Wine, Frankly: No Tents Needed – Just a Corkscrew, Wine Glasses and S'mores

tentI’ve never been one for camping outdoors. Actually, truth is, I’ve never camped… ever. Nope, never pitched a tent. This Boy Scout since the age of 13 always had a job that consumed weekends, so earning that badge never presented itself. The closest I ever got was when I was dating my now wife, Nina, and we went to Oshkosh, Wisc., to meet her dad and brother at the annual air show. We slept in a Winnebago for two nights and I got the top bunk, which was about 3 inches from the ceiling… it was pretty miserable. Since then I’ve opted for hotels.

So when my sales rep Scott McBride came in the shop last month and said, “hey Frank, wanna go camping?” I politely declined. Then he pulled the Camp Wines from Sonoma out of his wine bag… now THIS is my kind of camping!

Camp Wines were created by the Hobo Wine Co. in 2011 to showcase the quality and value of Sonoma County wine. Winemaker Kenny Likitprakong works with top growers and vineyard managers in very high-quality and responsibly-farmed, though lesser-known, vineyards throughout Sonoma County to produce delicious, approachable, and affordable wines.

campThe Camp wines employ native yeasts and malolactic bacterias for the primary and secondary fermentations without the use of commercial fermentation aids or additives. The wines are aged in real oak barrels and/or stainless steel tanks vs. alternatives or flavoring agents.

The question always comes up, “Why Hobo?” A friend in the wine industry once told Kenny that he figured the hobo name came from the fact that he was about the dirtiest winemaker he knew. The part about Kenny being the dirtiest winemaker might be true, but it is not where the name came from. It’s partly a trip he’s on about a dead American era and partly about the fact that he doesn’t own a winery or any vineyards.

kennyHobo is Kenny Likitprokong’s tribute and homage to a freedom and an era that he grew up romanticizing. After tasting the lineup with Scott, I was so impressed by the pureness of the wine that I gave the winemaker a call and we chatted…

“I think I spent a lot of my late teens and early twenties chasing the rambling ways of the American Hobo. When I was seventeen I started traveling around, listening to Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen and the likes, seeing the different parts of the country and other countries, writing in journals and taking photos and didn’t really stop until I was 23 or 24. As the experiences racked up, I found out that the hoboes had disappeared. The hobo had become a relic in the story of our expanding country. Like all good heroes, I figured they deserved their place in history and on wine bottles.”

Instead of becoming a hobo, Kenny became a “Hobo Winemaker.” Of the two ways to make wine – with and without money – the first should probably be the only, but a few lucky guys like Kenny slip through the cracks and do it on the skinny.

No winery, no vineyards, no truck, no warehouse, no employees… nothing. “There are advantages. Making small lots comes naturally, the flexibility to pick and choose grape type, vineyard, appellation, and winery on an ongoing basis, and a larger circle of people involved, which means more ideas and expertise.”

If I were to ever get into the winemaking biz, I would choose Kenny’s model for sure. Now where’s that corkscrew? I’m ready to CAMP. I’ll have the s’mores ready… really, I will!

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About the Contributor

Frank Pagliaro

Frank Pagliaro

Frank Pagliaro has been a Wilmington wine merchant since 1986 – Frank’s Union Wine Mart. He is the Team Host & Chief Wino of the Marathon Team which gets fellow winos and runners together to train for a yearly Fall Marathon while raising money for children’s charities.