At the risk of sounding like a pompous wino, it’s highly probable that I taste more Central Coast wine than anyone else on the planet these days. Between the stories I do for this newspaper and the steady stream of reviews I write as a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast, I am regularly tasting more than 200 new wines every month and easily more than 2,000 each year.
That’s why I get so excited every time the Garagiste Festival rolls into Solvang for its annual Southern Exposure event, which brings the tiniest of boutique brands to the Veterans Memorial Hall this weekend. There are always new faces, but the wines tend to be handcrafted and honest. From the list of nearly four dozen, here are five that I’ve never heard anything about and am excited to try.
Graef Wine: In 2011, Andrew Graef started making small lots from sustainably farmed vineyards in Lake, Solano, and Napa counties, focusing on viognier, syrah, chardonnay, and, somehow, a $19 pinot noir from the coveted Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. graefwine.com
Millésimé Cellars: Brittany Rice grew up at her family’s Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez, trained under Daniel Gehrs, and makes Bordeaux blends, grenache rosé, cab franc, touriga nacional, and more. millesimecellars.com
Rhythm: Jasper Dickson set his course for focusing on obscure varietals and forgotten regions when he launched his brand in 2013 by buying a bunch of lagrein grapes from the Santa Clara Valley. Now, his portfolio includes that as well as Santa Cruz pinot, Lodi zin, and Cienega Valley syrah. rhythmwine.com
Travieso: Ray Sliter is a marine geophysicist, and Mats Hagstrom is a doctor. But for more than a decade they’ve produced a line of artistically labeled wines that even once caught the attention of critic Robert Parker, giving us all a little hope to be future winemakers. traviesowinery.com
West of Temperance: John King and Brian Ojalvo source rare grapes from out-of-the-way vineyards in West Marin and Napa, including aglianico, teroldego, old vine petite syrah, and mountain zinfandel, and also produce a nonvintage blend called Colorfield. westoftemperance.com
See californiagaragistes.com for tickets and details.