June 28, 2010
Gauge Wines Joins the Wild Chef
By Colin Kearns
Even the best chefs in the world need grape gurus (aka sommeliers) to help them out with the wine work involved with running a kitchen. Here at the Wild Chef, we’re no different. We’d like to think that we’ve got a pretty good handle on the food and cooking side of the blog, but we still have plenty to learn when it comes to wine. Enter the guys from Gauge Wines.
Yes, that’s Gauge as in “12 gauge,” as in a wine for outdoorsmen by outdoorsmen. Three hunters and anglers, John Putnam, Bjorn Larson, and Trent Moffett, started Gauge Wines a few years back. They wanted to make a “full-bodied wine for full-blooded Americans,” a wine that worked with the fish they caught and the wild game they hunted.
Gauge sells two wines online: the 12 Gauge Cab (“perfect for anything retired by a shotgun or rifle”), and the 20 Gauge Chard (“perfect for anything hauled in by hook”). With that brand of down-to-earth philosophy toward wine, we thought Gauge Wines would be perfect with the Wild Chef, which is why you’ll be hearing a lot more about wine from John, Bjorn, and Trent here on the blog. For now, we thought we’d let you get to know them a little better. —Interview by CJ Lotz
F&S: Tell us the story behind Gauge Wines and how it got started.
GW: It was a very organic beginning. The concept actually came up when we were duck hunting. We said, “Man, ‘12 Gauge’ would be a great name for a red wine.” The brand just grew from there. We knew that by using our connections in and around Napa, we could search out and acquire small lots of wine that could be blended to produce a great product.
F&S: On your website, you say that your wine is “inspired by the meals you catch” and “by the thrill of the hunt.” Why is your wine such a good fit for fish and wild game?
GW: We love to hunt and fish and we also love to eat what we catch and kill. So our goal was to create well-balanced, food-friendly wines that complement fish and wild game instead of overpowering it. Our agenda, too, is to offer a solid quality wine that over delivers for the price. And on our table happens to be things that we’ve hunted and things that we’ve caught, which always deserves a good bottle of wine. A lot of people are intimidated by wine, so our goal was to remove the pretentiousness, and create an approachable brand that the American Sportsman can connect with.
F&S: How has your experience as outdoorsmen influenced your approach to making and enjoying wine?
GW: Awareness and attention to nature’s patterns is crucial for success. You learn to be a really sharp observer. When hunting, you’re not going to be successful unless you are acutely aware of your surroundings, the noise you make, the scents that you put off, and the way that you fit into the forest. When you’re in the vineyard, the same principals are at work. You notice things like weather and growth patterns, irrigation, what pests are present, and how to control them. It’s a process of constantly making adjustments.
F&S: How do you introduce people to wine in a comfortable way?
GW: It starts with a good product, packaged around effective branding. It’s been successful already, and we’re just continuing. We offer a quality product at a great value. A lot of people try a glass of wine and say they don’t like wine, flat out. What we’re offering is well-balanced, smooth-drinking wine that can get those perceptions changed. There’s no denying that there’s a lot of wine out there, both good and bad. We’re beer and wine drinkers who love to hunt and fish, and we’re saying, “Hey, we’ve got a great product made for sportsmen, by sportsmen. Enjoy, and help us spread the word.”
F&S: When you’re not in the vineyard, what do you enjoy hunting for most?
GW: Whatever is in season. We do a lot of deer hunting as well as duck, dove, quail, and pheasant. We’re not big trophy hunters. The trophy, ultimately, is what’s in the pot. We enjoy the hunt and don’t kill just to kill. Pretty much all we eat is wild game. We get to eat meat that lives on the same land as the grapes. It’s amazing to find the same characteristics—the earthy tones—in both the wine and the meat.
F&S: OK, say all I’ve got in the house is a wine cooler. What should I eat with that?
GW: McDonald’s (laughing). It’s kind of like a Sprite with Hamburger Helper. Or, get a cup of ice and pour the wine cooler over it, and then, when you’re ready to eat, open a good bottle of wine. We’re not an authority on that because we don’t drink wine coolers.
F&S: Good. That was a test. You guys passed.