I arrived at Masten avenue just about 10 am for the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Another 20 minutes or so of street traffic before arriving in the parking lot. Another 15 minutes to get a shuttle bus and arrive at the admission gate.
I skipped breakfast so I was a little hungry. After getting the lay of the land I headed to gourmet alley for an appetizer. I decided on the calamari. It was nicely tenderized calamari in an Italian tomato based sauce with loads of garlic and just a bit of extra spice. I found it absolutely delicious and was just what the doctor ordered.
I then headed to the wine pavilion where 23 wineries from Santa Clara Valley were pouring a few wines each. Tickets were $7 each for three 2 oz tastes. They had a nice handout of all the wines being poured. I finally settled on a glass of Lightheart Cellars 2010 Caneros Chardonnay to start. Very crisp with citrus and tart lemon on the finish. Plenty of nice white and Rose’ wines to chose from. I particularly liked Sycamore Creek Vineyards 2010 Uvas Rose’. A little scary looking at first because it’s so dark. It’s made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. It has a nice off dry style with some rich fruit, but not overwhelming.
After a few tastes I headed to the Garlic Cookoff competition. Four teams competing for $5000 in the secret ingredient, one hour format made so famous by Iron Chef. I, however, was getting a little hot and was not interested in sitting out the entire hour.
Eventually I ended up back at Gourmet Alley and went for the $12 combo plate with Scampi, Garlic Sausage, Chicken Stir fry, and Garlic Mushrooms. I brought my plate back to the wine pavilion where I started with an interesting white wine that reminded me a bit of a floral Sauvignon Blanc with not as much acid. It was from Kirigin Cellars, their 2009 Malvasia Bianca. The Sarah’s Vineyard 2009 Central Coast Grenache was another wine I particularly liked. A red fruit style Grenache that is low acid, very easy drinking and balanced.
This was the 33rd Annual Gilroy Garlic festival and they have raised almost $9 Million dollars for local charities during that time. They have plenty of music, food, beer, wine, entertainment, and a large kids area; pretty much what you need to keep everyone happy.
You do need to consider the heat and traffic congestion. To be honest it’s kept me away more than once. But this time I got in early and enjoyed a great lunch and early afternoon of browsing around before the worst of the traffic, crowds, and heat. So give yourself plenty of time to arrive and depart, and drink plenty of water.