesling, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc, many different Rosés and blends, and more. Given an opportunity to expand your palate, you’ll find new favorites. And what a value! The average price of a bottle of red at the  Festivals is about $40: where else can you taste so many wines at this price point and level of quality for one low entry fee? And poured by  Winemakers and Owners where you can hear their personal stories about why they make the wines they do?

The Grand Tasting follows from 2:00 – 5:00pm where winemakers include: Artisan Uprising, Ascension Cellars, Bevela Wines, Bradley Family Wines, Brian Benson Cellars, Camlow Cellars, Carivintas, Carter Paul Wines*, Casa Dumetz Wines, Central Coast Group Project, Cholame Vineyards, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Clos des Amis, Coda Wines, Comartin Cellars*, Cordon Wines, Dascomb Cellars, El Lugar Wines, Frequency Wine Co., Golden Triangle, Iter Wines, Jalopy Wine Company*, Jamie Slone Wines*, JP3 Wines, Kaleidos Winery, Larner Vineyards, Levo Wines, Mallea Wines, Mattina Fiore, McKinney Family Vineyards*, MCV Wines, Metrick Wines*, Mollie Wines, Montemar Winery, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Seagrape Wine Co, Serrano Wines, Skyenna Wines*, Tercero Wines, Turiya Wines, Weatherborne, and West of Temperance.

So many amazing wineries to discover including one of my Ventura County favorites, Clos de Amis!

Plus you can help students at Cal Poly just by drinking wine!

Garagiste is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization dedicated to the education and support of future professionals in the wine industry through The Garagiste Festival Scholarships at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo.

Tickets are very limited and Garagiste Festivals always sell out. To buy tickets and for more information, go to: http://garagistefestival.com. For breaking festival news and special discounts, sign-up for our free newsletter, The Dirt at http://garagistefestival.com/sign-up/, or Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or Facebook. For more information go to: http://garagistefestival.com.

According to the Garagiste Festival website,  “The Garagiste Wine Festivals (http://www.garagistefestival.com) are the first and only wine festivals dedicated to the undiscovered and under-recognized American artisan ‘garagiste’ producers who are making some of the best, most exciting, handcrafted small-lot production wines in the world. Founded by fellow garagistes Stewart McLennan and Douglas Minnick, the Garagiste Festivals are committed to discovering the best and most innovative limited-production winemakers and promoting and showcasing them to a broad audience of discerning wine consumers. In addition to its flagship annual festival in Paso Robles, CA, the Garagiste Festival line-up includes Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure, featuring Santa Ynez Valley garagistes; the Garagiste Festival: Urban Exposure, in Los Angeles; garagiste mini-tastings presented from So Cal to Tahoe; winemaker dinners, a newsletter, garagiste profiles and more. The festivals were named one of the ‘Top Nine Incredible Epicurean Vacations’ in the world by ABC News,* “one of the premier wine events of the year,” by the LA Times and “Best Festival” by Sunset Magazine’s ‘Best of the West.’ The festivals are produced by Garagiste Events, a non-profit dedicated to furthering the education of future winemakers and those training for employment within the wine industry. Proceeds from the festivals support the Garagiste Festival Scholarship fund of the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo Wine and Viticulture Department.”

See you there!



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