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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wine Cheese or Friends? What is most important? by Philip S. Kampe





There comes a time in many journalists lives that writing is not all they want to do. As an ex-entrepreneur (The Candy People, Fabulous Phil’s Gourmet Ice Cream and Board Stiff Snowboard and Skateboard Shop) , I tend to look at assignments and meetings in a different way. When I find a wine overseas or at a stateside tasting and learn that the wine has no representation in this country, I often switch hats.
I know the market conditions and have a reasonably good take on the quality and price ratio of wines and cheeses. I have been involved, first-hand, in both businesses and have a broad knowledge base of cost and quality of wine and cheese.
As you would suspect, I like to broker these newly found products, with hopes of helping the vineyard or farm with exposure in this country.
This past year I have introduced cheese, wine and tequila to America.
Samples, which are few, are stored in my refrigerator for safe keeping. I have three small unopened samples of goat’s milk cheese from rural western Spain for safe keeping. If these samples are ever tampered with, the dream of the dairy will be shattered until I can convince them to send more amples.
I call this Phase One. In Phase One, you bring the item, often one piece of cheese or one bottle of wine to a perspective buyer to consider adding this product to their portfolio.
Phase Two is when you have more samples and technical sheets then you need, so, you can get the product to more than one possible importer.
Phase Three is having a complete refrigerator stored with samples plus a closet full of technical sheets and brochures.
Every phase is done in small steps until you can walk. A lot of cost is involved in sending wine or refrigerated cheese to this country. Plus the FDA is often of no help and holds onto packages for weeks or months before releasing the contents.
This is what happened to me recently.
I must paint the picture.
I received one bottle of Pinot Gris wine from a New Zealand wine producer. The producer chose me to head his mission to find an importer. I was his only contact. He had a lot of trust in me.
The producer was in the states on other business and planned to meet with me and the proposed importer, who I found,  for lunch. I only had one sample and we were going to open this one bottle of wine to analyze the contents. The importer was an old friend of mine and normally respects my judgment.
The bottle of Pinot Gris has a screw top cap, so, a back-up was not necessary. There was no cork, as most wines from New Zealand follow that trend and little possibility of oxidation.
The problem. The bottle of Pinot Gris was stored in the refrigerator and somewhat hidden from view. We had guests for the weekend and had planned our yearly pilgrimage to the Tyringham Steak Roast that evening. Somehow, one of the guests, opened the fridge, found the bottle of Pinot Gris (we were in the living room) and poured three hefty glasses of wine from the bottle. Obviously, the guest did not know how important the bottle was to me and my business venture when he opened it. As he came into the living room with the overflowing wine glasses, I said,“ Did you open the bottle of Pinot Gris?”, to which he replied enthusiastically, “Yes”. Naturally, I reacted somewhat emotionally and nearly shed a tear because this bottle meant the world to me.
The unopened bottle was the only vehicle I had to show to the importer. On top of that, the producer was flying in to meet for the tasting and fateful judgment.
The dilemma was obvious. You can’t bring an open bottle of wine, two days later to a business meeting and expect to make a deal with the importer.
I sulked the remainder of the weekend, to my wife’s and guests disapproval. I mentioned, probably too often, “ How can you open somebody’s refrigerator and open a bottle of wine without asking?”.
I, even, had a bottle of Lafitte Rothchild in the fridge for storage. I wonder if that bottle would ever be safe again? Obviously, if that bottle had been opened instead of the Pinot Gris, I would have been much happier.
The end result of the Pinot Gris incident  was devastating. The vineyard owner said I was not responsible and he was going to find another broker. My wife says I acted like a baby and still talks about it. My friend does not return my e-mails.
My dream has vanished.
Imagine, all of this over one bottle of wine!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

WILD HORSE Wines by Philip S. kampe




The Wild Horse Round-Up by Philip S. Kampe

In 1981, visionary winemaker Ken Volk, searched California’s Central Coast for land to establish a winery and selected the Templeton area for the home of Wild Horse vineyard. His reason for choosing the location is that it is mid-way on the Central Coast, which makes sourcing grapes from the north and south ideal. Templeton is close to Estero Bay, thus creating a proven groundwater table with easy to manage soil for grape growth.
Founder Ken Volk’s goal is to experiment with rare grape varieties and make small batches of atypical from the Paso Robles region.
His team, led by Clay Brock, General Manager and director of Winemaking work closely with head Winemaker Chrissy Wittmann to create unheard wine blends from this region. Recent grape varieties used in experimental Wild Horse wines include: Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Blan, Malbec, Negrette, Malvasia Bianca, Verdelho and Touriga National.
At a recent lunch, Clay Brock explained that he is an extension of Ken Volk’s vision. His goal is to make exceptional wines while experimenting with different varietals.
The classic wines in the Wild Horse collection include: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Viognier.
Wines from the portfolio are sold in four separate categories:  Central Coast, Unbridled, Winery Exclusives and Cheval Sauvage, which means ‘Wild Horse’ in French.
The forty-four acre vineyard is named as a tribute to the wild mustangs that used to roam on the hills above the vineyard. 
Rumor has it that the vineyard is named after the Cal Poly mascot—a galloping horse. Both Ken Volk and Clay Brock are Cal Poly Alumni.
Wines are produced are from the estate grapes as well as grapes sourced from over forty different vineyards in the area and up to thirty different varietals. Sixty-five per-cent of vineyards production includes Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

Three  Wines To Try:
2010 Wild Horse Unbridled Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyards is an elegant, lightly oaked wine that accompanied my first course,  when dining with Clay Brock at New York’s A Voce restaurant at Columbus Circle. The lively Chardonnay paired perfectly with the hard to match pasta with barnacles appetizer that I ordered. Maybe it was the richness and balanced acidity of this apple, lemony wine that made the match feel like it was made in heaven. Clay ordered the same appetizer and knew the wine and pasta were made for each other. At $20 a bottle, the 2010 Unbridled Chardonnay is a true steal.

2010 Wild Horse Unbridled Pinot Noir Santa Barbara is a beautifully lush, silky 14.5% alcohol upscale wine that made my lamb belly entrée taste better than it really was. Possibly the mix of raspberries, cherries and cinnamon contributed to the velvety tannins and minerality in this bargain-priced $34 bottle of wine.

2008 Wild Horse Cheval Sauvage  is a Pinot Noir at the highest level. The cranberry and strawberry concentration is mind boggling on the palate. Add full-bodied, balance  and lushness to the menu and you have a wine that can stand on it’s own without the consumption of food. The aromas of dense red fruit coupled with a richness on the palate, make the long lasting finish memorable. The 2008 Cheval Sauvage should rank in the top tier of west coast wines.

To learn more about the wines of Wild Horse, feel free to go to their website: www.WildHorseWinery.com

PHILIP S. KAMPE