The Hobo Wine Company is the brainchild, side job, menace to the wine industry, hedged bet, cash strain, mental anguish, late night musing, bruised hands, dirty t-shirts, and constant companion of Kenny Likitprakong. Despite knowing better, he started his own label in 2002 with the simple idea to have some good fun.
Kenny on Hobo in 2004
The question always comes up, “Why Hobo?” A friend in the wine industry once told me that he figured the hobo name came from the fact that I was about the dirtiest winemaker he knew. The part about me being the dirtiest winemaker might be true, but it is not where the name came from. It’s partly a trip I’m on about a dead American era and partly about the fact that I don’t own a winery or any vineyards. If you are looking for estate bottled wines, you have come to the wrong place.
Hobo is my tribute and homage to a freedom and an era that I grew up romanticizing. 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 twenty-three or twenty-four. 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, I 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 of us 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 flexability 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.
I crushed the first grapes in 2002 at Hallcrest Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. That year I made the Dry Creek Zinfandel and the Dry Creek Port. Before that, I was moonshining in the kitchen under the name Cote du Fumier. Cote du Fumier means something like banks of compost (banks of shit). It’s a joke, but its literal too. I was making this Yolo County blend from the Student Organic Farm at UC Davis and the vineyard is next to the rows of compost. The rest of it was kind of just a joke about the Cote d’Or and the Cote du Rhone and the French in general. Now, 2004, we are 3 vintages into it and producing about 500 cases a year.
Soaking up wine fumes at Domaine St. George in Healdsburg ending in my departure from Sonoma County and first major trip to Southeast Asia
Mostly drinking cheap beer in Lake Tahoe and hitchhiking around California
A short stint in the Theater Arts Dept. of U.C. Santa Cruz, moved to Idaho, then Wyoming, Utah, and ended up in Colorado – started drinking microbeers
Moved back to Lake Tahoe, began enjoying wine if it was free, but mostly still drinking beer, first cross country trip by car with a focus on seeing Graceland, first trip to Western Europe and drinking Italian wine in the Dolomites
Lived in San Francisco, but began traveling much more and drinking much more wine, 1 year in the Creative Writing Dept. of San Francisco State, A summer in Mexico – drinking lots of Mezcal, 2nd cross country trip by Greyhound, 2nd stop at Graceland, 2nd trip to Western Europe – back to Italy and then hitchhiking around France with no money – drinking cheap Bordeaux and sleeping on the beaches and in doorwells and by rivers, 3rd extended trip to Western Europe and first trip to Eastern Europe - a lot of wine drinking. Ended the year by moving to Davis to study Viticulture and Enology.
Spent the summer on the East Coast and then interned at Alderbrook in the Dry Creek Valley under Kristi Koford to study Zinfandel and Pinot Noir
Took over most responsibilities at Winters Winery in Yolo County, graduated from Davis, moved back to Santa Cruz.
Winemaker at Hallcrest Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, started The Hobo Wine Company, started Banyan Wines, more trips to Europe (Hobo’d my way around Champagne and the Cote du Rhone drinking bubbly and learning to appreciate Grenache)., three trips to South America (drinking Peruvian wine and Pisco in Ica), two Western states road trips (visiting the Texas Hill Country wineries and the Colorado Grand Valley wineries), more attention to wine and a little more money to drink a little more wine.
First part of 2005 spent in the South of France surfing and drinking a lot of wine. Tours to the Irouleguy, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone Valley, The Loire Valley, and the Alsace as well as Switzerland's Valais region. A lot of time spent exploring the concept of terroir and the minerality of France's white wines. Basically learned that it is possible to drink really good wines that you cannot afford if you have a credit card. This was a really groundbreaking trip for the progression of Banyan Wines.
Second part of 2005 returned to California to Sonoma County's Russian River Valley to help Rick Moshin complete construction on his long dreamed about four tier gravity flow winery. Moved all production of Hobo and Banyan to Moshin Vineyards and crushed the 2005 vintage as the new winemaker for Moshin Vineyards.
Continued at Moshin Vineyards. Entered into my first vineyard leases on 7 acres of Zinfandel vines in the Dry Creek Valley and another 1 acre of more Zinfandel in Santa Rosa, started the Folk Machine as a tribute to Woody Guthrie and a way to unbrand myself and Planet Hobo to explore wines from outside the USA. Had my film debut in Rob Dafoe's From Ground to Glass. Still drinking...lots of Alsace and more Sonoma County wines again and beer to pair with the vineyard work. Ida May Rose born during harvest on October 16.
Traveled extensively in the United States promoting our wines and drinking with our distributors. A lot of time spent drinking wines at home that were acquired during previous trips. Even more time spent watching Ida grow up and looking at the world through her eyes. Received our first shipment of wine for Planet Hobo from our good friend, Sebastien's family estate, Domaine de la Damase. Got out of the country for the first time since 2005 by making a quick trip to Mexico to surf and drink beer.