Bordeaux 'garage winery' movement hits Napa


Ready for the California version of "Les Garagistes"?

Most people probably don't know because they don't know the French term. To explain, the term was coined in the 1970s by Belgians Marcel and Gerard Thienpont who purchased land in Bordeaux and established Chateau Le Pin, the concept of "garage wines."

The movement, which allows smalltime winemakers to work in boutique settings at affordable prices, grew in the early '90s when St. Emilion's Chateau de Valandraud was created in Bordeaux.

Now, a self-contained "artisinal village" of 12 spaces custom built for limited-production wineries has been created in Napa Valley's American Canyon. It will offer spaces ranging from 3,500 to 6,500 square feet, located in four buildings surrounding a 16,000-square-foot courtyard. The complex is projected to open by August 2009.

Founders John Hawkins and Tony Cartlidge explain their idea this way:

"The garagiste winemaker, intimately involved in every step of the process, is practically bound to make a wine which reflects his or her personality, just as a painting reflects the personality of the painter. It can be wine made to your own standards, with passion coming before profit."

In other words, it is "for winemakers and owners of limited production, high quality wine brands who are dedicated to their craft and wish to affordably assume more control over winemaking and promotional activities."

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