Oeno Files

Last Chance to Be a Garagiste Wine Offers Insider

Seattle's email-based wine business will get more exclusive come Sunday.

By Julie H. Case October 10, 2012


Jon Rimmerman does his research. Photo courtesy Garagiste.

It’s now or never, oenophiles. Garagiste—the 16-year-old Seattle wine blog turned email-wine-offers company said to have $30 to $40 million in annual sales—is getting some major press thanks to a feature in the New York Times Magazine's food and drink issue this weekend. With that fame comes the price of membership: yours. On Sunday Garagiste plans to seperate the list into insiders and outsiders. Those on the list now will get first dibs on all offers. Those who join after Sunday get the dregs, so to speak. If there are any dregs to be had.

Meaning now would be a good time to get on the list

That list began as—and continues to be—a daily email in which founder Jon Rimmerman expounds on wines he has discovered, terroir he has explored, vineyards he has trampled and winemakers he has met. Thanks in part to Rimmeran's immense buying power, those daily emails also feature rare, collectible, and quirky wines offered at lower-than-normal prices. 

Since the mid-'90s the list has swelled from a handwritten fax to 50 to 60 friends to an email that goes to some 135,000 people, and it has all happened by word-of-mouth. Everyone from college students to collectors are on the list. So, it's rumored, is President Obama. Over the past 16 years, Garagiste has posted 800 to 1,000 stories, each with at least one wine offer. Until now the first-come, first-served method meant everyone had an equal shot at getting an offered wine. After Sunday, it will be first-come, first-served for those on the "before" side of the Garagiste list, good luck to those on the after side. 

"I want to make sure those that have supported us in the past continue to receive their allocations so we need to draw a line in the sand somehow," says Rimmerman.

Being a local insider isn't the only reason Seattleites are lucky. While list members elsewhere receive wines as twice-yearly mailings, locals can pick up their wine at the Garagiste warehouse, which means they often get early or exclusive access to some limited-quantity bottles. 

In 2006 they launched the “mystery wine” program, in which Rimmerman—and readers—benefited from a tough economy. Mystery wines are wines that a winery has agreed to be distributed to consumers for an exceptionally reduced price, often with a different label or even in a different bottle. Readers buy based on Rimmerman’s descriptions, never knowing exactly what wine they are getting until they pick up their shipment.

According to Rimmerman, “mystery wine” will soon spin off on its own and, at least initially, only Garagiste list members will have access.

You can read more about Garagiste in "Drunk With Power" in the New York Times Magazine online today or in print on Sunday.

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