This show pays tribute to Kerner Rombauer, recently deceased, who introduced Napa to a very particular style of wine, especially their renowned Napa. We interview his Director of Viticulture and Winemaking, Richie Allen.
We also are delighted to welcome back Claudia Sansone and Rob Hampton who are doing amazing work to improve the health, education and agricultural development of a village in Malawi with their United Village Transformation.
Richie Allen, Director of Viticulture & Winemaking
Though he grew up near one of the most famous wine regions of Australia, it was an afternoon spent tasting wine in California that provided Richie’s “aha” moment, steering him into a career in wine. After graduating from the University of Adelaide and gaining practical experience making wine in Australia and New Zealand, Richie returned to California in 2004 to take up a harvest position at Rombauer. Recognizing his talent and drive, we hired Richie full time. He subsequently worked his way up from enologist to assistant winemaker to head winemaker, and he was named Director of Viticulture and Winemaking in 2013.
About Rombauer Winery
When founders Koerner and Joan Rombauer moved their two children, two horses and five dogs to Napa Valley in 1972, they arrived armed with an appreciation for the intimate relationship between food and wine. Their appreciation stemmed from Koerner’s great aunt Irma Rombauer having authored internationally renowned cookbook the Joy of Cooking and his ancestors originating from the winegrowing region of Rheingau, Germany, where wine is considered an essential complement to a meal.
Appreciation bred passion, and Rombauer Vineyards was established in 1980. Thirty-seven years later, the winery remains owned and operated by first-, second- and third-generation members of the family.
The three-level winery was built into the hillside to take advantage of the natural cooling influence and create a cave-like atmosphere for aging wines. Caves were created in the hillside in the 1990s. State of the art equipment includes three optical sorters, basket presses and peristaltic pumps — larger versions of those used to move blood during surgery — which provide for gentle handling of the wine every step of the way. Winery grounds include gardens with over 100 varieties of plants and flowers and whimsical works of art collected by Koerner Rombauer.
Claudia Sansone and Rob Hampton
United Village Transformation, Malawi
adapted from the Napa Valley Register story by Paul Franson)
Some people go to Hawaii on vacation, and others take cruises to exotic lands.
Napa couple Dr. Rob Hampton and Claudia Sansone journey to a village in Malawi in sub-Saharan Africa to help the local people.
The co-founders of United Village Transformation (UVT), they along with Kevin and Rebecca Gouveia from Springfield, Virginia, have sparked a social transformation in the remote village as they’ve introduced education, and improved health care, agriculture and better nutrition to the local population.
Claudia Sansone is an expert in food education. She’s written cookbooks and helped produce TV series with chefs and wine experts including Michael Chiarello, Jacques Pepin, Andrea Robinson and Joanne Weir. She ran her own cooking school and has extensive hands-on experience in kitchens around the United States and Europe.
Her husband, Rob Hampton, is a well-known local dentist and artist who donates the proceeds from his sculpture and other art to the nonprofit effort.
The couple have worked in collaboration with domestic Malawian resources to establish a much-needed dental clinic in Daeyang Luke Hospital in Lilongwe and provide ongoing training for nurses and dentists.
Better and healthier food
The effort is also attempting to improve the agriculture and nutrition. “The staple of the local diet is a gruel made from maize,” Sansone explained. The people didn’t really eat vegetables, proteins or fruit regularly.
Sansone showed them how to plant beans at the base of the corn plants as Native Americans did to use the corn stalks to support the nutritious legumes as both grew, for example.
Van Winden’s Nursery donated “shopping bags full” of outdated seeds for the people, noted Sansone, and Tracy Hayward of Perfect Purée in Napa donated fruit trees for the garden.
In 2014 Dothi Village developed the first extensive garden grown during Malawi’s dry season in 40 years. From April through October Malawians experience drought-like conditions with no rainfall.
With instruction from UVT volunteers, Dothi villagers were able to dig a hole deep enough to hit water. They acquired enough fertilizer and manure bought with funds from fundraisers to help support the village food supplies.
They’re also working to improve the quality of drinking water and sanitation.
With more produce available, Sansone taught the people how to prepare nutritious meals, and the children learn how to garden, too.
Based on her cooking expertise, Sansone engaged Solar Cookers Intl. to provide solar cooking kits as a safe alternative to traditional wood-burning methods.
“Smoke inhalation from cooking over an open fire is a serious health issue,” she explained. “Also, women must leave the village to collect firewood, which puts them in harm’s way. We want to keep the women and children safe.” She also taught them how to cook in an oven, and the village is building one.
A focus on education
At UVT, they believe that “Food is life, and education is the seed.” A major part of their effort is improving education for the children (and adults).
Education is UVT’s major focus. Although elementary education enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 60 percent in 2000 to 85 percent in 2012, a quarter of all young people are still illiterate.
When Rob and Claudia visited in June 2013 they told the chief of the village that they would like to support a school. They offered to raise funds if his villagers built the structure. He consented.
In the local culture, women do most of the work; men make bricks, and so talent was harnessed to create a school. When Hampton and Sansone returned in October 2014, the school had brick walls, mud floors and a thatched roof. The villagers found two volunteer teachers and were holding classes for children ages 3 to 5 years of age.
They are now raising money to build a primary school for more than 1,450 children in Dothi Village. The funds will also support the preschool and dental clinic and the school feeding program. They’re hoping to raise $50,000 for this project.
Health and dental care
Hampton and Sansone have been traveling to Malawi, first to establish the first dental clinic at Daeyang Luke Hospital, then on a recurring basis to administer dental care, deliver supplies and otherwise support the ongoing efforts to improve quality of life for the people of Malawi.
Malawi has an average of one dentist for every 1.5 million people. Because of the efforts of Rob, Claudia, UVT and their supporters, the Daeyang Luke Hospital can now train 32 dental nurses from rural villages annually.
In 2014, Hampton was among those honored by the Dalai Lama through the nonprofit organization “Wisdom in Action” with the “Unsung Hero Of Compassion” award for his philanthropic endeavors.
When their friends heard what they were doing, they got involved. What started as a conversation between friends has expanded into an opportunity to develop a repeatable model for modernizing a village in the developing world. Thus “United Village Transformation Foundation” was born.
When they travel to Malawi, they stay in a house at a local hospital, but definitely are in the local environment.
“It changes your life to get involved,” said Sansone.