Garagiste Festival

Kyle Knapp pours his Press Gang Cellars wines at the 2014 Garagiste Festival. 

The third annual "Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure" is set for March 27-29 in Solvang, with its biggest lineup of hard-to-find, micro-production wines, and new seminars and tastings.

The Garagiste Festival began in Paso Robles in 2011 as a showcase for small production wineries in that region. It expanded in 2013, with its Southern Exposure event, to provide the same opportunity for Santa Barbara County producers.

"We'll have 60 wineries pouring," said Garagiste co-founder Stewart McLennan. "Ninety percent of these wineries do not have their own tasting rooms. They're all really limited production — no more than 1,500 cases — and their winemakers are very hands-on."

The event takes place at the Veterans Memorial Hall. It kicks off Friday with two seminars: an educational (but promised to be "fun") discussion of yeast in wine, with Cal Poly professor and winemaker Matt Brain, and a winemaker "mixer" where winemakers will be bringing out their best of the best for attendees. Grand tastings on Saturday and Sunday afternoons have different wineries each day.

"It's a very focused event. It's the winemaker who is there pouring his or her wine, and we keep it small so that people actually have the chance to talk to that winemaker," said McLennan.

Part of the Garagiste Festival "code" is educating the public, McLennan added. Another new feature this year are tasting seminars preceding the Saturday and Sunday event. Proceeds from the nonprofit event go to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture program.

For more information and tickets, go to: www.californiagaragistes.com.

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