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I am a Garagiste. Literally.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
My friends and I make wine in a garage. Okay, it's a nice garage,
and we have an air conditioner in it, but it is still a garage.
Sometimes I stand and stare - glass in hand - at the barrels, the blue drums,
the kegs, the carboys, and all the other crap we've accumulated over the last
three years - and reflect on how we got here.
The wine is pretty good. Really good, if I do say so myself, and that's the
most amazing part of the story. We often call ourselves the Four Stooges -
which paints a pretty accurate image of some of our winemaking processes.
Slapstick indeed. How did rookies like us ever manage to make such
good wine? We had help. Here's how it happened:
I've been in love with Paso Robles and Paso wine for a dozen years now. To
my dismay, I don't live here…yet. But I'm on my way. As my friends and I would
sit in LA drinking Paso wine, we would sometimes raise the late-night idea of
making our own wine. Then we would realize it was December and harvest had just
ended, pour another glass, and return to our familiar roles as dedicated
consumers for another year. This scenario was replayed for a few years in a
row, until 2010, when we remembered the idea in June.
By this time we had made several friends in Paso and we floated the idea to
Steve Cass, owner of Cass Winery. Unsure of the process and just putting out
feelers, we were a little surprised when Steve said it would be no problem to
get some fruit from him.
It was on! Now we had to figure out what the heck to do next. We began
reading winemaking books and websites, having long discussions about what kind
of wine to make and fretting about all of the things that could go wrong along
We were excited, but nervous, too. What if we screwed it up so bad we had
to pour it out? Even worse, what if it was technically okay, but we didn't
enjoy drinking it? What if we couldn't figure out how to move heavy objects
without a forklift? I would wake up in the middle of the night with endless (literal)
nightmare scenarios. We figured we'd be lucky to make something drinkable if we
made anything at all.
Then Paso happened. The friendliest, most welcoming place I think I’ve ever
been. World-class winemakers began giving us the benefit of their experience,
lending us tools, offering advice and guidance, even sharing the occasional
secret. To a bunch of Stooges! And so, the wine is drinkable. Hard to stop
One can learn a lot of winemaking techniques and chemistry from books and
websites, but there’s a lot more to winemaking than chemistry, especially the
first year. There are budgets, equipment, schedules, teamwork and the logistics
of moving heavy things to be considered. We couldn’t have done it without the
help we received from generous Paso winemakers.
And that is why we are holding a seminar called “Your First Vintage” on Sunday, November 11 as part of the
Garagiste Festival. We will share some of the knowledge we have acquired (and
much more from more experienced winemakers than I). If you’ve been thinking
about making your own wine, or just getting a closer look at the process, this
seminar will be a great way to get a head-start on your first vintage.
The Garagiste Festival is coming up November 8
– 11 at various locations around Paso. The big tasting day is Saturday,
November 10 at Windfall Farms. Last year sold out and walk-ups were turned
away. We recommend getting your tickets early here.
Doug is the co-founder of The
Garagiste Festival and can often be found driving up and down Interstate 5 with
dry ice steam wafting off bins of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre (and a little Cab)
with his fellow stooges, Dan Andersen, Ted Behlendorf, and Scott Gruber.