Browsing articles in "wine festivals"
Apr 24, 2014
Terri Judson

Bigger than ever, Okanagan Spring Wine Festival gets creative

“The air is fragrant and the valley is green,” enthuses Blair Baldwin, general manager of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, on the line from Kelowna. In fact, he notes, when the first Okanagan Spring Wine Festival was introduced in 1994, it was almost named the Bud Break Wine Festival in celebration of the end of the vineyards’ dormant period and the rebirth of the grapes.

Fast forward 20 years, when the festival still celebrates spring but in a much bigger way. Back then, it was a daylong event with 16 participating wineries. This year, the festival spans 10 days and involves 119 wineries; it kicks off next Thursday (May 1) and runs until May 11. Significantly, the events aren’t just about tasting wine.

“Twenty years ago, many wineries thought an event was, ‘Well, we’re open,’ ” Blair says with a laugh. He acknowledges that the Okanagan is seen as a summer destination, but he maintains that the shoulder season is a great time to visit because it’s not only a beautiful time of year but quieter. That means less expensive hotel rates, more opportunity for interaction with the winemakers, and easier access to festival tickets than during the busier fall wine festival.

“The wineries work very hard at creating innovative events,” he says, explaining that they do so to attract visitors.

The festival’s website lists more than 70 events from which to choose. The signature wine events include the Best of Varietal Wine Awards on May 1 and the WestJet Wine Tastings on May 2 and 3. Many wineries will be premiering their new-release white wines.

For those who want to do more than sip and spit, other events have built-in culinary components. For example, Covert Farms will host an outdoor pig roast on May 3 with entertainment and the latest releases from the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country wineries. Later that day, Hillside Estate will host an oyster roast spotlighting Pinot Gris for its Pinot and Pearls reception.

Another variation is combining wine with more activity than merely lifting a glass to your lips. On May 10, there will be a free afternoon lawn party with live music at Kraze Legz Vineyard and Winery; guests are invited to bring a picnic, kick off their shoes, and learn the Charleston. That same day, Cedar Creek Estate Winery will host a light hike and progressive picnic along the trail that winds through its vineyards.

According to Baldwin, spring is when many wineries in the area release their white wines. This year, it also marks the opening of several new wineries and tasting rooms.

Near Oliver, these include Culmina Family Estate Winery, TIME Estate Winery (which is founded by Okanagan icon Harry McWatters), and Kismet Estate Winery. Privato Vineyard Winery will debut in Kamloops. And Kelowna’s Sandhill wines, which has been offering its tastings at Calona Vineyards, is slated to open its own tasting room over the latter half of the festival.

To peruse the events, see

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Apr 24, 2014
Terri Judson

Central Florida features craft beer, wine festivals

For winos and beer-a-philes, there are several festivals coming up in the Central Florida area to taste a everything from a pint to a pinot noire.

Enjoying alcoholic beverages is hardly an unprecedented occurrence for college students. Though settings often range from bars to house parties, a variety of events specifically catered to beer and wine lovers can provide an alternative.

“Obviously with today’s college-party culture, it seems like the main goal is to go out and get drunk,” said Logan Bell, a senior criminal justice major. “It’s a completely different vibe at these types of beer and wine festivals and a nice change of pace from the college-party lifestyle.”

Bell has previously attended the Lake Mary Craft Beer Fest and the Great Orlando Craft Beer Festival, and said he hopes to attend more of these events.

“I would definitely love to see more beer and wine festivals around the Central Florida area,” Bell said. “It’s always a great time to get a group together and go out to one of these events.”

If you’ve been on the hunt for an upcoming festival, Winestock 2014 will be held on April 25 as it returns for its fourth annual celebration of premium wine, beer, food and music. The event will take place at Cranes Roost Park in Uptown Altamonte from 7 p.m to 10 p.m. Advanced tickets will be $30 and $40 the day of, and they will include live entertainment from Blender and Swain Sumner Band.

Winestock will be followed by two other wine and beer festivals both held on April 26, Lake Mary Pour and Maifest: Oktoberfest in the Spring. Lake Mary Pour will take place at Colonial Town Park from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for $30, while Maifest will be held at the German American Society of Central Florida from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. at no cost except for a suggested $5 donation.

Nick Resciniti, a senior health sciences major, said he expects to attend at least two of this type of festival and is drawn to them due to the atmosphere he has experienced at them in the past.

“Walking around while eating great food and having a good beer is relaxing,” he said. “I am a huge beer guy. Combine that with my love of cooking, and it makes these events very appealing.”

More than relaxing, Resciniti said it is exhilarating.

“Tasting beer is an adventure to me,” he said. “It could be a great beer or the worst beer I have ever had, but the fact that I’m out there trying them makes it fun. You never know what you’re going to get till you try it.”

Halee Sommer, an art history senior, shares a similar appreciation for the exciting nature of beer-tasting events, as well as for the artistic aspect of the process. As an art history student, Sommer said she recognizes and relates to brewers’ passion.

“The brewers are always such passionate people who truly have a love of beer that goes beyond getting drunk,” Sommer said. “This is their art, and that is one reason why I got so drawn into appreciating crafts beers, because in a way creating craft beers seems to give the brewer a similar sense of satisfaction as I, or any artist does, when a work of art is created.”

In celebration of that spirit of adventure and virtuosity, American Craft Beer Week, a nationwide festivity, will be kicking off May 8 and will continue through May 12.

Orlando Brewing will be celebrating with different events throughout the week, including an art show and trivia night.

“We always celebrate American Craft Beer Week, but the events vary from year to year,” said Crystal Harrison, taproom manager. “We always try to highlight our beers, and one of the main ways to do that is to pair them with different foods.”

The Cheese and Beer Pairing event will take place on May 13 at 7 p.m. for $20, and the Charcuterie Beer Pairing event is slated for May 15 at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. for $25.

Orlando Brewing will also host a Liquid Education night on May 14 during which guests will be informed through demonstration about different beer aromas, tints, tastes, ingredients and brewery processes. The event, inspired by president John Cheek’s purpose of “educating the public one pint at a time,” will cost $15.

Harrison said she looks forward to the opportunity to increase appreciation for craft beer through these events, though she said that she has already observed an increase in past years.

“I have seen the growth personally, especially when we lease new beers,” said Harrison, who has been with Orlando Brewing for 7 1/2 years. “The amount of people that show up for that particular event shows me that people are watching and want to be here to support us and know what is next.”

A community of beer and wine lovers has encouraged other event managers, including Anthony Dinova, to appeal to their customer’s palates. Dinova is currently planning Winter Park’s annual Derby on Park. This year, guests will receive complimentary bottles of either South African Merlot or Central Coast Chardonnay.

“We think the thing that is most appealing is we are investing back into our customers,” Dinova said. “We definitely see that there are avid wine lovers, and, after several events, we have found, through in-person feedback, that there needs to be more wine. We insisted that private-labeled bottles of wine was the right decision for this year’s Derby on Park.”

The event will be on May 3 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Winter Park Country Club. Tickets are $50 prior to the event and $100 the day of.


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Apr 23, 2014
Terri Judson

Quick Bites: Bánh Mì gets burger makeover at Tin Cow

The Tin Cow, the popular custom burger joint at 102 Palafox Place, has added a Vietnamese twist to its menu with a unique take on the traditional Bánh Mì sandwich.

Tin Cow’s Bánh Mì Burger features an Asian-seasoned beef and pork patty served on a toasted French baguette topped with mayonnaise, Daikon radish, pickled carrots, fresh cucumber, cilantro and fresh jalapenos. And, of course, you can customize that however you like — say, a little Sriracha for some extra kick.

This special sandwich only will be offered for a limited time, so if this makes you feel hungry, get to the Tin Cow soon. Of course, if you prefer the real thing, there are a number of Vietnamese markets and delis in the area that will be happy to serve up the traditional sandwich, but the point of a hybrid like this is to create something new and a little fun.

(Remind me to tell you about my own attempts to create a Thai-style burger from the Tin Cow’s extensive topping menu some time. Spoiler alert: It includes peanut butter.)

The Tin Cow also is about to feature its first Pint Night to celebrate Shipyard/Sea Dog Brewing’s 20th anniversary. Starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, the brewery’s American Pale Ale will be released and will be featured on tap along with its Export Ale and Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat. Buy any Shipyard/Sea Dog item at regular price, and you’ll get a free pint glass and all your brewery refills for $1 off for the rest of the night.

For more info, call 466-2103, or visit

Tasty fun across the state line

A pair of events in Orange Beach, Ala., will add some flavor to Mother’s Day weekend.

The Wharf, 4830 Main St., will be the headquarters for the 2014 L.A. Gumbo Festival on May 9-11.

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. May 9 with a Gumbo on the Gulf VIP Reception at Heron Pointe, featuring celebrity chefs dishing out their best gumbos.

At 10 a.m. May 10, the main event takes over The Wharf’s Main Street as Alabama and Louisiana chefs vie for the Best Gumbo award, and an attempt will be made at creating the world’s largest bowl of gumbo, measuring taller than six feet. The festival also will feature live music, an art show and demonstrations.

May 11 is Mother’s Day and will feature free gumbo and tea for mothers, as well as the Mama’s Cookin’ Contest winner. To enter your mama, or for more information on the festival, find the L.A. Gumbo Festival on Facebook at

Also on May 10, the Orange Beach Wine Festival, Waves of Wine, will take place from noon to 4 p.m. next to Caribe Resort, 28103 Perdido Beach Blvd.

More than 100 wines and craft beers will be featured. Each attendee will receive a custom wine glass and bag and will have the opportunity to a cruise around the back bay. The festival also will feature live music and appetizers from local restaurants.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit

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Apr 23, 2014
Terri Judson

It’s Festival Season in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State

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The Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival will occur June 4 – 8, 2014, drawing more than 45 talented artists from across the nation.

We’re very proud of where we live and we love to share the amazing features of our region with visitors by showing off everything we have at our festivals.

Canandaigua, NY (PRWEB) April 23, 2014

It’s festival season in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. Just about every weekend from spring through fall there is a great time to be had for visitors and locals alike. Whether it be beer, wine, food or the outdoors, it’s here to explore.

“We like to consider the Finger Lakes to be the festival capital of the world,” said AJ Shear, Communications Manager for Finger Lakes Visitors Connection. “We’re very proud of where we live and we love to share the amazing features of our region with visitors by showing off everything we have at our festivals. Grape and wine festivals, Native American festivals and art festivals are all a part of cultural abundance that exists in the Finger Lakes.”

Here is a sampling of upcoming events in the Finger Lakes:

Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival

June 4 – 8, 2014

Canandaigua, NY

The Plein Air Festival is the first of its kind in New York State. The event will feature as many as forty-five talented artists from across the country to paint the beauty of Canandaigua and the Finger Lakes, and will bring in art lovers and collectors.

Artists will work in various painting media on location in and around Canandaigua throughout the weekend painting scenes and vistas, city streets, historic structures, farm and vineyard vistas. While the artists are busy painting there will be family events, live music, food, art exhibits and educational programs on Saturday. Young and old alike can transform the downtown sidewalks into works of art using colored chalks in the Chalk It Up…Downtown Event. Judging, exhibition, awards and sale of artists’ work will take place on Sunday.

Sonnenberg Gardens Roses and Rosés

June 9, 2014

Canandaigua, NY

This elegant wine and food pairing event showcases over thirty wineries and restaurants of the Finger Lakes Region and kicks off Rose Week at the historic Sonnenberg Gardens. Guests are invited to stroll through the historic Mansion, Belvedere, and Rose Garden where over 2,500 roses are in bloom during the garden’s peak.

Finger Lakes Brew Festival

June 21, 2014

Geneva, NY

There are few things better than a summer evening by a beautiful lake. Add to that, the opportunity to taste beer and mingling with other beer lovers, and you have a great way to celebrate the summer solstice. Held alongside Seneca Lake on the first day of summer, the Finger Lakes Brew Festival will feature local music, breweries, tastings and vendors. The festival is hosted by the Geneva Y and will take place in the new Geneva Lakefront Events Center at the Lakefront Park along the northern shore of Seneca Lake.

Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials

July 11 – 13, 2014

Victor, NY

Agility, endurance, and bravery are on display in three disciplines (dressage, cross country, and show jumping, known collectively as “eventing”) with the added excitement of an often-unpredictable relationship between horse and rider. The “extreme triathlon of equestrian sports” moniker is no understatement. More than 250 riders from across the United States and overseas will compete at this family-friendly event.

Native American Dance Music Festival

July 26 – 27, 2014

Victor, NY

The Native American Dance Music Festival is Ganondagan’s annual summer event that features a wide range of Native American traditional dancers, musicians, storytellers, and artists sharing their cultural heritage, crafts and arts with festival goers.

This event also features the ever popular children and adult workshops such as cornhusk doll making, native foods such as fry-bread, interpreted programs in the Visitor’s Center and Bark Longhouse, guided trail walks, and the family drum jam.

Finger Lakes Riesling Festival

Aug. 9 – 10, 2014

Canandaigua, NY

Beautiful lakes. Nature’s bounty. The friendliest people. In one weekend, we celebrate it all. Join us as wineries, breweries, restaurants, cheese makers, artists, craftsmen and musicians gather to bring everything that makes our region special together in one place. It’s a festival to celebrate summer, families, fun … and the good times when it all comes together.

Finger Lakes HopFest

Aug. 9 – 10, 2014

Bloomfield, NY

Nedloh Brewing Co. is proud to host the first ever Finger Lakes HopFest, a new festival that will bring together brewers and enthusiasts to celebrate, sample and learn about hops and craft beer. Hopsfest will feature educational seminars with tips on crafting great beers, growing hops, home brewing and pairing beer with foods. Beer lovers will be able sample craft brews from Nedloh Brewing Co. and different breweries from across Upstate New York. In addition to a food truck rodeo, there will be a Big Green Egg Grill chef cook-off.

Naples Grape Festival

Sept. 27 – 28, 2014

Naples, NY

Since 1961, the grape festival has been held every September to celebrate the area’s grape harvest, talented artisans, wine makers, local and regional music and cuisine in the Naples valley. Bake a pie for the World’s Greatest Grape Pie Contest and sample everything “grape” that the Finger Lakes has to offer. Taste Finger Lakes wines in the wine tent and explore arts and crafts for every taste and budget. Throughout the 2-day festival you can enjoy area musicians performing rock, blues, jazz and original music to get your feet tapping and your heart singing.

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Apr 23, 2014
Terri Judson

Okanagan Spring Wine Festival kicks off

What started two decades ago as a one-day event with 16 wineries has grown to an Okanagan-wide 10-day celebration with 119 wineries.

The Okanagan Wine Festivals Society is kick-starting the wine season with the best in food and wine from May 1 to 11 with over 70 culinary and wine events, a Best of Varietal competition and uniquely Okanagan experiences.

“The wine culture of the Okanagan offers something for everyone from the foodie to the oenophile to the budding enthusiast,” said Lori-Pike Raffan, public relations director for the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society. “From farm to table winery dinners, barbecues and picnics in stunning settings, the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival brings visitors face to face with the chefs, winemakers and growers that have not only built our wine and culinary industry but those poised on the leading edge of change. With the Okanagan Valley really coming of age on the world stage it’s time to visit and see how we’ve hit our stride.”

Over 7,500 people are expected to participate in the 10 days of activities that include ticketed soirees to complimentary events.

Celebrate a tasting of the best of varietal wines in B.C. for 2014 on May 1 at the Penticton Ramada Inn from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Awards will be presented in over 20 different varietal categories. Be the first to taste the Best of Varietal winning wines and sample fresh tapas from the Kettle Valley Station Pub as you mingle with the winemakers and winery owners. A record 32 wine varietal categories will be judged by 15 B.C. sommeliers and wine experts. Tickets are $50.

Follow that up with the Bacchanalia Food and Wine Festival at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on May 3. Experience over 200 wines from 50 different winners and executive Chef Chris Remington’s culinary masterpieces. Tickets are on sale now for $75 at the Penticton Lakeside resort front desk, or by phone at 250-493-8221. Black tie and cocktail attire is strongly encouraged.

“That is one of the neat things about this event. It is an opportunity for people to get dressed up to the nines either with their significant other or a group of friends,” said Brannigan Boyd, director of regional sales and marketing at the Penticton Lakeside Resort. “We still have tickets left, but they do go very quickly at this time of year and it is always a sell out event”

Some delectable new festivities this year include the Comforts of Grilled Cheese and Wine presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, apprentice chefs competing in the cheesiest sweet and savoury competition, a Bubbly Bootcamp and grand openings of the newest architecturally distinctive tasting rooms.

Celebrate food and wine at Covert Farms Pig Out with 29 wineries from the Oliver/Osoyoos Wine Country. This is a outdoor, tented affair set at Covert Farms with the latest releases and fan favourites from the area. Interact with local chefs who will impress with their pig roasting skills while local musicians entertain throughout the afternoon. Tickets are $55 and include admission, entertainment, souvenir wine glass, food and wine. They can be purchased at

The Blind Wine and Cheese Soiree By Valley First on May 10 at the Ramada Inn in Penticton is one of the unique signature events testing your pallet. Conspire and connive your way to guessing which wine is in the bag and try your hand at identifying some of the best cheeses from Dairy Farmers of Canada. This is a Get Home Safe event, sponsored by B.C. Liquor Stores and Valley First Insurance.

Tickets for all events are available at or by phone at 1-877-763-2849. For a list of all events visit

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Apr 23, 2014
Terri Judson

Dalmacija Wine Expo 2014: Interview with organiser Zoran Paunovic Special

Enough already! Insects found in Brazil have sex up to 70 hours

Dalmacija Wine Expo 2014: Interview with organiser Zoran Paunovic Special

Split -
As Croatian wine continues to make impressive strides on the international scene, so too are its winemakers getting more organised, with this year’s Dalmacija Wine Expo moving to a more central stage. Digital Journal went to meet Zoran Paunovic, one of the event organisers, on April 22, 2014.

The main part of Dalmacija Wine Expo will this year take part in Split on April 24-26, before reconvening at its original home in Makarska on May 1.

The new organic Plavac Mali vineyards of Andro Tomic on Hvar  voted the best in Central Dalmatia for...

1. Dalmacija Wine Expo is coming to Split for the first time, an exciting development. Tell us more.

After a very successful start in Makarska, we decided to split the festival this year, in order to enhance business engagement. As the capital of Dalmatia, Split is a bigger destination, and there is bigger demand foe wine here. Unlike most other wine festivals, we have divided the business time from the general public, and the expo will be open only to business contacts from 11:00 – 15:00, with the doors opening for the general public from 15:00.

We will continue our excellent relationship with Makarska by hosting a more fun event on May 1, where there will be 22-25 winemakers present, selling their wines directly on an evening of fun, which will include concerts and an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records by organising the longest line of people clinking glasses and saying ‘Cheers’ – the current record is about 1300 people.

Steep terraced vineyards are typical in Dalmatia.

2. The expo is now regarded as one of the most important in the region. How did it come about?

Dalmatia is a region with a fine wine tradition and rich potential, but when we started in 2010, there was no serious wine festival in the region, and so we decided to start on a road to develop Dalmatia’s wine potential, to realise our vision and to develop and evolve the wine industry. There is much to do, but we have made a solid start.

3. Croatian wines are attracting increasing attention on the international scene. What makes Croatian wine stand out from the rest in your opinion?

Croatia is a small territory with huge variation in terms of its vineyards and terroir. It also has an astonishing number of indigenous grape varieties, many of which are not known outside the country. Strong reds from Dalmatia are contrasted with more acidic wines in continental Croatia.

In addition to this, many international varieties are now being planted in Croatia, whose combination with the terroir is producing great results. The potential for Croatian wines is huge, but we need more marketing.

The sandy vineyards of Lumbarda on Korcula  where Grk is produced.

4. EU entry supposedly brought new opportunities and markets to Croatia’s winemakers. What is the situation now?

EU entry has brought opportunities and threats. Many winemakers were not ready for the changes and enjoyed previous state protection, whereas now there is competition from cheap New World wines. Winemakers in Croatia tend to have smaller plots, and so competitiveness is a problem. High quality producers will survive, which is why it is essential to invest in quality.

Croatian wines are increasingly finding their way to top international destinations  such as New Yor...

5. Croatia has an astonishing array of indigenous grape varieties, which are unfamiliar to many wine connoisseurs. Tell us about 3-4 varieties to look out for and why.

It is indeed a country rich in indigenous varieties, many of exceptional quality. Not so many people know that the origins of Zinfandel, for example, are in Dalmatia.

Varieties to look out for include the pride of Dalmatian reds and a Zinfandel relative, Plavac Mali; Posip, a white wine whose most famous vineyards are on the island of Korcula, as is Grk, whose small quantities are grown on sandy soil. Other interesting varieties include Kujundjusa from the Imotski region and Dobricic from Solta. A very large mix.

Steep terraced vineyards are typical in Dalmatia.

6. Dalmatia has huge potential as a gastro destination to rival Italy and Spain, and yet there is currently no Wine Road of Dalmatia. Are there any plans for this?

It is true that things go slower here in Dalmatia. It is due to the mentality of the people, who can be very stubborn. I can say this because I am Dalmatian. Being stubborn is good and bad. Everything will come in time, slowly (or ‘polako’ as we say here), and I would expect the emergence of wine roads in the near future – perhaps one to three years – certainly on Peljesac, but also maybe on islands such as Hvar and Brac.

Dalmacija Wine Expo opens on April 24 at Hotel Radisson Blu in Split. To see the full programme, click here.

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Apr 23, 2014
Terri Judson

Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair Kicks Off this Week


155071949(SUGAR LAND, TX) — What’s being called the largest wine and food festival in Texas kicks off this week in Sugar Land.

With more than 8,000 visitors each year, the Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair continues to be a hit. It’s one of the few wine festivals that start before the weekend. The party begins Wednesday and goes through Sunday.

It’s not your typical wine event.

“There’s everything from wine and food, but we also have specialty beers and cocktails,” Krystal Peay, director of the Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair, said.

The event provides opportunity for hands-on learning experiences for college students.

“We also have a hands-on experiential course where 15 select students can help prepare and plan the event,” Peay told us.

For those who have never been to the festival, it might be best for Mom and Dad to leave the kiddos at home.

“It is more a couple’s night out event. You can go out with your girlfriends, leave the kids at home and get away for a fun event,” Peay said.

For more information, you can visit

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Apr 23, 2014
Terri Judson

Garagiste Festival: Sell-Out in Solvang – LA, Paso Dates Announced

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Paso Robles, CA (PRWEB) April 23, 2014

Garagiste Events, producers of The Garagiste Festivals, today announced the dates for the first-ever Los Angeles Garagiste Festival on July 12th, 2014 and the fourth annual Paso Robles Garagiste Festival November 6th – 9th, 2014. The announcements come on the heels of another sell-out in Solvang, where the second annual Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure hosted hundreds of passionate wine consumers and over 60 SYV/SB artisan winemakers — and was dubbed “a wildly exuberant and fun wine event” by the LA Times[1].

“Following a big success in Solvang for these remarkable garagiste winemakers, who continue to find an audience of passionate new fans through our events, we could not be more excited to announce the date of our first Los Angeles festival this summer (with more details to come soon), and for our fourth annual festival this fall in Paso Robles,” said Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick. “Consumers flock to our festivals because there is nowhere else where they can taste so many ‘garagiste’ wines under the same roof – and these are the real deal: true garagistes who pay close, hands-on attention to every wine they make.”

The non-profit Garagiste Festivals are the only events that exclusively showcase high-quality, cutting-edge, small-production commercial wineries that produce fewer than 1,500 cases a year, and have emerged as among the most unique and influential wine events in the US. Named one of the ‘Top Nine Incredible Epicurean Vacations’ in the world by ABC News and a ‘not to miss’ event by the LA Times, the festivals have introduced hundreds of outstanding artisan winemakers to thousands of passionate wine consumers, members of the trade and media, elevating the profiles of many of the winemakers nationally for the first time, and raising thousands of dollars for the education of future winemakers.

“The Garagiste Festivals continue to grow because they are completely unique among wine events – always held in interesting venues, with a relaxed, intimate, fun and ‘no- snobs-allowed’ atmosphere,” said Garagiste Festival co-founder Stewart McLennan “Starting with our first festival in 2011, we have always sold out — evidence that there is a hunger in the wine world for innovative wine making by artisans crafting with passion, a healthy respect for tradition, and an even healthier respect for breaking the rules – and that the Garagiste Festivals are the best way to discover them.”

This March’s Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure, which doubled in size from the previous year, included two days of tasting and a kick off pizza pairing event. The festival has already set the dates for the 2015 Southern Exposure festival, March 28th 29th, again at Veteran’s Hall in Solvang.

The Los Angeles Garagiste Festival event will be held on July 12th, 2014 and the fourth annual Paso Robles Garagiste Festival will be held on November 6th – 9th, 2014 in Paso Robles.

To preserve an intimate experience for consumers with one-on-one interaction with winemakers, tickets are always very limited for the Garagiste Festivals. To be alerted when tickets go on sale for Los Angeles and Paso Robles, for special discounts and for breaking news about all Garagiste events, sign up for The Dirt at, or follow us on Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or Facebook (

The non-profit Garagiste Festivals benefit the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture program.

For sponsorship info, email info(at)garagistefestival(dot)com.

**Garagistes (gar-uh-zhē-stuh) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. The Garagiste Festivals were the first to shine a light on the American garagiste winemaker in 2011. Since then, the festival has helped consumers discover the remarkable wines of hundreds of true garagistes, who handcraft under 1,500 cases a year and pay close, hands-on attention to every wine they make.

About The Garagiste Festivals

The Garagiste Festivals ( are the first and only wine festivals dedicated to the undiscovered and under-recognized artisan ‘garagiste’ producers who are making some of the best, most exciting, handcrafted small-lot production wines in the world. Founded by fellow garagistes Stewart McLennan and Douglas Minnick, the Garagiste Festivals are committed to discovering the best and most innovative limited-production winemakers and promoting and showcasing them to a broad audience of discerning wine consumers. In addition to its flagship annual festival in Paso Robles, CA, the Garagiste Festival line-up includes Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure, featuring Santa Ynez Valley garagistes; garagiste mini-tastings presented from So Cal to Tahoe; winemaker dinners, a newsletter, garagiste profiles and more. Named one of the “Top Nine Incredible Epicurean Vacations” by ABC News, Garagiste Festivals are produced by Garagiste Events, a non-profit dedicated to furthering the education of future winemakers and those training for employment within the wine industry. Proceeds from the festivals are donated to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program.

Media Contacts:

mWEBB Communications for The Garagiste Festivals

Melanie Webber, melanie(at)mwebbcom(dot)com, 424-603-4340

Crystal Hartwell, crystal(at)mwebbcom(dot)com, 714-987-1016


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Apr 22, 2014
Terri Judson

Paso Robles wine region is a quieter alternative to California’s more famous …

Anyone looking to holiday in a California wine region with all the sophistication of Napa and Sonoma without their crowds—and prices—should consider a visit to Paso Robles, a small coastal city, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Especially this year as Paso Robles celebrates its Quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary.

We wanted only to stop there for lunch but ended up spending the afternoon exploring its downtown, captivated by its fine restaurants, art galleries and funky shops, including a jewelry store with a wine-tasting area in the back. Unfortunately, we didn’t have more time to poke around as the region offers many mostly undiscovered treasures, especially when it comes to eating well-prepared local produce and drinking excellent local wines.

Our Lonely Planet guidebook recommended we exit Highway 101 to sample the food at Thomas Hill Organics Bistro and Wine Lounge, just off the city’s historic town square. We ate al fresco under its awning-covered patio, first sharing a kale salad prepared with a variety of crispy fresh greens, no doubt all harvested that morning from the restaurant’s own nearby garden. Our freshly baked ciabatta sandwiches, goat cheese with poached persimmon and fresh basil for me and, for my wife, smoked salmon with avocado and sunflower sprouts, were distinctive—and tasty. The local Denner winery’s Viognier was fruity, refreshing and also crisp.

Thomas Hill Organics is one of about two-dozen restaurants within a few blocks of the town square, all specializing in locally-grown food and seasonal menus.

We skip dessert at the restaurant for lavender honey gelato at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, one of 20 shops and restaurants on the square, also home to a weekly farmers’ market and bandstand concerts every Friday evening during the summer. Among the other tempting sweet-tooth choices on the square are cocoa mint cookies from the Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookie Company or English Toffee apples from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Also worth a visit is Studios on the Park, an open studio to watch artists at work in various media and to check out their latest exhibit. The studio sponsors monthly evening art walks that take in other galleries as well as wine-tasting rooms. And there’s Siegel’s, a family jewelry store that may be the world’s only full-service jeweler and pawnbroker with a wine-tasting area. Customers can sample reds and whites from the prize-winning nearby Frolicking Frog Winery as they consider diamond sizes.

Just two decades ago, the area had some 30 wineries; today there is almost that number of tasting rooms around the city square. There are 200 vineyards nearby. Last year, Wine Enthusiast declared Paso Robles Wine Region of the Year. Originally, known for its Rhone varietals, the current offerings include much more, from cabernets to zinfandels.

But wine is not the only liquid here for tasting. The Pithy Little Wine Company, in addition to its own wines, lets visitors sample its homemade sodas. For families, it’s ideal: the kids quaff orange cream and vanilla sodas while the grownups check out the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Olives are another major regional crop, and there are a number of nearby growers who offer tours and tasting rooms. Visitors can taste different blends or fruit-infused olive oils such as tangerine or lemon. One benefit of olive oil tasting tours: no need for a designated driver.

Still, wine reigns supreme. There are two major wine festivals every year, one in the spring and the other in the fall. On the third weekend in May (May 15-18, 2014), some 130 wineries put on Wine Festival events while about half of the producers gather in the town square to show off their best vintages.

During October, on that month’s third weekend (Oct. 17-19, 2014), regional vineyards celebrate the annual grape picking during Harvest Wine Weekend. The wineries report that it’s their busiest time of the year. Some stay at inns in the vineyards, others in town where accommodations range from boutique luxury to motels.

The “big blowout� 125th birthday party this year occurs on Pioneer Day, October 11, an annual celebration of the community’s heritage. It starts off with a morning parade featuring antique tractors and marching bands that ends at noon with a baked bean feed for everyone. And it’s free. Volunteers start stirring the beans in 12 huge kettles before dawn. The recipe includes some 1,200 pounds of beans, 500 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of bell peppers and some 70 pounds of secret seasonings.

Says Quasquicentennial organizer Shonna Howenstine: “Our community has always had a pioneer spirit. It’s coming out of the recession quite well, and this year our birthday will truly be a time to celebrate all that we now have to offer.�

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Apr 22, 2014
Terri Judson

Quick Bites: How to be a smart seafood eater, made easy, plus three festivals …

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch outreach manager Ryan Bigelow debones how and why to make conscious and sustainable choices on fish, shrimp, shellfish and more—without breaking the bank—at Monterey Hostel‘s free potluck talk series 6pm Monday, April 28, at 778 Hawthorne in New Monterey. (Bring something to share; the program starts at 6:45pm; 372-5762 for more.)

That’s appetizing news for eaters familiar with the cluelessness, misdirection and paucity of sustainable options that shadows seafood eating and shopping in restaurants and markets—and the at-times-steep sticker prices for responsibly harvested fish.

The Weekly and Assistant Editor Kera Abraham helped pioneer coverage of Oceana North America‘s efforts to hold purveyors accountable for misinformation with a enterprising investigative cover story “Something Fishy: Seafood fraud disguises farmed salmon as wild, tilapia as snapper and sole as sand dabs. What’s on your plate—and how did it get there?

Now California Sen. Alex Padilla, D—Los Angeles, has introduced a bill in Sacramento, SB 1138, which would make it unlawful for any person to knowingly sell mislabeled seafood.

His office’s announcement of the bill spotlights the fact that, while spending on seafood in the United States has grown to more than $80 billion annually, state law does not provide clear guidance regarding accurate labeling of seafood.

“The lack of standards has led to high rates of mislabeling throughout our state,” it reads.

It refs the Oceana survey and its harrowing findings—including the discovery 84 percent of Southern California sushi samples were not the same fish they were labeled as. 

“The Oceana study revealed that half the tested seafood sold in California is routinely mislabeled. SB 1138 will change that. Honesty in seafood labeling is important to both our health and our oceans,” Padilla says. “It’s quite simple, when the menu says ‘halibut,’ we should actually be served halibut. Seafood labeled ‘red snapper” should actually be red snapper.’” 

SB 1138 is modeled after similar legislation passed in the state of Washington.

More quick bites follow, starting with more conscious food news:

• The Sustainable Foods Fair represents one of the most fun and affordable pieces of Cooking for Solutions weekend May 14-16. It’s Saturday the 17th, with artisan food tastings, a Whole Foods market, “talk and taste” demos on the deck from stars like Jose Garces, Lorena Garcia and Nathan Lyon, free with admission, 10am-6pm.

• Last week, the state of Vermont passed H.112, what some advocates are calling this country’s first “no-strings-attached” law requiring the mandatory labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and prohibiting the practice of labeling GMO foods as “natural” or “all-natural.”

• Weekly food contributor Shiho Fukushima organizes an event with Dr. Beatrice Levinson of Monterey Bay Naturopathy that asks “How serious is the gluten epidemic and can it change the future of the restaurant industry?” 1pm Saturday, April 26, at Rio Grill. RSVP to

• A cool $10 from every corkage popped Wednesdays in May at Knuckles and Fireside Lounge at Hyatt Monterey (372-1234) goes to Hope Center for Monterey.

Big Sur Food Wine Festival made‘s Top Food Wine Festivals for 2014. The fact that FlipKey is a vacation rental website and said rentals are wildly controversial on the South Coast adds a little spice of irony.

• The 55th annual Castroville Artichoke Food Wine Festival moves to Monterey Fairgrounds May 31-June 1.

Carmel Valley Garden Association‘s free 45th annual Garden Show, “Under the Valley Sun,” happens 10am to 4pm, May 3-4, 2014 at Hidden Valley Music Seminars (659-0436 for more).

Santa Lucia Highlands annual gala ($85) is May 17 at Mer Soleil. Thirty-plus of the very best wineries in the state.

• J D’s Foods now has bacon flavored and gravy flavored weight loss shakes ($19.99, For real.

• The 22nd annual Monterey County Vintners and Growers’ (375-9400) Winemakers Celebration pours 100-plus local wines on Dolores Street in Carmel 2-5pm Saturday, May 3, hopefully adding momentum to host the city’s farmers market on its streets and in its park rather than Sunset’s parking lot.

• Fun fact: Olive trees can live past 600. Tasty fact: Holman Ranch estate olive oil ($25/375ml) is superb thanks to a blend of Tuscan, Spanish and French varietals. It’s also now available online and at the tasting room (659-2640).

• Follow @MontereyMCA as I eat toward 1,600 tweets.

• Valley Hills Deli BBQ does another bargain tasting/pairing session ($12) 5-7pm Wednesday, April 30, starring Antle Wines with bites like poached salmon, chicken-artichoke sausage and sirloin kebabs. RSVP at 293-8608.

• Beers are half off every Monday all day at reborn Bahama Grille (676-3568) on Main Street in Salinas (look for our review out Thursday).

• On May 2, Arroyo Seco Winegrowers hold a wine dinner at Will’s Fargo in Carmel Valley from 6-10pm ($125). for more.

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