Wine & Beer

USA Today says the best wine festival in the country is right here in SLO County

Fly over coastal vineyards that may become their own wine region

A birds-eye view of Derbyshire and Stolo Family Vineyards on the North Coast of SLO county. This land could become part of the SLO Coast AVA if approved.
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A birds-eye view of Derbyshire and Stolo Family Vineyards on the North Coast of SLO county. This land could become part of the SLO Coast AVA if approved.

The best wine festival in the country is right here in San Luis Obispo County, according to USA Today — and it doesn’t feature any major wineries or big names.

The Garagiste Festival was named the best wine festival in the country in USA Today’s 10Best list for 2018. The publication’s 10Best editors pick 20 initial nominees and then the top 10 winners are determined by a popular vote of its readers.

The festival is “the first and only wine festival dedicated to the undiscovered and under-recognized artisan ‘garagiste’ producers,” according to its website. The garagiste movement, which originated in the Bordeaux region of France, showcases small-lot winemakers, many of whom work out of their garages.

A birds-eye view of Derbyshire and Stolo Family Vineyards on the North Coast of SLO county. This land could become part of the SLO Coast AVA if approved.

Founded in Paso Robles in 2011, the Garagiste Festival is held four times a year. Each event features California winemakers who produce less than 1,500 cases per year.

“When we came up with the idea eight years ago, we were pretty sure we had lightning in a bottle, but at that point it was just intuition,” co-founder Doug Minnick said. “Fortunately, there was an amazing core of people who understood our vision — from the wineries who poured, the sponsors who supported us, the volunteers who helped make it happen and the fans who bought tickets to what was then an unknown event.”

The next Garagiste Festival will be held Nov. 9 to 11 in Paso Robles.

The other winning wine festivals were:

  • 30A Wine Festival — Alys Beach, Florida
  • Seed Food + Wine Week — Miami
  • Auction Napa Valley — St. Helena, California
  • Finger Lakes Wine Festival — Watkins Glen, New York
  • Naples Winter Wine Festival — Naples, Florida
  • Nantucket Wine & Food Festival — Nantucket, Massachusetts
  • Chicago Gourmet — Chicago
  • Taste Washington — Seattle
  • International Pinot Noir Celebration — McMinnville, Oregon

For the full list, visit www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-wine-festival.

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Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

The first wine grapes of the 2017 vintage are starting to be plucked from the vines in San Luis Obispo County in what growers are describing as a varied vintage.

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