Solvang’s Garagiste Festival Highlights Santa Barbara’s Best Small Producers

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Last weekend, 60 of California’s finest small production wineries gathered at the Solvang’s Veterans Memorial Building for the second annual Southern Exposure Garagiste Festival.  Featuring a variety of small producers from California’s Central Coast, all of which produce fewer than 1,500 cases a year, the two-day festival celebrated the best of Santa Barbara’s small lot, hand-crafted wines.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites of the festival.  While these wineries’ small case production can make finding their wines a bit difficult, the reward is worth the extra effort.

With barely 100 cases produced, I hesitate to share the brilliance of Blake Sillix’s stunning 2011 Grenache and Syrah for fear there will be none left for me!  Expressive and elegant wines, Sillix was the absolute standout of the festival.  Keep your eye on this one, there are big things ahead!

No website, as of yet.

Ryan Cochrane Wines

A great story of reinvention, Ryan Cochrane left his job in a San Francisco advertising agency to pursue his dream of winemaking and hasn’t looked back since.  He now focuses on producing Pinot Noir from the best Garagiste Fest (8)vineyards of Santa Barbara, sourcing fruit from both the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria.  As of 2013, Ryan has added Chardonnay to his repertoire.

Pence Ranch

A local favorite in the Valley, Pence Ranch has been making excellent Pinot Noir since 2009 yet with the assumption of Sashi Moorman as their new resident winemaker, one can only imagine the heights their wine will reach.  A first look into Sashi’s superb winemaking style was poured at the fest, a stunning 2013 Pinot Noir Rose, a wine that at only $18 is an absolute steal.

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Weatherbone’s Cris Carter


Yes, LA’s own Golden Road Brewer Cris Carter is making wine now and like his beer, it’s damn good!  Introducing his very first vintage, a Pinot Noir from the John Sebastiano Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills, this “side project” was one of the stars of the Grand Tasting.

Liquid Farm

Jeff and Niki Nelson began Liquid Farm in 2009 with the goal of making the one wine they loved most: Chardonnay.  Finding the Sta. Rita Hills to be a unique site for creating mineral driven, cool climate wines, Liquid Farm’s Chardonnays are exemplary wines that showcase the very best of the region and are some of my favorite Chardonnays I’ve ever tasted.

Shai CellarsGaragiste Fest (1)

From the Hebrew word for gift, Shai Cellars was begun by Shawn Shai Halahmy in 2008.  Fascinated by the “magical” transformation of water into wine, Shai Cellars focuses on producing small lot, hand crafted wines with extreme care and attention to quality and detail.  Their ’09 Adome red blend of Syrah and Cabernet is worth seeking out.

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David Bradley of Bradley Family Winery

 Bradley Family Winery

Winemaker David Bradley’s very first vintage under his own label, Bradley Family Winery’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is a refreshingly crisp wine from the Adobe Canyon Vineyard in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley.


A small, husband and wife run winery that produces cool climate Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Transcendence focuses not only on making wine, but also on making a difference.  Run with the idea that wine has meaning and can make a positive impact on others, Transcendence donates a minimum of 10% of their profits to several different non-profit organizations and charities. One of the few wineries of the fest with a tasting room, check them out in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

Some other favorites of the fest from outside Santa Barbara County were Paso Robles based Dilecta, Alta Colina, Nicora and ONX Wine.

WSA/NASA Silver Pin Certified Sommelier, Central Coast wine enthusiast and overall travel junkie

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