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Last weekend, I attended a fantastic event that I hope will be repeated annually (if not more often). Garagiste North is “The Small Guys Wine Festival”, organized by Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer Stone and hosted by Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls. The term garagiste (Gar-aH-jeest) was coined in France in the 1990s, referring to a group of winemakers in Bordeaux who were making wines that did not conform to the strict regulations on varietals used and wine styles dictated by the appellations. They produce small lots of wines that come from previously unknown estates without proven track record or pedigree. Garagiste North showcases many of the artisan producers of wine in the South Okanagan. All of the garagiste wineries have an annual production of less than 2000 cases, and many are only around the 500-case level or fewer.IMG_9262

I had previously had the chance to try wines from several of the garagistes but there were plenty of new wines for me to try! Some standout wines of the day (for me) included the 2012 Chardonnay and the 2012 Wildfire Pinot Noir from Anarchist Mountain Vineyard in Osoyoos. The Chardonnay has amazing flavours of pineapple, clove, lemon and spice with bright acidity and a very long finish. The Pinot Noir is elegant and well-balanced, with silky tannins and flavours of cherry, raspberry, damson plum and herbes de Provence.IMG_9293 Roche Wines is one of the newest producers at the event. Dylan Roche is currently the winemaker at Intersection Winery in Oliver. His wife Penelope grew up in Bordeaux (her family owned Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion) and is a viticultural consultant and instructor in the South Okanagan. Their 2012 Chardonnay and 2013 Pinot Gris are both elegant food-friendly wines that I would happily enjoy drinking again and again.IMG_9273 I think my favourite Pinot Noir of the day was from Carson – a beautiful Burgundian style with great earthiness. Chris Carson & Jacqueline Kemp certainly make some phenomenal Pinot Noir from the Naramata Bench!IMG_9284 Vindication Cellars is the label from Jeff Del Nin who, by day, is the winemaker for Church & State Wines. He had a Cabernet Franc Rosé and a Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend called Blind Tiger on offer. The Rosé was nice and dry with bright red fruit and spice and the Blind Tiger was delicious, with great structure, soft ripe tannins and flavours of dark fruit and spice. I look forward to trying his Teroldego (a northern Italian red varietal) once those vines start producing fruit in his vineyard.IMG_9281 Tightrope Winery, owned by viticulturist Graham O’Rourke and winemaker Lyndsay O’Rourke, from the Naramata Bench consistently makes great wines. I have yet to try one that I don’t like. On this day, they were pouring their Riesling – crisp, dry, with lots of bright citrus and a hint of petrol, their Viognier – 50% oak-aged with lees stirring, with crisp acidity, great mouthfeel and lovely ripe apricot flavours, and their elegant Pinot Noir, with lovely earthiness and flavours of cherry, raspberry and spice.IMG_9279 Money Pit Wines does things a little differently that some of the other wineries. Owner/winemaker Scott Stefishen decided to go for a commercial winery license which, unlike a Land-Based Winery license, allows him to source fruit from wherever he chooses. He has decided to source his fruit from whichever location offers the best growing conditions each year. Some vintages that may mean the South Okanagan, other years (such as 2012) it meant Washington State. Both red wines that I tried – College Fund, a blend of Syrah & Malbec, along with Catch 22, a blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc and Malbec, were made from grapes that came from Yakima and Oroville, WA. Both have nice ripe fruit flavours and good structure and are at the bargain price of $16/bottle.IMG_9268 Vin Perdu was another standout at the event. They are so new that they had to draw some wine from the barrels and bottle them by hand specifically for the festival. They had a delicious 2013 Cabernet Franc available for tasting, with lovely structure and flavours of plum, raspberry and spice. (Note: I have since visited them and had a barrel sample of their Chardonnay, which is phenomenal and I can’t wait until it’s bottled and for sale!) Vin Perdu Cellars is owned by Ray Coulombe and run by him, his wife Wendy and their daughters. It will be opening on Highway 97, south of Oliver, next spring – watch for them!IMG_9297 Although I am very familiar with Bella Wines, BC’s only sparkling wine-exclusive winery, I can never pass up bubbles so stopped by their barrel to try the new releases. This year Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose released their 2013 Sparkling Gamay Wines in the spring but held onto the 2013 Sparkling Chardonnays until the fall, allowing for some longer lees contact (10 months). I think this was a brilliant move as it really lends to some delicious toasty notes, particularly in the 2013 Oliver West Sparkling Chard (sourced from Secrest Vineyard). I compared this to the 2013 Sparkling Chardonnay sourced from Keremeos which is far fruitier, despite the exact same vinification. Love what terroir can do!IMG_9288IMG_9302IMG_9301IMG_9300IMG_9290IMG_9289Sadly I was unable to try all the wines at the event as I was on a very short timeline (I took advantage of a quiet period in the tasting room to sneak over!) but I was able to get a very positive impression of a well-planned event, where everyone was enjoying themselves (garagistes and wine-samplers) in a relaxed atmosphere and thankfully under bright sunny skies and with fabulous wines! All of the participating garagistes are listed below with links to their websites.

Anarchist Mountain Vineyard, Andrew Stone & Terry Meyer Stone

BC Wine Studio, Mark SimpsonIMG_9292

Bella Wines, Jay Drysdale & Wendy Rose

Black Cloud, Bradley Cooper & Audralee DaumIMG_9285

Carson Pinot Noir, Chris Carson & Jacqueline Kemp (contact via email: carsonpinot (at) gmail (dot) com)

Cana Vines, Mindy & Lisa Elgert

Corcelettes Estate Winery, Charlie BaesslerIMG_9271

Daydreamer Wines, Marcus & Rachel AnsemsIMG_9270

Lariana Cellars, Dan & Carol ScottIMG_9269

Money Pit Wines, Scott StefishenIMG_9266

Nagging Doubt Wines, Rob WestburyIMG_9264

River Stone Estate Winery, Ted & Lorraine Kane

Roche Winery, Dylan Roche & Penelope Furt-RocheIMG_9274

Sage Hills, Rick ThrussellIMG_9272

Seven Directions, Daniel Bontorin & Kristine WitkowskiIMG_9276

Stable Door Cellars, Dave & Susie Tebbutt, Scott & Danielle RobinsonIMG_9278

Squeezed, Michael, Christina & Nicole Ferreira

Tightrope Winery, Graham & Lyndsay O’Rourke

Vindication Cellars, Jeff Del Nin

Vin Perdu Cellars, The Coulombe Family (Ray, Wendy, Catherine & Nathalie)IMG_9277