GiniFest Highlights Armenian Wine

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
During this year’s GiniFest, event founder Stepan Partamian was recognized by Mayor Bob Frutos.

Theoretically, good wine can originate from any place on earth that gets full sunlight, has proper drainage, nutrient-poor soil and vineyards tended by micromanagers who oversee the fruit’s development and know the perfect time for harvesting.
Still, conventional wisdom says that when most people purchase or order wine, they tend to make sections that come from France, Italy, California or, perhaps, Spain.


If Anush Gharibyan-O’Connor and Stepan Partamian have their way, that may change.
The duo, who respectively served as the director and founder of the GiniFest 2021 Armenian Wine and Spirits Festival that was recently held at the Castaway Restaurant, have a mission to introduce those who partake of the nectar — that last year reported a global sales revenue of $340 billion — to the wines of Armenia.
Three years ago, Gharibyan-O’Connor, a wine consultant and sommelier who holds a bachelor’s degree in winemaking, joined forces with Partamina, a publisher, documentary filmmaker, talk-show host and founder of the Armenian Arts Fund, to stage GiniFest.

Photos by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Burbank Police Commission member Romik Hacobian, school board member Armond Aghakhanian and City Councilman Nicholas Schultz were on hand for GiniFest.

“We started this to give wine lovers a new choice,” said Gharibyan-O’Connor at the recent event. “We know that most people never think of Armenia when they think of wine-producing countries, but Armenia is actually one of the oldest producers in the world. Wines from this region can be traced back over 6,000 years. The volcanic soil and indigenous varietals of Armenia produce wines that are special and unique. Armenia is also at a high elevation so grapes mature elegantly; they ripen slowly, which enhances their flavor and acidity.”
Going on to explain that many Armenian wines are also aged in “karas,” ancient clay vessels, Gharibyan-O’Connor said that technique is something only expert winemakers can do properly to bring about the desired micro-oxygenation.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Among the vendors at GiniFest were Lusine Simonyan, Ani Tarakchyan and Argineh Danelian of Miray Collections, which offers wearable art created by Armenian artisans.

This year’s third annual staging of GiniFest, which took place at sundown in the courtyard of the Castaway Restaurant, gave attendees the opportunity to sample wines from 28 wineries, six by Armenian winemakers who produce in California and 22 that were imported from Armenia. The event also showcased the work of Armenian artisans, jewelry makers and locally owned Armenian businesses and services.
The event drew a diverse cross-section of attendees, something both Gharibyan-O’Connor and Partamian were thrilled to see and believe will continue as the GiniFest becomes a local tradition. They hope that, rather than being viewed as an event specifically geared toward the local Armenian community, that it will become one that attracts people from the community-at-large in the same way they would attend a festival that celebrates the Italian, Greek or Mexican cultures.Among those who enjoyed this year’s GiniFest were state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Mayor Bob Frutos, the full complement of the Burbank City Council, school board member Armond Aghakhanian, former City Councilman Tim Murphy and representation from the city’s service clubs and nonprofit organizations.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
City Councilmembers Jess Talamantes and Sharon Springer along with state Sen. Anthony Portantino enjoyed the festivities at GiniFest.

A portion of the proceeds raised from this year’s GiniFest will benefit the university tuitions of students in Yerevan, Armenia and the Genolive Project.
Coined by Partamian, “genolive” is a term meant to underscore the fact that, in 1915, the Ottoman Turks failed in their attempt to annihilate the Armenian people. The project highlights not just the Armenian nation’s survival and recovery, but its ongoing quest to enrich humanity with outstanding contributions in fields ranging from art, music, literature and cinema, to sports, politics, science, technology and medicine.
Partamian is currently working on a documentary film based on the genolive concept. The film will include interviews with genocide survivors and descendants who have made major contributions to humanity, as well as people from all over the world, including Turks, who are benefiting from those contributions.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader | Anush Gharibyan-O’Connor and Stepan Partamian welcome local wine lovers to this year’s GiniFest held at the Castaway Restaurant.
Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Among those “partaking of the grape” were Edita Khachatryan and Marina Samson.

David Laurell may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.