Staff Report

The Garagiste Wine Festival, which has been named America’s Best Wine Festival by USA Today, returns to Solvang Feb. 8-10.

This is the seventh year that the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure has showcased the wines of some of California’s best small-production winemakers in one of California’s most charming small towns. 

“America’s best wine festival meets one of America’s best historic small towns for the seventh year in a row. What could make for a better wine country weekend?” said Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick. “There is a special place in our hearts for Solvang, and for the amazing small-production winemakers who pour at this venue. … We love the diversity of the wines poured here, with multiple micro-climates, grape varieties and innovative blends represented.” 

More than 40 winemakers from Santa Barbara County and across California will converge at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall to pour more than 150 wines in a weekend of events that includes the continuation of the festival’s “Original Garagiste” seminars, moderated by Garagiste Festival Co-founder and KRUSH radio host Stewart McLennan, and this year featuring Central Coast winemaking legend Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines. 

“We are proud to lead off our main event with a one-on-one discussion and tasting with Ken Brown – a true original ‘garagiste’ many years before micro-production winemaking became a movement,’ McLennan said. “Ken was one of the first to recognize the cool climate potential of this region back in the ’70s and to craft delicious wines from pinot noir and chardonnay right here in Santa Barbara. We are looking forward to an informative and inspiring conversation as we taste some of his delicious wines.” 

In this Saturday seminar, attendees will learn how he helped shape the Santa Barbara wine scene and why he ultimately returned to small-lot winemaking. 

Brown, whose Ken Brown Wines focuses on very small lots of pinot noir from the Sta. Rita Hills, is recognized as one of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers and innovators. He was founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and spent 20 years at Byron Vineyard and Winery, which later sold to the Robert Mondavi family.

The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure begins on Friday, Feb. 8, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., when those attending can share limited club only, library and pre-release bottles and barrel samples along with a barbecue buffet.

After Brown’s seminar on Saturday, the day continues with the main event, the Grand Tasting, from 2 to 5 p.m.

The Garagiste Festival features the wines of commercial garagiste winemakers who make fewer than 1,500 cases per year.

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