Get to Know These Garagiste Winemakers
Annual Festival Comes to Santa Ynez Valley on February 10 and 11
When the Garagiste Wine Festival started in Paso Robles back in 2011, it was the prime place to check out small-batch wine producers, many of them too small to run tasting rooms or be found on wine store shelves. While everything else changed in the ensuing dozen years, the festival — which hosts the “Southern Exposure” version for the Santa Ynez Valley on February 10 and 11 — remains the only one-stop spot for that sort of discovery. The two-day event includes a “Rare & Reserve” barbecue dinner tasting on Friday followed by the main event on Saturday, and then a passport-style package for tasting room visits on Sunday.
For a taste of what to expect, I contacted four of the more than 30 producers pouring in Solvang next weekend to learn about their brands. See garagistefestival.com for info and tickets.
Civilization Wine Company
Kris Beverly of Civilization Wine Co | Credit: Courtesy
Though a relative veteran of the region’s wine industry with plenty of production, wine bar, and admin gigs under his belt, Kris Beverly only started his new brand with 2018 syrah from Ampelos Vineyard, which he calls a “a dream site for a cool climate Rhône that is farmed biodynamically.” He’s making about 300 cases a year of primarily pinot noir but also syrah, grenache blanc, and cabernet sauvignon, with the goal to grow.
“I’m relying on the friendships I have made over the past 14 years in the Santa Barbara wine industry to break through,” he said. “The experience of having worked at every level, from ground to glass, the law office to the wine bar, has been kind in providing a network of some amazing people that I am fortunate to engage with.” (civwine.com; facebook.com/CivWineCo; @civwineco)
Hermann York Wine
Hermann York’s winemaking team (left) and the label for Okneski Primitivo from San Bernardino County | Credit: @Santaritya
The team of Taylor York, Garrett York, and Dustin Herrmann started making wine from vineyards across Southern California in 2020, and produced about 700 cases of everything from zinfandel, cab, muscat, and grenache to palomino, mission, salvador, and alicante bouschet in 2022. They pay special attention to historically significant vineyards in the once-booming Cucamonga Valley and tap little-known plantings in the high desertscape of Antelope Valley.
“We work in partnership with other wineries in the area to make wines from some essentially abandoned local vineyards that haven’t seen production in decades,” explained Taylor York, who prefers low-intervention, hands-on techniques in the cellar. They hire the artist Santaritya to design new labels for each vintage. “We give her the story of the wine each year and she crafts the vision for the label image,” said York, “and nails it every time.” (herrmannyork.wine; @herrmannyorkwine)
Four years into winemaking, film special effects veteran Boyd Shermis only bottles about 350 cases each year but makes about a dozen different wines, from varietal bottlings of albariño and pinot noir to cuvées of tempranillo-syrah-garnacha and grenache blanc-roussanne.
“I’m really just trying to make the best handmade artisan wines from the best possible sources available, and I try to make off-the-beaten-path whites and white blends in Old World styles,” said Shermis, whose list of vineyards includes top spots in both Santa Barbara and, starting this year, Paso Robles.
The bottlings sport names like White Balance, Interlace, and Persistence of Vision, which reflect his Hollywood roots. “While I don’t overemphasize the film business background, I don’t ignore it, either,” he explained. “Tasting room customers occasionally enjoy discussing this with me.” (tomicellars.com; @tomicellars)
Fuil and Tábla Wines
Matt Espiro Jaeger’s love of wine came from his father, so much so that his first legal drink was a glass of wine with dad, which he followed up with a winery wedding years later in Los Olivos. His first release was 150 cases in 2021, and he’s now producing viognier, syrah, chardonnay, pinot noir, cab, and Rhône blends.
“We are truly a family business,” he explained. “When we bottled our first release, my dad flew out just to throw cases around at 72 years old. When he asked what ‘Fuil’ meant, he and I were both a little choked up as I explained it meant blood, kin, and nature. Then we both laughed when I told him the slang meaning was ‘fool,’ since you have to be a fool to start a winery.” (fuilwines.com; facebook.com/fuilwines; @fuilwines)
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