Photo credit: Erin Cooper Photography

The Arts District has added another jewel to its crown with the addition of its first wine bar and shop, Garagiste. We were fortunate enough to steal owners Mario Enriquez and Eric Prato away for a quick interview, prior to their grand opening on the weekend of November 9, to learn more about their unique concept and passion to share great wines with the Las Vegas community in a classy yet comfortable environment. 

Where did the name Garagiste come from?

Mario: “Garagiste” is a term coined in the late 80s or early 90s in the Bordeaux region of France. It referred to, quite literally, garage wine-makers creating small-production wines on a personal basis from either their family or neighbor’s vineyards. The term has evolved to embody not just the winemakers themselves, but also the movement of those in the industry who seek to promote the rebellious “outside-the-box” mentality with regards to wine production around the world. “Garagiste” should be synonymous with small-scale, interesting, unique, hand-made wines of character and personality.

Eric: We thought it was an appropriate name as we are trying to go against the normal Las Vegas trend and bring something new to
the area. 

What inspired you to open your own business?

Mario: I have been fortunate enough to work for some amazing small business owners and large corporations/conglomerates alike over my career. I’ll say that the personal aspect of small business is much more inspiring and has always been the impetus for starting my own business. Working for two brothers in the early 2000s, who were very involved in day-to-day operations of the restaurant they owned, was the first instance of seeing that personal approach. The personal component of putting a face to any business is very inspiring to me and I’ve always wanted to follow in that respect.

Eric: I wanted to share and teach about wine outside of people’s comfort zones.

How has your previous career experience prepared you for this new venture?

Mario: Besides working with wine and cocktail programs for the better part of 18 years, I’ve been lucky enough to work for national and local restaurants, groups and hotels in operational, managerial and administrative capacities on both small and large scales. The business side of operations has always been a forte for me and I’ve always found it interesting and fun working with real world scenarios. Multi-market experience, I feel, has allowed me to approach our business with a more intuitive attack and I’ve learned that, more often than not, it’s better to approach decision-making from a listener’s perspective, leaving ego and pride out of the important decisions.

Eric: I have been in the hospitality industry for 21 years, more recently running the wine/beverage program at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro at The Venetian. Having recently obtained the level 3 Advanced Sommelier certificate through the Court of Master Sommeliers shows my dedication to the wine/beverage profession.

Why did you select a location Downtown in the Arts District?

Mario: With our market research in different parts of the city, we found there was a need for a concept like ours Downtown. A lot of what we offer are artisanal wines so what better place than the Arts District to promote them?

Eric: We have seen the Arts District continue to grow over the past few years and felt that we could receive support from the Downtown community while trying something new to Las Vegas.

What is the overall vibe that you are hoping to create in this space?

Mario: Our vibe is one that is casual and approachable for everyone, a place that you feel comfortable sitting in and enjoying  a bottle with great conversation, a good book or listening to a great record. Our space is beautiful and has an upscale feel to it but you won’t find us in much more than a t-shirt and jeans. We also wanted to bring the concept of the “listening bar” to Las Vegas with our turntable and extensive vinyl collection.

Eric: Overall, I am looking for a space for people to feel comfortable in an already intimidating environment (wine).

What thus far, has been the greatest challenge in making this dream a reality?

Eric: The greatest challenge thus far has been jumping through the hoops within the city regulations. Trying to fit our model into their regulations was tricky.

How large of a selection are you planning to open with?

Mario: We’ll open with around 150 selections and grow to around 300-400 by year’s end, if not sooner.

What is your vision for the types of wines that you plan to offer your guests?

Eric: At Garagiste, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy wines from classic regions as well as new wines that are finally making their appearances in the Las Vegas wine scene. We are hoping to make things affordable and approachable.

What do you hope each of your customers takes away from their experience at Garagiste? 

Mario: A great memory, feeling and excitement. Also a bottle, or bottles, of wine!

Eric: That guests will walk away feeling like they learned something and were able to try something new at an affordable cost. 

Do you plan to offer any food or a pairing menu?

Mario: We’ll offer a small selection of curated meats and cheeses on a charcuterie plate. Our goal is to recreate the small wine bar/shop feel you find in tiny towns all over Europe where all they offer with your wine is a piece of local bread with the local cheese or cured meat. 

If you had to choose a single varietal that best describes your personality, what would it be and why?

Mario: Chenin Blanc because it has complexity, a cutting edge and delicious flavah. Haha!

Eric: Chenin Blanc–This grape can take on many styles as I can take on many hats/roles. Outside of the Loire Valley, where the best expressions of Chenin Blanc come from, it tends to be under the radar. Very similar to my lifestyle, I tend to be under the radar outside my ‘home.’

Garagiste Wine Room & Merchant

197 E. California Suite 140

Hours: Monday - Thursday 3 p.m.-11 p.m. 

Friday - Sunday 1 p.m.-11 p.m.