I recently returned from two days at the Paso Garagiste Festival. This is the event’s fourth year, and it has grown leaps and bounds since I wrote about the inaugural event in 2011. That year, 44 wineries participated in a one-day event; now it is a four day event. This year 60 wineries alone poured on Saturday, November 8 at the Grand Tasting; another 19 wineries participated in The Opening Round on Friday night. In all told, 79 wineries pouring over 150 wines. The garagiste movement is strong.
Attendance that first year was nearly 700 people; this year more than 1,000 consumers attended. The event also moved from a quaint horse stable at Windfall Farms to the larger Paso Robles Fairgrounds. Perhaps not as elegant, but winemaker and lighting designer Bill Powell (who was also pouring his wines at Powell Mountain Wines) did a nice job of transforming a cavernous room into something cool.
I walk into an event room at Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles, Ca, for a class in wine aromas expecting to see lots of wine bottles and glasses. No such luck. The only bottles are small vials set out on one table. I’m thinking, ok this will be interesting.
The man seated at that table is Alexandre Schmitt. He’s not a winemaker or an enologist. Instead, Alexandre is a perfumer. He calls himself a Creator of Perfumes and an Expert of Wine Aromas. His goal is to help people working in the wine industry find a common language to express what they smell when they stick their nose in a glass. All the vials that he brought are full of essential oils and flavored oils.
You know the legendary stories about how Apple Computers and Hewitt Packard were created in a garage, by visionaries who broke all the rules and changed an industry. Wine garagistes do the same thing. What in the world is a garagiste? Garagiste [gar-uh-zhe-stuh] is a name coined for winemakers in Bordeaux, France making small amount of high quality wines in their home garages and bucking conventional wine tradition. That innovative spirit is alive and well in the United States, particularly on California’s Central Coast. That’s where you’ll find Paso Robles, home to the first ever garagiste festival in the country.
Supporting them is crucial to their survival. Read more