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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
There are about 9,000 wineries in the United States. Almost half of the total (approximately 4,000) of those wineries have limited production of fewer than 1,000 cases.
These small producers are sometimes called “garagiste.” The term “garagiste” originated in Bordeaux, France and referred to renegade producers in the mid-1990s who did not want to follow the strict rules of the region. Many of them made wine in their garages, hence the name, but today these “garagiste” producers around the world are producing some of the best wine in the world.
But as small producers, how do their get their stories out? These are wines made of passion and can be hard to find. Many of them do not have tasting rooms. They sell direct to consumers and possibly to local restaurants and retail shops. And another way to find them is at the Garagiste Festival.
The first Garagiste Festival was in Paso Robles in 2011. It was started by Doug Minnick and Stewart McLennan as “a way to shine a light on small lot, amazing wines that typically do not have tasting rooms,” explained Melanie Webber who handles the public relations and communications and has been working with Doug and Stewart since the beginning.
Since 2011, there have been 18 festivals, seven in Paso Robles, six in Solvang, four in Los Angeles and one in Oakland. In May 2018, they are going to Sonoma for the first time.
GARAGISTES -(gar-uh-zhē-stuh) n, Fr. – A term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garage, who refused to follow the “rules.” Today it is a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. Syn: Rule-breakers, pioneers, renegades, mavericks, driven by passion. These are small production commercial winemakers who are making under 1200 cases per year. Most of them don't have tasting rooms, nor do they have big marketing budgets to promote their wines. The Garagiste Festival was created to celebrate the artisan winemakers.