Eric Prato, Instructor for Taste Like a Sommelier and Natural Wine Movement class, won the 2022 Desert Companion Restaurant Award - Rising Star of the Year Award.

Eric Prato chuckles about it now, but two years ago, it was no joke. “No one told us about COVID; a pandemic wasn’t in the business plan,” he grins through gritted teeth when asked about the challenges of opening Garagiste, a boutique wine bar, in the heart of the Arts District.

If timing is everything in wine, then Prato’s couldn’t have been worse. After taking two years to convince authorities that a by-the-glass bar with off-premise retail sales was a viable idea, he poured his first obscure Tempranillo on November 1, 2019, only to be shuttered four months later. The shutdowns of 2020-2021 may have been a blessing in disguise, though, because faster than you can say “pent-up demand,” Prato’s lifelong dream (hatched years ago when he was a sommelier at Bouchon) has born more fruit than sauvignon blanc in September.

What seemed like a bold experiment in 2019 now looks like a sure thing. Oenophiles from all over the Vegas Valley come to sample wines they can’t find anywhere else — biodynamic, organic, orange, natural — mostly from producers you don’t know made from grapes you’ve never heard of. Prato’s mission is educating customers to try something new, and if the steady stream of younger, adventuresome wine lovers at the bar is any indication (along with his burgeoning online sales), he is succeeding by tapping into (or helping create) a market no one in Las Vegas knew existed.

Had it with Cali cabs? Why not a Priorat? Tired of overpriced chardonnay? Then he has a Vinho Verde in the wings. Garagiste isn’t just a wine store; it is a local wine phenomenon, and Prato is leading us into a new century of wine appreciation. 

Read the complete article at the Desert Companion.

Interested in learning more about food and beverage courses at UNLV Continuing Education? Take a UNLV Sommelier or wine class taught by Eric Prato at Garagiste.