Russ Winton: Wine List

“Garage” winemakers once denigrated, now celebrated renegades with much to savor

The eighth annual Paso Robles Garagiste Wine Festival will be held Nov. 9-11. Garagistes (garage-east) is a French term originally used in the Bordeaux region to denigrate renegade, small-lot winemakers, sometimes working in their garages, who refused to follow the rules.

Now, they’re a full fledged movement, responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. Driven by passion, the Garagistes are also called pioneers, renegades or mavericks. The Paso Robles Garagiste Wine Festival was recently named best wine festival in the United States in 2018 in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. The event has also received accolades from the LA Times, Sunset Magazine and ABC News.

The Garagiste Festival is unique. It’s definitely not your typical wine festival. And that’s a good thing. The focus is on small production with case limits at around 1,500 per vintage. If you go, you will taste more than 20 different wine varieties. Most of the winemakers don’t have tasting rooms so the festival offers you a chance to taste 200-plus wines in one building. There are no “pinkie wavers” here – wine snobs are not allowed. Ticket sales are limited to provide a relaxed, uncrowded experience and those dedicated rule breakers will be pouring their own wines. The festival is a 401c3 nonprofit organization and proceeds go to the Garagiste Festival Scholarship Fund at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I’m pretty sure I just talked myself into driving to Paso Robles this November. For more,

Wine Line celebrates

September is California Wine Month and this column’s 11th birthday. The Merced Sun-Star started running Wine Line in 2007 and it’s been picked up since by The Modesto Bee and The Fresno Bee. The goal of the column was to take a consumer-friendly approach to wine, which is supported by my mission statement:

1. Wine is Simple, Enjoy it. It’s fermented grape juice not rocket science. Wine should be fun. There are no rules.

2. Ignore Wine Snobs. Pinkie-waving loudmouths spewing snooty wine-speak are boring and can totally ruin a party. Avoid them.

3. Trust Your Palate, Drink What You Like. Develop your own taste for wine. Don’t out-source your palate to wine critics. What is your opinion? Trust your palate and drink what YOU like. Find a wine that you like and one that you can afford and enjoy it. Nothing more.

A big thank you to faithful Wine Line readers and to the Merced Sun-Star, The Modesto Bee and The Fresno Bee. And to the Navigator, for always steering me in the right direction. After 264 columns, I see the wine glass is still half-full. So on to year 12. Cheers!

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