Paso Garagiste Movement Celebrates the Small

The Garagiste Festival happened this past weekend – and not only were we going to go, we were going to do an advance post on the event, just in case some of you would want to go.

Alas, Michael’s grandmother passed away the week before, so not only were we in Arizona for the funeral when the festival was on, we kinda got distracted.

But perhaps more important is letting people know about the movement, which is dedicated to supporting small, artisanal winemakers in the Central Coast region. In fact, we were delighted to see that one of our recent featured wineries, Tercero Wines, showed up on the Garagiste member list.

“They don’t have a lot of money for marketing,” said Stewart McLennan, one of the co-founders of Paso Garagiste, about the member wineries. “They don’t have tasting rooms, well, the majority of them don’t.”

McLennan explained that the term Garagiste is the term the winemakers in Bordeaux use when they want to look down their noses at a small producer. But he decided he wanted to put a more positive spin on the term. He and his co-founders Doug Minnick, Dan Erland Andersen, all make wine at home and also work either writing about or helping to market wineries.

McLennan, a former actor, said that he’d been looking for a larger winery to work for, but came to really appreciate the smaller outfits, producing under 2,000 cases (Paso Garagiste wineries make 1,200 or fewer cases).

“We could take care of being a conduit for all of the people with various amounts of wine,” he said.

The Festival was part of that, but there were also seminars and their website,, will eventually feature wine making videos from various winemakers.

A word about artisan wines – they do tend to cost more than wines from larger wineries simply because these folks are in the business of making a profit – maybe not a large one, but they do want to stay in the black. And because of their size, they can’t take advantage of the economies of scale. But McLennan says that gives the artisanal winemaker more control over the final product. Plus you can make a special connection with the artisanal winemaker that you usually can’t with larger wineries.

“I think what people are getting back to is artisanal stuff,” McLennan said. “If they want to make a luxury purchase, they want to know that it’s really unique. If you know the story behind the wine and you’ve met the winemaker, it makes the whole experience just that much better and it becomes a really unique thing.”

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