This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.
Why Wine? An Interview with wine writer Karl Klooster
Michele Francisco: Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
Karl Klooster: A 1958 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle more years ago than I want to admit. It was not long after I graduated from college and had begun working as an advertising media rep. I knew nothing about wine but was learning quickly that one of the ways to get a client’s signature on the dotted line was by treating them to a delicious dinner with accompanying fine wine. On the company expense account, of course. The BV, one of California’s very best at the time thanks to the genius of André Tchelistcheff, was a delightful awakening that unbeknownst to me my taste buds were eagerly awaiting.
MF: What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
KK: My background has nothing to do with wine actually. I was an art major turned advertising-PR/business and journalism major. After graduation I began working as a media rep in Portland, was transferred to Seattle and back to Portland before getting the big nod to go to San Francisco.
Numerous, enjoyable, work-related dinners at very good Northwest restaurants turned into even better and more frequent work-related dinners at even better Bay Area restaurants and even more dinners on my own dime as well as more frequent wine purchases, often going beyond my originally planned budget. I went to work for an ad agency in San Francisco that had a major wine client, became even more interested in wine, took some industry courses and began regularly visiting Napa/Sonoma/Mendocino wine country.
A few years later, I left the ad biz, and went to work as the advertising manager for a major wine & spirits distributor. From there it was into my own wine import/export business which entailed getting to know the California industry very well and led to numerous trips involving both business and pleasure to European wine regions, plus even more visits to London to work with our representatives there. Began writing professionally about wine, dining and travel in the mid 1970s. Have been doing it ever since on both a freelance and full time basis.
MF: How has being in the wine industry changed you?
KK: Let’s see. How hasn’t it changed me would be a better question? I have seen wonderful places and met fascinating people I would never otherwise have met, both in the New and Old Worlds. I have learned a little French, which means I now sound like a snob when I pronounce Cabernet Sauvignon. But it hasn’t helped me a bit when it comes to getting on the good side of a Parisian garcon.
I did learn German somewhat better thanks to three years of college classes, which really gets me into heiss Wasser when I make the mistake of attempting to engage in eine philosophische Gesprache (a philosophical conversation) with a native German speaker. I also have spent and continue to spend way too much Gelt on Der Wein und/et La Cuisine without regret.
MF: What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
KK: Enjoying the company of positive, fun, friendly, sharper-than-your-average-tack wine-oriented folks just as long as they don’t spend ALL their time talking about wine. Enjoying outstanding wines I probably wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to try. And, most of all, writing about it all. What a concept. Sipping fine wine. Savoring fine food. Writing about fine wine (and occasionally about fine food) and all that encompasses them. And getting paid to do it.
MF: Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
KK: Good luck. Good timing. Good karma.
You can reach Karl Klooster by e-mail at email@example.com