Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Wine Retailer Nobody Talks About

After wrestling with my conscience, and despite the certain knowledge that some of my wine-loving friends won't talk to me after I reveal this (especially not the ones who told me about it in the first place), it is time to let readers in on one of the biggest open secrets among wine geeks: Garagiste, the Seattle-based wine retailer who only sells wine futures to a mailing list. They have a website, but the only point of it now seems to be that you can sign up for the mailing list there.

Jon Rimmerman, the brain behind Garagiste, buys wine direct from producers all over the world and then announces it is for sale to list of wine lovers so enthusiastic that it sometimes takes less than 5 minutes from the time the email gets sent for them to sell out of a wine. Yes, I said 5 minutes. Just you try getting some limited production demi-sec Vouvray from Garagiste--you'd better type fast. Wines on offer through Garagiste range from $10 bargain finds to wines that are many thousands of dollars, and they appeal to every consumer niche from Aussie Shiraz-lovers to those who like obscure old world bottlings from the South of France.

The thing to remember before you go on a wild buying spree is that Garagiste ships wine twice a year--in November/December and in March-ish--and they stockpile your order in between in their storage facility. Then they ship it to you by the case over the course of several weeks. Because these wines are futures, there is no guarantee exactly when you will receive them. Some of the wine I bought in May still hasn't arrived in the warehouse, never mind at my house. Still, the wine that I have received has been in perfect condition, and they back everything with a limited guarantee--although if you buy lots of wine, I'm not sure how you could open it all and test for cork taint in a week. Still, it pays to do a careful inspection of the bottles to check for seepage, label stains, and popped out corks. I've never had a problem, but you want to exercise all possible caution.

If you don't check your email regularly, Garagiste can be an exercise in frustration, since several calls for orders go out every day and the wines will most likely not be available for more than 24 hours. Usually, they are available for far less time than that. However, if you like weird varietals and are an intrepid drinker, you can get some genuinely wonderful wines. Recently, I picked up a Nerello blend from Sicily's Mt. Etna appellation made by Frank Cornelissen that is hot pink due to the significant amount of sediment that the winemaker leaves in the wine. This is not something you're likely to find at BevMo. You will see some reviews of Garagiste wines on the site in upcoming weeks that I purchased to fill in my Wine Century, so you can be your own judge as to whether Garagiste wines are likely to be of interest to you.

Should you take the plunge, KEEP TRACK of your purchases because a bottle or two here or there really adds up over the course of six months and you can find yourself having uncomfortable discussions with your bank manager and/or your loved ones to explain how you spent so much money on so much wine that now has no where to live and must be arranged in colorful "displays" on every surface in your house.

You can head over to the website to sign up, but don't expect much information there. It's all done by email. "You've got mail" never tasted so good.

8 comments:

Richard A. said...

Sadly, they do not deliver to MA. It certainly sounds like a very intriguing wine store though.

Orion Slayer said...

This seems like fun! I signed up after reading your post (sorry to fuel to the fire of your friends ire!) and can't wait for my first email. If others are interested in reading more about Garagiste, here's a link to an article I found at the Garagiste site from the Seattle Times.

Andrew said...

No please don't make it harder for me to get wine! I did get in on the vouvray offer though!

If you don't check your mail constantly though out the day, or have a blackberry plan on getting shut out on a lot of offers.

Thankfully I live in Seattle, so I don't have to worry about shipping.

q said...

I tried to order once but was too late. Perhaps I'll start reading their emails again!

el jefe said...

You're quite brave... thanks for the tip! (I think...)

Sonadora said...

Are you trying to make me go broke Dr. Debs? ;)

Dr. Debs said...

First, my sincere apologies to Andrew--though, since you've got one of the bottles of vouvray, I'm not sure you deserve it! (Just kidding). And my sincere thanks to OrionSlayer for the link to the Seattle Times article. Weird, huh? Only one other article comes up on Google--that's what I mean about open secret. You, elJefe, and Sonadora will have to tell me if you need a Garagiste intervention to help you stop buying wine. It's a bit addictive, and since there is no immediate space crunch you just keep going, and going, and going...

paul said...

alice feiring mentioned jon r. in one of her recent posts too. there is definitely an aura of stealth surrounding garagiste.

there is one point only alluded to in your post, that jon's emails are extremely effective sales tools! he really has a silver tongue when it comes to pitching his finds. you get an incredible amount of backstory that you would otherwise never get except from the most dedicated and passionate wine shops. jon's stories were interesting enough to get me to start a google map pinpointing the sources/vineyards/domains of the wines i bought from him (as well as other wines in my cellar)! its really only just a start and a work in progress, but i think its a great idea, here's a link for anyone that's interested: http://tinyurl.com/26utzm

i purchased *way* too much wine from garagiste in 2007, so much so that i had to stop reading the emails temporarily (sure hope my palate lines up with jon's)! so glad that its 2008 now so i can start reading again :)