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

4/3/24 -

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.



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