About Us

Our passion is wine – and especially the undiscovered, artisan producers who are making some of the most exciting wine on the planet right now.

The Garagiste Festival is the first and only wine festival dedicated to the undiscovered and under-recognized artisan ‘garagiste’ producers who are making some of the best, most exciting, handcrafted small lot production wines in the world. The Garagiste Festival was named one of the Top Nine Epicurean Vacations by ABC News. Founded by fellow garagistes Stewart McLennan and Douglas Minnick, the Garagiste Festival is committed to fostering the spirit of free exchange of ideas and encouragement that has made California one of the friendliest, most successful and innovative wine-making regions in the world. The festival is produced by Garagiste Events, a 501C3 non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the education of future winemakers and those training for employment within the wine industry.

The Garagiste Festival is a proud supporter of the Cal Poly Wine & Viticulture Program, which provides future winemakers with an education in all aspects of the wine business from the vineyard to the table. Proceeds from our festivals are donated to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program and will go toward the planned new Wine and Viticulture Innovation Centre. To make a grape growing analogy, we see this program’s students as the rootstock upon which our wine region’s bright future will be grafted.

Stewart McLennan – Co-Founder – stewart@pasogaragiste.com

Stewart in essence has been a Garagiste for over a decade. Though until recently never used the term “garagsite” to refer to himself or his (mis) advintnering he now finds garagiste the most apt way of describing both his present self and his future winemaking aspirations. Stewart was instrumental in forming Brothers of the Barrel in 1991. A group of guys from differing backgrounds and professions who came together to learn about winemaking through the process of drinking beer and making wine. The Brothers have now been making wine for over a decade and, yes, it isn’t half bad – scoring various medals over the years at Paso Robles’ California Midstate Fair.

Whilst he is yet to claim the term vintner in a professional sense, Stewart is well acquainted with the trials and tribulations associated with the process of making wine having been hands-on now for over thirteen vintages made from many differing varietals from Rose to Petite Sirah. Well okay, no Pinot, YET.

For the past three years Stewart has been involved in all aspects of wine marketing from the tasting room to national distributorship. He has worked for Four Vines Winery in this capacity and as such has gained valuable experience regarding brand building in  the national wine market.

Stewart was one of the producers and host of The Wine Stewart, an everyman’s video guide to wine. He also brings his twenty five years of onscreen roles as a professional actor to the Garagiste creative table. It is his hope through Paso Garagiste to encourage and support those winemakers who share his love of small production, quality wines and winemaking.

 

Doug Minnick – Co-Founder – doug@pasogaragiste.com

Minnick knew what he wanted to do with his life on February 9th, 1964 when as a 7 year old boy in suburban Chicago, he saw The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.

After 11 years playing in rock and roll bands and ignoring his schoolwork, he took off on a cold February day in a 1967 Buick Elektra 225 bound for L.A., palm trees, and the music business as an 18 year old with $500 in his pocket. Working his way up from the mailroom (no kidding) at A&M Records and surviving a successful career as a Music Business executive in the 80s, Doug eventually chucked the corporate music world for the uncertainty of an independent, two-man start-up.

Ten years later, with the independent start-up now a multi-million dollar success story, Minnick again proved unable to control his passions, this time tossing the music business for the world of wine. Particularly Central Coast wine.

Doug is now the Co-Founder (with Stewart McLennan) of The Garagiste Festivals, which feature high-quality, limited-production artisan winemakers – Garagiste has emerged as the most unique and influential wine event in California. By helping small-production wineries connect with their audience, The Garagiste Festival truly impacts the business of these winemakers while satisfying their fans’ desire to discover high-quality, hard-to-find wines. Everybody wins.

Doug also makes wine (yep, in a garage) with three partners. One of these days he might even get a license to sell the stuff.

 

Lisa Dinsmore – Event Director – lisa@garagistefestival.com

The reason Lisa Dinsmore moved to Los Angeles in 1990 was to be in show business. After toiling away for a few years she quit “the biz” and took her event, writing and publicity skills over to a children’s charity which was just as colorful, but in very different ways. Needing a break, she went on a month-long trip to Europe where her love of wine was sparked. Not by the French or Spanish, though she drank a lot of those, but by a supple, fruity Chilean Merlot shared in a tiny house by a total stranger the night before flying home. That bottle changed everything.

That spark became a conflagration as she attempted to learn everything she could about wine, which is done mostly by tasting an awful lot of it and reading some pretty dry books. Lisa spent many evenings at the Wine House, taking classes and literally experiencing the world of wine one glass at a time. Outside the classroom the backroads of California called, giving Lisa the opportunity to explore the winemaking world first hand. It was on those early trips, a decade ago, that she discovered Paso Robles and Los Olivos…and was hooked forever on the experience of wine tasting without the pretentious bullshit. When not crazed by festival planning, she writes about her wine adventures on her website Daily Wine Dispatch.

While she loves all wine (but especially Syrah, Mourvedre & Roussanne), Lisa’s passion is in discovering wineries no one knows about and sharing her new finds with other wine lovers. Meeting the winemakers and experiencing their passion keeps her on the road and willing to swirl every wine she comes across. While amazed by the process, Lisa is not looking to become a garagiste any time soon. Manual labor is not her thing. She also requires 8 hours of sleep, hates cleaning and lacks patience. Plus there’s just so many wines she has yet to try, she just doesn’t have the time. Though she does have a secret desire to make white wines that will convert people from the dark (red) side. Knowledge is power (and fun when drinking wine is involved) which is why Lisa has spent many hours in the WSET Program on her way to successfully claiming the Level 3/Advanced Degree.

 

Melanie Webber – Public Relations and Communications – melanie@mwebbcom.com

Melanie has been a wine lover since being allowed to drink Chianti spritzers on the beach of Italy’s Lido di Gesalo at the age of nine and treasures the imprint of the grape on some of her very best memories and experiences.  A resident of Culver City and a native of the UK, by way of Atlanta, Georgia, she has been a regular visitor to the Central Coast over the years, watching it grow into one of the world’s leading wine regions (personally verifying that reputation – and contributing to its volume of sales – with nearly two decades of tasting).

A former Off-Broadway producing partner of co-founder McLennan, Melanie joined the Garagiste Festival team at its outset in 2011 and, from the beginning, found the media receptive to, and excited about, the American garagiste movement and the remarkable winemakers behind it.  With her team at mWEBB Communications, Melanie has garnered millions of dollars-worth of media coverage for the festival, regionally, nationally and internationally, helping to sell out every event and bringing awareness, often for the first time, to the festival’s talented artisan winemakers.

Her background includes decades in the theater and film business in NYC and LA (including co-producer of McLennan’s well-reviewed Off-Broadway debut, and of his eponymous wine show, The Wine Stewart; and co-producer of feature film A Modern Affairstarring Stanley Tucci). Melanie also has a background in journalism – plus over fifteen years of technology, Internet, consumer, environmental, lifestyle, wine and automotive PR. She launched her agency, mWEBB Communications, in 2009. Since then, the agency has won an American Business Award for Public Relations/Communications campaign of the year and the Stephen Mather Visionary Award in 2012.

A fan of double C’s, she lives in Culver City, but her heart has long been stolen by the wine-soaked Central Coast where she is dragged NOT kicking and screaming by her chocolate and golden labradors as often as possible.  A triathlete, Melanie validated her Central Coast passport by completing its very challenging Wildflower Olympic race. She has also completed two wine country Half-Ironman races, including 2014’s Vineman 70.3 through the vineyards of Sonoma.  Melanie recently received her WSET Level 3 Certification in Wine and Spirits and is currently in the WSET Level 4 Diploma program.