This November, The Garagiste Festival, which was named America’s Best Wine Festival by USA Today, returns to its birthplace in Paso Robles for the ninth year in a row. Considered a local institution, since launching in 2011, the Garagiste Festival has incubated hundreds of ground-breaking, small lot winemakers and helped launch the American Garagiste wine movement, all while doing its part to call attention to the wide diversity of the Paso Robles region, which was named ‘Wine Region of the Year’ by Wine Enthusiast among many recent accolades.
While the festival has expanded to four festivals across California, Paso has always been the beating heart of the movement, of its renegade spirit and of its mission — and Paso continues to be particularly fertile ground for ‘garagiste’ winemakers (commercial artisan winemakers who make under 1500 cases), most of whom do not have tasting rooms. In fact, this year the festival welcomes 17 first-time Paso-based garagiste winemakers.
Many wineries that have not only become established Paso Robles wineries, but also national stars, such as Alta Colina and Nicora, first came to the public’s attention at the Garagiste Festival. Indeed, Paso’s renowned Tin City is heavily populated with wineries who poured their first vintage at a Garagiste Festival before a tasting room was ever a consideration.
Nowhere else can a wine consumer find so many of these (74 this year!) under-the-radar wineries under one roof other than at the Garagiste Festival … most are not on wine trail maps – in fact, The Garagiste Festival, and its website, have become the defacto wine trail maps for small production wineries.
And no one understands the core of the garagiste movement and how its innovative winemakers continue to sprout from Paso’s wine-friendly soils, keeping the wine industry fresh and on its toes, better than the team that founded the festival and continues to produce it.
I think a story on how the garagiste movement has developed in the past 9 years – looking at what is different today from 2011 – how Paso’s garagiste influence has impacted the wine industry overall, and where the future of the American – and Paso – garagiste movement lies would be terrific and timely.
For a little context, here is The Garagiste Festival, by the numbers: