Meet the Winemakers

23 Jun

When drinking turns into tasting…and why the backstory matters.

By Lisa Dinsmore, Event Director, The Garagiste Festivals

Most of us don’t remember the first time we tasted wine. Those of us who have been drinking it a long time would most likely be horrified if we re-tried that first sip. Perhaps it was Boone’s Farm, Beringer White Zinfandel (guilty) or even a bottle of 2-Buck Chuck. Or maybe you’re one of the lucky few who’s parents let you try it when you were a kid. (Another reason to love the French and Italians.) Hey, we all have to start somewhere. There’s no judgement here. Most likely we don’t really recall the wine, because there was nothing about it – besides the way it ultimately made us feel (thanks Alcohol!) – that wowed us. That made us think it was anything special.

196 And then it happened. That one wine that turned your palate upside-down with pleasure, that made you actually THINK about what you were drinking and perhaps for the first time, actually SAVOR it. You instantly wanted more and were sad when the glass or bottle was empty. From that glass forward you are never the same. Wine becomes something more than just a beverage. It opens up a whole different world of flavor exploration. My epiphany happened almost 20 years ago with a Chilean Merlot and I haven’t looked back since.

That epiphany wine was not only illuminating, it set me off on a life-long quest for wine knowledge that has yet to be sated. That glass forced me to compare all others that came after…and thus the honing of my palate began. Thankfully, there is a new vintage to taste every year and new – and ancient – areas to explore. There are literally millions of wines I will never get to taste, but I am giving it the old college try. Every wine has a different story to tell – unlike any other product on earth – of time and place captured in the bottle.

So how do I choose what to drink? It starts with the grape – for me it’s Syrah, always. (Followed by Grenache – all colors and styles – there’s almost nothing better than rose – Roussanne and then Pinot Noir. Variety is the spice of life after all.) After drinking thousands of wines, the ones made from Syrah make me the most happy. Every region, every style, 99% of the time. The core nature of this grape just hits all the right notes for me. To each their own, I say. Never let someone else sway your opinion of a wine. Ever. If there was a right answer that pleased everyone there wouldn’t be millions of different wines.

198I have tasted my fair share from around the globe, from the modest vin de tables to the top of the line Grand Cru. What makes me take a bottle home? With all my knowledge – and YEARS of tasting everything I could get my hands on – what it comes down to for me, at this point in my wine journey, is a connection to the place and to the winemaker. Do small producers always make better wine than big ones? Well, yes and no. It all depends on the style of the wine and the skill of the winemaker…at every level. However, once you get to a certain price point – say $30-$50 a bottle – the quality level generally evens out. Otherwise they don’t last long…

I seek out small producers because at the garagiste level it is an undeniable passion. It has to be. It’s their WHOLE life, because it HAS to be. Even if they have another job – which 85% percent of them do – making/selling wine is a non-stop, 24-hour a day business. The drinking/lifestyle part – which most people assume is the bulk of the job – is perhaps 15% of the gig. For those who come at this “lifestyle” sideways – not from a family connection or go straight to college to learn – they feel there is no choice for them and it’s their story – how they got drawn into the game – that makes drinking their wine even more enjoyable for me than a random bottle picked up at the store.

3736e2e2-2690-4b55-9a45-ea9a9052625aIt’s not that I need to be entertained to enjoy a wine, but more that my purchase power is making a difference in the life of someone. Someone I know and like. Someone I want to see succeed. For them, but also so I can keep drinking their delicious juice. It’s that connection to the earth – or to the people who are closer to it than me – that makes the wine seem more worthwhile…at least to me.

If you can’t escape to wine country every weekend (I wish I could too), The Garagiste Festival is a great way to make some new winemaker friends. And, believe us you want winemaker friends. (They are proud of their efforts and just LOVE sharing their wines.) You’ll hear their stories – they are surprisingly ALL unique – taste their passion and gain a deeper perspective of what it takes to get wine into the bottle.

We guarantee you’ll make some great new friends…:)

To learn more about our upcoming Paso Festival, CLICK HERE.


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