Garage wine a big hit

One Penticton wine festival may not be that well-known locally, but it is getting attention globally.

In fact, the London Financial Times featured Garagiste North Artisan Wine Festival as one of the five best wine festivals in the world.

“We were thrilled and amazed to be recognized, but it proves that we are unique and special,” said Jennifer Schell, who co-founded the event with Terry Meyer Stone.

The first of its kind in Canada, Garagiste celebrates only local wineries creating small case-lot wines.

The eclectic gang of wineries all blend together their passion and experience for a unique taste of wine country.

Since the first Garagiste festival in 2014, this past weekend’s Penticton event marked the fifth festival in B.C.

Garagiste originally refers to a group of winemakers in the Bordeaux region of France, producing “vins de garage” or “garage wine”.

“We celebrate the small lot winemakers, those making under 2,000 cases,” said Schell.

“Our talented winemakers, who are creating knock-out wines, are there to meet and pour for festival goers. It is not a winery rep behind the barrel, but the face of the passionate winemaker bringing that spirit of winemaking and excitement of being in the industry here.”

She said many of those in attendance are brand new to the wine industry and the festival allows them to build a community of talent and resources for them to share their excitement, ideas and relationships.

Schell said the event concept came from a hole she and Meyer-Stone saw in the wine-festival world.

“Many events become big drinking events, the winemaker and his craft were being missed and we wanted to shine the spotlight on them,” said Schell.

“The event celebrates the realization of a dream for these winemakers and offers an insider taste of the future of wine country.”

The event also allows the wine-loving public to taste a bunch of wine from producers that don’t have wine on retail shelves or even a tasting room to go to.

“Many of these wines are hard to find and some are not available in stores yet, making them super exclusive,” said Schell.

“Now, with our new format, we have an onsite wine store so festival goers can purchase what they taste before they leave. “

She added that the recognition from the London Financial Times was not the only nod of approval.

“We have had the best wine writers in attendance at our festivals, all leaving with great praise and excitement for the experience.  Sid Cross, international wine judge and critic, just posted “What a wonderful wine festival. Perfect size held in an almost vineyard-like atmosphere with passionate small wineries making their mark!”

This year’s event on Sept. 18 saw more than 150 people taste, eat and mingle.

“We are still young and spreading the word. However, our format will not change,” said Schell.

“Our culture provides an intimate, exclusive experience for wine lovers. We don’t want line ups and want to remain casual. Wine writer  Luke Whittall referred to us as, “the most casual, accessible, and most really-like-it-is-in-wine-country wine festival I’ve ever attended.” This makes me very happy – we are authentic.”

She said they plan to hold two events next year, one in Vancouver in April and a second in the fall in the Okanagan.

For more details, check out their website here.

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