A few Napa County small wine producers will be pouring their wines at the second annual Garagiste Wine Festival – Northern Exposure from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, April 13. The event will be held at the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall, 126 First St. West in Sonoma.
Overall, 40 wine producers, including those from Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lodi, Sierra Foothills, will be pouring at the festival.
Three of the Napa Valley-based producers include Greyscale Wines, founded in 2008 by Jean and Larry Rowe; Hunter Glenn Wines, based in St. Helena, with family roots to 1942; and March Wines, a producer of Riesling and Rose wines, run by the husband-and-wife team of Charley Johnson and Maura Christoffers.
Tickets for the event range from $60 to $115 for a VIP ticket, which includes a morning seminar and early entrance to the event at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.com.
The Garagiste Festival features small production commercial winemakers who are making fewer than 1,500 cases per year. According to its website, the mission of the festival is to “support the small guys and girls who don’t have big marketing budgets and the time to get out there and sell their wine.”
The Rowes specialize in Bordeaux-style wines and currently sell five wines on their website, all made with grapes grown in the Napa Valley. Those wines include two vintages of Merlot, a 2014 and 2015, made with grapes grown in the Oak Knoll District. Each vintage is priced at $44. The website also lists a 2014 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($65), with added Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines. The 2014 and 2016 vintages of a white Cuvee Blanc is made from barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc (97%) and 3 percent Semillon. It is made from grapes grown in Rutherford and sells for $27.
In 2006, the Rowes made their first barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon, with grapes grown at the Stagecoach Vineyard. They employed Kian Tavakoli as winemaker and used a custom crush facility in San Francisco. They decided to go commercial two years later and released their first vintage of Cuvee Blanc in 2008.
In 2012, the Rowes joined the Kito Wine consortium, continue with Tavakoli as winemaker and currently make their wines at Eleven:Eleven Winery in Napa.
Hunter Glenn Wines
The Hunter Glenn Estate, run by Jeffrey Shifflett Jr., his sister, Caroline and their mother, Ellen, produce four wines from their 5-acre vineyard that includes a small barn in St. Helena.
According to their website, the wines are 2017 Chardonnay ($30), 2016 Syrah ($40), 2016 Napa Valley Red Wine ($45) and a 2014 Cabernet Franc ($80), with grapes sourced from three vineyards including their estate vineyard. The other two are Starscape Vineyard and Shifflett Ranch & Vineyard called “The Ranch.”
The Shifflett family arrived in the Napa Valley from Iowa and in 1942, Wade Sr. and his wife, Mimi, bought 120 acres in the foothills of the Mayacamas Range. “The Ranch” was their home.
In the late 1970s, Wade Jr. and Olga partnered with their children to plant 60 acres of grapes, alongside their orchards and cattle. The third generation planted the first blocks of Chardonnay in 1981.
For more than 30 years, the Shiffletts have grown and sold some of the most sought-after grapes in the Napa Valley, according to a press release. Jeffrey Jr. continues to managing the farming at “The Ranch,” and his aunt, Kathryn, leads the efforts from her home on the property.
The name “March Wines” comes from the names of the husband-and-wife team that own it — Maura Christoffers and Charley Johnson, who both work at small production, high-end wineries in the Napa Valley. Their focus is creating California and Napa Valley Rieslings, which their website calls “lighter bodied, complex wines that are affordable and fun to drink.”
After meeting at a Duckhorn harvest party in 2012, the two began dating and created their wine label four years later, starting with Riesling grapes grown in a Santa Cruz Mountain vineyard that was first planted in 1971. One of the four wines on their website is a 2018 Old Vine Riesling from Redwing Vineyard, priced at $25.
Two other wines on the website are both from the 2018 vintage, a red and a rose, both made with St. Laurent grapes grown on what it claimed is the only three acres planted in that varietal in California. Dale Ricci planted the vineyard in 2001 in the Carneros region in Sonoma County. The red wine is $32; the rose of St. Laurent is $25.
The last wine on the website is a 2017 Pinot Rose ($20), made from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
After graduating from UC Davis, Christoffers traveled around the world, doing harvests in Australia, Germany and New Zealand, working at wineries that all made Riesling. She ended up in Napa.
Johnson graduated in 2010 from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and moved to the Napa Valley, making big, red wines. According to the website, “His love for drinking aromatic whites and strong work ethic, was the final push to make March Wines a reality.”