It's time to start planning for the annual Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles in a couple of weeks, one of the premier wine events of the year. The festival is the first and only one dedicated to passionate, largely undiscovered small-scale vintners who make fewer than 1,200 cases a year -- sometimes in their garages, sometimes in a rented facility. Most do not have tasting rooms, so, for many, this is the only opportunity to show off their wines to the public.
The Paso Robles Garagiste Festival, now in its fourth iteration, gets bigger and better every year. This fall, the festival takes place over four days, Nov. 6 to 9.
It kicks off Thursday night with the Shiners, Samples and Secrets Winemaker Mixer at Templeton's First Crush. Along with barrel samples and off-the-cuff tastings, the evening will also include the first Winemaker Shootout, pitting garagiste blend against garagiste blend in a speed blind tasting voted on by the winemakers to declare the Best Blend.
On Friday night, 20 out-of-town garagistes, including some from Napa, Monterey and Sonoma, have been invited to the Opening Round event at the Carlton Hotel in Atascadero, where they'll be pouring their wines with cheese and charcuterie.
This year the festival's Saturday Grand Tasting has moved to the Ponderosa Pavilion at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds. More than 50 winemakers will be there pouring tastes of their wines, many of them for the first time.
And that's when it gets exciting. It's the opportunity to meet the makers, be the among the first to taste their wines, and most importantly, get on that mailing list.
The four-day festival includes tasting seminars, too, and ends with a rocking after-party Saturday night following the Grand Tasting.
If your secretly harbor a desire to try your hand at winemaking, on Sunday you might want to check out the Winemaker Symposium, designed for wine lovers contemplating making the leap to winemaker.