~ Meet Ezekiel Hampton ~

How does it feel to be back with The Good Life Wine Collective?

Surreal, but amazing…coming back to work with my friends and former work family…the familiarity is really, really nice. It’s almost like coming home.

Tell us about how you got started in the wine business.

I’ve worked in retail wine shops in Sacramento, where I’m from, but my first wine job was back in 2008, in Auburn, CA in Placer County, a place known for its history from the California Gold Rush days. I had the privilege of getting my start working for a great little winery called Fawn Ridge Winery. After that, I moved up to Oregon to join a band (I’m a musician) and worked the wine bar at a restaurant named “Marché.” Eventually, I made my way to Napa, my first wine gig being at Hall Wines. Next, I had the opportunity to launch the DTC (Direct to Consumer) operations for Walt Wines – my friends and I pretty much put them on the map with their first tasting room. Our guests had a great time and we also moved a LOT of wine!

You mentioned that you are a musician. Much of art utilizes the senses…what we hear…what we see…and in the world of food and wine, what we smell, taste, and experience texturally. What kind of memories stand out that have influenced your career in food and wine?

Some of my fondest memories are of my paternal grandmother, Anna. She was a wonderful woman of Pennsylvania Dutch descent (a lot of German influence in their food), and my earliest food memories are of her chicken and noodles (basically a ridiculously good chicken noodle soup with fantastic broth), and lots of butter and mashed potatoes with practically everything. If I had to choose one dish for a last meal, it would have to be my grandmother’s fried chicken.

How about your earliest recollections of Napa Valley wines?

The first Napa Valley wine that really made an impression upon me was the 1976 Cuvaison Cabernet Sauvignon. It was the first vintage that I tasted that was older than I was, and I remember experiencing notes and flavors that existed entirely outside the lexicon of wine that was known to me at the time.

Which handcrafted wines from Handwritten’s current lineup speak to you the most?

I’d have to say the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the Carneros Cabernet. Howell Mountain for its incredible intensity, representing that really big Napa cab, and also for its minerality. The mineral notes are just awesome. And Carneros, because it’s a contrarian wine, almost the antithesis of a typical Napa cab, because of its subtlety, it’s so refreshing. Those two would have to be my current favorites.

So, tell us more about what has influenced your journey as a musician.

The first band that had a major impact upon me was a group called Dredg, with the most influential album being Leit Motif.

As far as tracks go, Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós (featured in the film Vanilla Sky) is a song that changed my life.

Another really influential band for me is called The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid. They’re the first band that taught me that I could be uniquely expressive through music – music that taught me about restraint. It’s music that, if one really intentionally listens to it, leads to all the feels through its emotional layers. It’s about listening, while really being in the moment.

Finally, a major influence upon my ambient music, is a twelve-piece band called Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their music pretty much transcends any kind of genre.

Arrange a tasting at SoYo house and come and explore the latest releases of our handcrafted wines, including Ezekiel’s favorite Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. You can also find our Howell Mountain Cabernet in our store or call your wine curator team to ensure we include a bottle on your next wine club shipment. For personalized service call the team at (707) 944-8524.