2020 California Garagiste Festivals: Sonoma Feb. 15, Solvang April 18/19, LA July 24/25, Paso Robles Nov. 12-15

Did you know that last Tuesday, the final Tuesday of January, is National Plan Your Vacation Day?

If you didn’t, now you do!

But what we REALLY need is a National Plan Your WINE Vacation Day!

That’s when you open a glass of bottle of wine with a few friends, take out your calendars, and compare notes to plan to attend as many wine festivals and other wine country events in the coming year that you possibly can schedule! Whether you want small producers, Kosher wine, or pinot pinot and more pinot, there is a festival for you!

Today, here’s a focus on four festivals in California that celebrate “garagiste” winemakers, next up will be four Kosher wine festivals taking place around the world in the coming weeks, and finally, three festivals that are all about pinot noir— one in Santa Barbara in March, one in July in Oregon, and the third in New Zealand with a keynote from Elaine Chukan Brown.

Here in southern central California we are blessed with great weather to grow wine grapes AND to hold festivals inside and outside too! Plus I’m close enough to attend many events in LA, and it just isn’t that far to get to northern California either for special events like the Garagiste Festival which kicks off a year of events over Valentine’s weekend in Sonoma, followed by a spring event in Solvang, then summer in LA, and fall in Paso Robles.

The Garagiste Festivals celebrate small winemakers — those who produce 1500 cases a year or less– wineries that are just too small to provide much in the way of access.

“Today, it is clear that ‘garagiste’ stands for passionate, renegade micro-production winemakers who handcraft their wines they way they want to – and that the beneficiaries are wine lovers who, at each of our four annual festivals, have the opportunity to make new wine discoveries, taste an amazing diversity of grape varieties and blends they can’t find anywhere else – and learn, firsthand, from the winemakers about, each wine they taste,” said Melanie Webber.

Celebrating their tenth anniversary, the Garagiste Festivals were recently named ‘Best of the Fests’ for 2019 by Fest Forums.

“Even though our very first festival in 2011 was completely sold out, I don’t think any of us suspected how influential the festivals would become, that they would be instrumental in shining a spotlight on the American Garagiste winemaker movement,” said Head of Public Relations and Communications Melanie Webber in an email interview.

“2020 is a landmark year for Garagiste, and we are so grateful to receive this prestigious award as we head into our 10th anniversary year,” said Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick in a press release. “The Garagiste Festival is the ‘little engine that could’ in a world of big time events featuring major stars and corporations, and we know it is all down to the amazing winemakers who pour at our festivals and each year inject freshness, creativity and a renegade spirit into the wine establishment.”

Added Garagiste Co-founder Stewart McLennan, “Our mission over the last decade has been to shine a spotlight on small-lot winemakers, who you don’t find in grocery stores or on wine country maps, while supporting the winemakers of the future through our Garagiste Festival Scholarships.” said Garagiste Co-founder Stewart McLennan. “2020 will be our best year of festivals ever. Stay tuned!”

It’s these under the radar wineries that are making some of the most terroir driven and interesting wines to discover these days — but 70% do not have a tasting room for you to visit!

Fortunately, no matter when you might be planning a wine vacation in California — winter, summer, spring or fall– you can catch a Garagiste Festival. If you live in California, rest assured that one will be coming within a few hundred miles of you sometime this year.

With the first one over the long President’s holiday weekend, it’s a great opportunity to head to Sonoma to discover rare wines and winemakers from over 40 micro-production, commercial wineries from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Sierra Foothills, Lodi, Santa Cruz and more.

Over 40 winemakers will pour at the Sonoma Northern Exposure Festival 2020 including:
601 Cellars, Abbot’s Passage, Aesop Wines, Ampere/Pine Mountain Vineyards, Armitage Wines, Benevolent Neglect Wines, Boonville Road Wines, Brombeere Wines, Carboniste Modern Sparkling, Carpenter Wine, Crux Winery, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Dane Cellars, DeWitt Vineyard, Enriquez Estate Wines, Ferguson Family Wines, Fields Family Wines, Frostwatch Vineyard, Gravel Pit Wines, Greyscale Wines, Jardesca Aperitvo, March Wines, Mastro Scheidt, Montagne Russe Wines, Oceano Wines, Oceans Churning, Old County Cellars, Ondule Wines, Paskett Winery, Passaggio Wines, Perri Jaye Vineyards, Piezo Winery, Purple Dragon Cellars, Ricci Vineyards, Rock & Clay Wines, Sosie Wines, St. Romedius Wines, Sutro Wine Co., T. Berkley Wines, Tin Barn Vineyards, Topel Wines, Weatherborne Wine Corp. and Zo Wines.

The Sonoma grand tasting is affordable at $65, but there’s also VIP and early access packages that cost a bit more and even include lunch. The VIP package would make a great Valentine’s or Galentine’s Gift or activity since it includes lunch by The Girl & the Fig, a glass of sparkling rose by Carboniste Modern Sparkling Wines and a sweet treat from Fleur Chocolates plus early access to enjoy over 30 Rare & Reserve Wines from 12:30pm-2:00pm. Buy tickets for Sonoma Garagiste here. All tickets include a glass, tasting of over 150 wines, and charcuterie.

Having a good time in Sonoma!

The Garagiste Festival’s 10-year anniversary celebration continues throughout the year with special events, signature tastings, local chefs, after parties, and rare and reserve nights, so calendar these dates and I hope to see you at one of them!

  • Feb 15 in Sonoma at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall: 126 1st Street W. Sonoma, CA

  • April 17 & 18 at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall in the heart of Solvang: 1745 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA

  • July 25 at the historic Glendale Civic Auditorium: 1401 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, CA

  • Nov 12 -15 – The 10th Annual Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles includes a series of special events and The Grand Tasting at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds: 2198 Riverside Ave, Paso Robles, CA

Over the years, starting in 2012 in Paso Robles, I have attended all but the one in Sonoma which is only in its third year — and honestly, it is my favorite because I LOVE discovering and tasting these unusual wines from small, special wineries, and meeting the enthusiastic winemakers! Find out for yourself why it was named the #! Wine Festival in the US by USA Today!

PS Speaking of obscure “Days” to give you an excuse to celebrate or imbibe, are you ready for National Margarita Day 2/22/20? We are! Stay tuned! Subscribe!

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