Cocktail Corner: Valentine’s Weekend Garagiste Wine Festival

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

2016 Garagiste FestivalWine and romance pair together so well, why not celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend at the fourth annual Garagiste Wine Festival Southern Exposure 2016.

This fun and very unique wine festival takes place Feb. 13-14 at the Veterans’ Memorial Hall in Solvang. In honor of Valentine’s Day weekend, the festival features micro-production local sparkling wines, in addition to handcrafted red and white vintages poured by hard-to-find, cutting-edge commercial artisan garagiste wineries from Santa Barbara County, Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles, Napa and more.

Not only is this an ideal way to try hard-to-find, up-and-coming wines (and meet their makers), proceeds from the event benefit The Garagiste Festival Scholarship Fund at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department.

Courtesy Garagiste Festival.

Courtesy Garagiste Festival.

The Los Angeles Times calls this a “wildly exuberant and fun wine event,” and I couldn’t agree more. (Click here for a previous Cocktail Corner about the event.) The event features Grand Tastings of different vintages on both Saturday and Sunday. In addition, each Grand Tasting is preceded by a tasting seminar.

From 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Saturday they’ll be Digging Deep into Mourvedre: This seminar explores different styles of Mourvedre and helps you understand why it is one of the most widely planted varietals in the world. Bob Tillman (Alta Colina Vineyards), Larry Schaffer (Tercero Wines) and Eric Mohsemi (Zaca Mesa Vineyards) will explain the joys of this under-the-radar grape as you taste your way through an amazing array of Mourvedre’s to showcase what this grape brings to the bottle.

Sunday’s seminar, from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and sponsored by BubblyFest, is called Rise of the Bubbles – The New Breed of California Sparkling Wine: Start Valentine’s Day off right by tasting some of the exciting new bubbles—white, pink and red—that are being produced by small winemakers in California. You’ll explore the wines of Norm Yost (Goat Bubbles), Tyler Elwell (Halcyon Wines) and Dan Kessler (Kessler-Haak Vineyards).

 “We are proud to continue our mission of bringing the best new garagiste winemakers to our audience and, just as importantly, bringing the story behind the wines straight from the winemakers themselves,” says Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick. “Great wines and great winemakers in the beautiful countryside of the Santa Ynez Valley? We think this is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.”

Launched in Paso Robles in 2011, the nonprofit Garagiste Festivals were the first to shine a light on the American garagiste winemakers, commercial artisan winemakers who handcraft under 1,500 cases a year and pay close, hands-on attention to every wine they make. To purchase tickets and for more information, go to:

Winemakers scheduled to pour include: Archium Cellars, Ascension Cellars, Baehner Fournier Vineyards, Bevela Wines*, Brophy Clark Cellars, Carucci Wines, The Central Coast Group Project, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Clos des Amis, Coda Wines, Cordon Wines, Dascomb Cellars, El Lugar Wines, Graef Wines, Halcyon Wines*, Iter Wine*, Kessler Haak Vineyard, La Montagne Winery, Larner Vineyard, Levo Wines, Mallea Wines*, MCV Wines, Millesime Cellars*, C. Nagy Wines, Pace Family Wines, Press Gang Cellars, Rhythm Wines*, Ryan Cochrane Wines, Scott Cellars, Seagrape Wines, small + tall wines*, Stirm Wines*, STANGER/JP3, Tercero Wines, Travieso Winery, Trojak-Knier Winery, Weatherborne, West of Temprance* and Workman Ayer.

Hope to see some of you there.


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Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on January 22, 2015.