Garagiste Festival: Number #1…with a Bottle

How the heck did The Garagiste Festival end up being voted the #1 Best Wine Festival in the Country?

By Doug Minnick, Co-Founder, The Garagiste Festival

When Stewart McLennan and I came up with the idea of gathering some of our favorite small wineries under one roof eight years ago, we figured we had a good idea, but we didn't really know how it would play out. We didn’t even know how many winemakers would be interested, not to mention consumers and sponsors.  But with early support from key wineries we knew there would be good wine to drink if all else failed. So we had that going for us.

Then what happened? First we sold out of winery space, then we sold out of tickets. Then we ran out of glasses, but that’s another story. (Thanks to Cass Winery for saving the day after a frantic moonshiner’s run down Creston Road).

And it worked, and everybody seemed to have a good time. We were super lucky to have Lisa Dinsmore making sure everything ran like a clock and Melanie Webber spreading the word, (and a fantastic crew of volunteers who continue to amaze us) and when it was all said and done, we raised a glass and decided to do it again the next year.

Fast forward eight years as we approach our 21st individual event. We have moved out of Windfall Farms to the much larger Fairgrounds, added events throughout California (but Paso will always be home), given a name and a center to the entire micro-winery movement, introduced over 300 wineries to more than 10,000 eager consumers, donated over a $100,000 to Cal Poly, and had some serious fun along the way.

Because we wanted to “pay it forward”, we became a Non-Profit organization and over the years have donated more than $100,000 to Cal Poly – first as donations used to purchase needed lab equipment for their new pilot winery (now the Justin and J. Lohr Center for Wine and Viticulture) and now as The Garagiste Festival Scholarships, which are used to support deserving Wine and Vit students, some of whom are already working in our industry.

And now to top it off, we have just been voted the #1 Best Wine Festival in the Country by the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. How the heck did that happen?

Much of this recognition is reflected glory from the great winemakers who pour at the Garagiste Festivals. Winemakers of this size don't make enough wine to interest large distributors, so they aren't concerned with what will sell in supermarkets. They are making the wine they want to drink. This makes for some of the best, most interesting and adventurous wines in the world, if you ask us. It’s great stuff.

Our dedicated and loyal fans appreciate that the Garagiste Festival is a singular opportunity discover a new world of wineries - many of whom do not have tasting rooms - all under one roof.  And because ticket sales are limited and the winemakers themselves are present to pour their wines, both consumers and winemakers enjoy the opportunity to meet and talk to one another.

Many of the wineries who poured in the early years have seen their businesses grow, opening their own tasting rooms and increasing production. We are proud to have played a role in helping these wineries find their audience in their early days.

More and more excellent wineries continue to join us and the Garagiste Festival remains the only place to discover so many of these cutting–edge winemakers early in the game, while enjoying the many mainstays who pour with us every year.

So if you’ve never been to the Garagiste Festival, your next chance to discover these adventurous, hard-to-find wineries will be the weekend of November 10th at the Fairgrounds (with a Friday night November 9th Rare and Reserve event and Garagiste Passport Day on Sunday, Nov 11th).

Come taste for yourself!
Event details and tickets available here