This past weekend, the first Garagiste North - billed as the coolest wine festival around - was held at Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls, featuring just over twenty winemakers. These producers don't actually have physical wineries, with some exceptions, but these wines can generally be found online. Or you gotta know a guy.
A garagiste is a small producer, in this case (no pun intended), under 2000 cases. Indeed, most garagistes at the festival hover between the 500-750 cases produced annually. The term comes from France, referencing winemakers making vino out of their garages, against rules and regulations, with a touch of rebelliousness.
Watch for these wines online, on a restaurant list, or join a wine club to get access.
Bella Wines: exclusively a sparkling house, the team of Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose produce a bubbly rose and a brut, but source grapes from different areas of the valley. One bottle may be from Oliver grapes, one from Westbank, showing off the unique micro climate of a single area. www.bellawines.ca
Black Cloud: exclusively pinot noir, winemaker Bradley Cooper, who's day job is winemaker at Serendipity on the Naramata Bench, and partner Audralee Daum, produce stellar pinots, including a refreshing and vibrant rose. www.blackcloud.ca
VinPerdu Cellars: so new, the family team of Ray, Wendy, and Catherine Coulombe, put a barrel sample of their cab franc into bottles to pour for the event. A beautiful wine. They will open a tasting in Oliver this spring with a few other varietals. One of the most talked about pours at the fest. www.vinperducellars.com
Corcelletes Estate Winery: welcome Charlie Baessler to the list of winemakers to watch. After tasting the entire portfolio of wines, produced in Cawston, it's safe to say that this will be a winery to watch in the Similkameen. Elegant and true to the terroir. www.corceletteswine.ca
Vindication Cellars: it's no secret that I'm a fan of winemaker Jeff del Nin, who by day looks after the wines of Church and State in Oliver. His label, Vindication, currently houses two wines: a rose, and a red blend called Blind Tiger. He's working on a vineyard of teroldego, an Italian grape, for future bottles. And if his website isn't working, I might be able to hook you up with a bottle. www.vindicationcellars.com
Finally, Stable Door Cellars: a partnership between two couples, the Robinsons and the Tebbutts, their voignier is sold out, but try the zippy riesling if you can get your hands on a bottle. www.stabledoorcellars.com
The overall vibe at Garagiste North? Stellar wines, passionate winemakers. Go explore the small guys.
Allison Markin is the founder of All She Wrote, social media with a culinary twist. www.allshewrote.ca.