For up-and-coming winemakers and small-production vintners without a brick-and-mortar to call home, the Garagiste Wine Festival provides a temporary setting to hold tastings and interact with patrons face-to-face.
The Solvang-based iteration of the two-day event, scheduled for Feb. 9 and 10, is set to be a homecoming of sorts for Casa Dumetz Wines founder Sonja Magdevski, whose own winemaking journey began in her garage. And she was among the pourers at the inaugural Garagiste Wine Festival, held in Paso Robles in 2011.
“Imagine if you’re making wine in your garage or you’re making 500 cases—it’s hard to get your brand out there,” Magdevski said. “Wine is extraordinarily challenging. There’s so much competition, from every level.”
Upon its first occurrence, the Garagiste Wine Festival offered Magdevski and some of her peers in the micro-winery scene a unique outlet to network with one another under the same roof, while promoting, and usually introducing, their respective brands to wine lovers from both near and far.
“They had organized it extraordinarily well. There were a ton of people pouring, and probably three- to four-hundred people who attended,” Magdevski said, recalling her first experience at the festival. “It’s a really beautiful outlet for people who want to discover new wines and learn about what people are doing.”
Magdevski has fond memories of participating in Garagiste during the festival’s premiere event and returned a few more times over the years, but she deliberately hasn’t been back in a while.
“I stopped going because I felt like it was disrespectful to take space from others who needed the space,” Magdevski said. “I no longer make wine on such a small scale, so I just wanted to open up the door for other people to sort of have an opportunity to pour their wines for all the awesome Garagiste attendees.”
Although Magdevski’s winemaking operation still fits under the umbrella of boutique winery, producing about 2,500 cases annually, the primary goal of Garagiste is to highlight relatively hard-to-find or undiscovered small-lot wineries and artisan winemakers.
But a momentous occasion is bringing Magdevski back to the fest once again.
While Garagiste originated in Paso Robles in 2011, 2014 marked the festival’s debut in Solvang. As part of the Solvang event’s 10th anniversary celebration, Garagiste is hosting Magdevski and other fest veterans, including vintners from Kaena Wine and Kessler-Haak Vineyards, who will pour during a special rare and reserve tasting on Feb. 9 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Guests of the tasting will have a Santa Maria-style barbecue buffet dinner—prepared by Plemmons Catering and The Swiss—followed by desserts from Solvang Bakery.
Garagiste isn’t the only event this winter where Magdevski’s wines will be showcased—her wares will be featured alongside offerings from her peers in the wine industry and culinary experts as well at the upcoming Santa Barbara County Women Winemakers and Culinarians Celebration, a multi-day event held at various venues in Santa Ynez March 7 through 10.
Magdevski’s relationship with the annual program is comparable to her connection with Garagiste, as she has been part of both events since they started. The local vintner not only participated in the inaugural Women Winemakers event, held in 2015, she was also its host, as the event took place at her Casa Dumetz Wines tasting room in Los Alamos.
“At that time, it was maybe 10 or 20 of us,” Magdevski said, recalling that first celebration, developed to highlight women in the local wine industry and recognize International Women’s Day.
The annual event has grown to showcase more than 30 women winemakers on average, as well as a lineup of culinary offerings from women working in the local restaurant and bakery scene.
Magdevski said she appreciates that both the Women Winemakers and Culinarians Celebration and the Garagiste Wine Festival allow the public to interact with vintners they might not have come across previously—and they open doors for emerging talent.
“There’s always new people, thankfully, who are bringing fresh ideas, because there’s always new people entering the wine industry,” Magdevski said. “There’s always new people to discover.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood loves discovering new wine and food happenings. Send tips to [email protected].