Anush Gharibyan-O'Connor, executive director of GiniFest, with Robert Hayk, the cofounder of Grapes and Barley Imports

GiniFest Setting New Records, Going International: Video Included

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BURBANK, Calif. — This year GiniFest, the Armenian Wine and Spirits Festival, lived up to so many of the expectations that philanthropist Stepan Partamian and wine specialist and sommelier Anush Gharibyan-O’Connor set five years ago, when they founded the festival. GiniFest unites winemakers who repatriated to Armenia in the last fifteen years and those who immigrated to the United States starting in the early 1900s and continued the traditions of their ancestors interrupted by the Armenian Genocide and the Soviet Union’s industrialization.

Victoria Aslanian of ArmAs Wines (photo Frederick Melikian)

On Sunday, May 22, GiniFest hosted thirty wineries who presented their wines to more than 1300 guests. Gharibyan-O’Connor is convinced that the festival is making an impact on the industry by creating the right place for new winemakers to thrive and the old ones to grow. “We have a local winemaker from LA – Kassabian Vineyard. They grow their grapes in the Calabasas area, Hidden Hills. The best part of it is that because of the GiniFest, they are excited to make this an even a bigger project. So for example, Kassabian Vineyard was only making one type of wine. Now, because of the festival they source a Sauvignon Blanc from Northern California to increase their portfolio,” said Gharibyan-O’Connor.

Andrea and Diko Kassabian of Kassabian Vineyard (photo Frederick Melikian)

Besides wineries, six spirits companies and forty other vendors offered their ideas, services, products and visions in one way or another connected with the Armenian heritage. The high percentage of non-Armenian attendees indicates the growing interest in the Armenian wine industry.

Lusine Simonyan, founder of Miray Collections (photo Frederick Melikian)

Encouraged by the success of GiniFest, Partamian and Gharibyan-O’Connor decided to expand the festival and transform it into an international wine festival which will represent less known winemaking countries like Greece, Croatia, Israel, Moldova, Georgia and Bulgaria. In fact, Bulgarian wines were at the GiniFest, foreshadowing this upcoming event in November.

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