An epic tasting with Kenny Likitprakong (on right)

Kenny Likitprakong and his many hats! - A lineup of delicious California wines

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We will admit that the title of this newsletter could be misleading, since Kenny is not wearing any hats in the photo from his recent visit to Chambers Street, but we can explain! The hats he wears are in the form of several wine labels that he has developed since his first adventures in winemaking over 20 years ago. From his humble beginnings with 2 barrels of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, through his dedicated work in the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond, with an unwavering committment to local communities, sustainable practices and organic agriculture, Kenny is truly an inspiration! Aside from the fact that this California-born skater dude with a Thai background paved his way in the California wine scene, developing lasting relationships with vineyard owners and vineyard workers and dedicating himself to ethical employment and giving back to the local and global community, he's just a really awesome and down to earth guy! We've stocked Kenny's wines on and off for a long time now at CSW, and were excited to taste with him during his recent visit to New York. We tried some Camp wines, the Banyan Gewurztraminer, several Folk Machine bottlings, and the exquisite 2021 Ghostwriter Pinot Noir. I honestly wanted to restart from the top after the tasting was over!

The different projects encompass certain areas, as Kenny works with almost 200 acres of vineyards across Northern California, all farming organically if not certified organic or in some cases Biodynamic. Many of the vineyards are owned and farmed by him and his team, while he is actively involved in farming decisions on any vineyards he doesn't own. The Camp label was based on mostly Sonoma County fruit, and is labeled as North Coast in recent vintages. Pricing was always important to Kenny with the Camp "brand," but so was working with 100% certified organic vineyards, so over the years, he had to spread out a bit from Sonoma to neighboring Mendocino Coast, in order to maintain the price point of the wines. As he explains, the terroir is actually fairly similar between northern Sonoma and southern Mendocino, with divisions perhaps being a bit more political than soil-based. Though originally 100% Sonoma Coast fruit, Camp wines are now about 70% Sonoma and 30% Mendocino. Banyan is the label started in 2002 that, as the Hobo Wine Co. website explains, was started "with the idea to make wines that would pair with Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly the Thai food Kenny grew up eating." Over time, the focus has been solely on Gewurztraminer, though other grapes were part of the blend in the early years. Folk Machine covers vineyards all across northern California. As Kenny explained to me, if there was ever a wine that didn't necessarily "fit," or needed a bit of an explanation, like Charbono from Suisin Valley, or Chenin Blanc from a single vineyard on Merritt Island for example, this became a Folk Machine wine. The whole idea with the label was that the wines were not specific, so here we find vineyards in Arroyo Seco, Central Coast, Redwood Valley, Suisun Valley, Potter Valley, Chalone, Mendocino and beyond. Ghostwriter is Kenny's homage to the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he he took over the farming of a 10-acre vineyard owned by the Woodruff Family in 2008. Kenny's recounting of the origin of the Ghostwriter name says as much about his winemaking philosophy as Santa Cruz's history: "Ghostwriter is a way of saying that the wine and the winemaker are in a sense telling a story that is not entirely their own. The subjects of the story are the sites, the vines, and the vintage and as the winemaker, my part is simply to relay the story and insert myself as little as possible.”

For more background, we highly recommend visiting Kenny's website for Hobo Wine Company, the umbrella company for all of his wine activities. A quick browse will familiarize you with how important Kenny's projects are, through his fair and equitable treatment of workers, his outreach to local communities, and environmental and community-based non-profits. We don't always discuss how a winery can give back to the local and global community, but if you are curious to see how someone talks the talk and walks the walk, we encourage you to check out the site.

Wines will all be in stock and available for pick up or delivery on/after Wednesday 3/6

Camp 2022 North Coast Chardonnay

A fresh and balanced Chardonnay, fermented in stainless steel, moved to oak for malolactic fermentation, and then aged in stainless steel. We love the profile here and though it's not a Chard for the oaky, buttery fans, it does have good mid-palate weight and doesn't come across as too acidic or sharp. Ideal for all occasions and (almost) all times of day!

  • white
  • 4 in stock
  • $22.99

  • Organic

Banyan 2022 Monterey County Gewürztraminer

This is a Gewürztraminer that might just change a few hearts and minds about the grape. In the wrong hands, Gewürztraminer can become cloying and overpowering with the scent of Grandma's potpourri, but this wine from Kenny Likitprakong shows some serious restraint. Banyan was designed by Kenny and his father with their Thai heritage in mind, and as such this Gewürztraminer is the perfect pairing for South-east Asian cuisine or anything with a bit of spice to it. Though it is fermented nearly dry, it maintains a softness with notes of ripe nectarine, a touch of tropical fruit, sage, and bright, fresh gardenia blossoms. Michelle DeWyngaert  // This note could not be improved upon, but the source for the Banyan Gewurztraminer has changed starting with the 2022 vintage, now from Rick's Vineyard in Monterey County. A cold fermentation is utilized to restrain the aromatics, and we find it really worked well. The wine is not overly floral or aromatic, has great density, a touch of ripeness and all in all is a fantastic introduction to the grape, not just for California standards, but even for fans of Alsatian Gewurztraminer.

  • white
  • 30 in stock
  • $17.99

  • Organic

Folk Machine 2022 Redwood Valley Valdiguié "Film and Camera"

I first tried this wine at the bar at Gramercy Tavern sometime around 2016, which was coincidentally my first visit to the historic restaurant. I remember we were stocking the Folk Machine Pinot Noir at Chambers Street at the time, and I wondered why in the heck we weren't stocking the Valdiguie too, as it was so fascinating, peppery, and unique! The vineyard here is over 100 years-old, a historic vineyard site in the Redwood Valley. Kenny uses a lot of whole clusters with this wine, and the result is a tart and crunchy profile that balances well with the robust black and purple fruit. A tasty wine in its own right and a fun exploration of a California heritage grape.

  • red
  • 1 in stock
  • $28.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Folk Machine 2022 Suisun Valley Charbono

Of the three heritage grapes from California (the other two being Zinfandel and Valdiguie), Charbono is perhaps the most rare. In the glass, it looks deep and rich, but it is not a big wine, in fact relatively low in alcohol, and with very fine tannins on the palate, and plenty of freshness. Somewhat reminiscent of Dornfelder in a way, not necessarily flavor-wise, but in its having the look of a full-bodied and/or extracted red which thoroughly fools you when the wine hits your tongue. Most of the fruit is destemmed (more than 80%), with some whole clusters and stems used in fermentation. Aging is in old French barrels for about 10 months. 

  • red
  • 8 in stock
  • $28.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Ghostwriter 2021 Santa Cruz County Pinot Noir

When it was created as an AVA in 1981, the Santa Cruz Mountains was the first whose area was determined by altitude. There are no "valley floor" vineyards here. Many of the vineyard sites are extraordinarily steep, at or above the fog line, extending to ridge-top vineyards perched at up to 2,600 feet above sea level. The topography is so intense and varied that in an appellation encompassing 480,000 acres there are only 1,300 acres under vine. Kenny's 'Ghostwriter' Pinot Noir is fermented with native yeasts (as with all of his wines) and aged primarily in neutral French barrels and concrete eggs with a small percentage of new oak rotating into the mix each year. In 2021, there was only 7% new oak used. Some whole clusters are used (about 40%). The Pinot is matured sur lie for 18-20 months with minimal sulfur added, and then bottled without fining or filtration. We were really impressed with this vintage, which Kenny is also quite fond of. The ripeness was ideal but lean, not screaming "California!," and there were lovely earth tones and elegant tannins. Great now, it should age beautifully over the next 5+ years.

  • red
  • 2 in stock
  • $35.99

Folk Machine 2022 California Part and Labor

A lively, medium-bodied Rhone blend, featuring mostly Grenache with some old vines Carignan and a dash of Syrah. The Grenache is from sources in Suisun Valley, Mendocino, Arroyo Seco, and Chalone. The Carignan is from Lolonis (which Kenny believes may be the oldest certified organic vineyard in California), and two other sources in Mendocino and the Syrah is from Potter Valley. Whole clusters and carbonic maceration are used to ensure that the wine is bright and balanced. A great all-around red that is easy-going while also maintaining a touch of boldness.

  • red
  • 8 in stock
  • $22.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Camp 2022 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Kenny Likitprakong created Camp Wines to highlight the quality and value of Sonoma County wine and has recently spread out to include some organic fruit from Mendocino as well. Per Kenny's detailed notes on the Hobo Wine Co. website, the 2022 Camp Cabernet is: "45% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lolonis Vineyard  in Redwood Valley, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from Campovida in Hopland , 14% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Martorana Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Shamwary Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Prior Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, 4% Merlot from the Gibson Vineyard in Hopland, and 4% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Morrison Vineyard in Sonoma Valley." // All the vineyards are certified organic, and each lot was individually fermented with native yeasts, blended, and then aged in French barrels ranging from 1-5 years old. The wine entices with sweet black cherry and blackberry flavors underlined by earthy undertones and firm tannins. A great complement to a rib-eye steak, and hands down one of the best deals in under $30 California Cab.

  • red
  • 27 in stock
  • $21.99

  • Organic
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Folk Machine 2023 Central Coast Gamay Noir Rose

This is now the 8th vintage of the Gamay Noir Rosé from Kenny Likitprakong as he waits for these young vines to mature enough to make red wine. We have a feeling that due to the fan base and how delicious this wine is, he might continue to make it even now that the vines have reached an ideal age for red production. Harvested early to maintain the brightness of the grapes, and then pressed with very little time on the skins before aging in stainless steel. A beautifully pale, almost lavender hue, with a nose of white cherry, peach, and a bouquet of roses and violets. The palate is crisp and lean with notes of barely ripe strawberry and a stony, savory finish. Fruit here is from Arroyo Seco. We always love this wine, but it's particularly good in '23, and unfortunately we only got 1 case for the year :(

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Folk Machine 2022 Clarksburg Merritt Island Chenin Blanc

This is a fresh, zippy Chenin Blanc from a vineyard planted in the 60s on Merritt Island in Clarksburg. This one parcel planted by the Wilson family, has been the source for the Folk Machine Chenin Blanc for the last 6 years. Fermentation and aging are in a combination of stainless steel and concrete eggs, and malolactic fermentation did not complete with the 2022 vintage. Kenny never intentionally blocks malo, it was just a happenstance, but it does explain the clean and chiseled nature of the wine. Aromatically subtle and fresh on the palate, this will open up with a bit of air and will pair well with a wide variety of foods.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur