Kimberley Cameron: My passion for wine

  • Friday 9 October 2009

The US literary agent tells SCOTT ROSE about her 2,000-bottle cellar, smoking cigars underground in Meursault, and her worst nightmare

Kimberley Cameron remembers, as a teenager, dipping croutons into chilled Chablis. ‘My parents both loved wine, and were among the first tourists to travel to Napa and Sonoma in the 1960s to visit the wineries there. I went with them as a child and was allowed to taste – most American parents aren’t as liberated about this kind of thing as the French.’ As a teenager she graduated to Mateus Rosé – ‘the bottle was pretty’ – before being exposed to German wines by friends, and then discovering France. ‘When I tasted my first white Burgundy I was hooked.'

She describes her late business partner at their Reece Halsey Literary Agency, Dorris Halsey, as ‘a great oenological encourager’ who would regale her with anecdotes about sitting in a gutter drinking with [Nobel prize-winning author] William Faulkner. ‘I’m always interested in a good book on wine,’ she says. ‘I’ve had a few people try to bribe my literary services by sending me wine with a manuscript…I’ve always enjoyed the wine!’

Cameron and her husband spend several months a year in their flat in Paris’ 7th arrondissement, but their main home is in the San Francisco Bay town of Tiburon. ‘Our [2,000-bottle] cellar is stocked with about 70% French wine, mainly Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhône,’ she says. ‘I’ve been drinking Lynch-Bages for years, but also love Gazin, L’Evangile, Le Gay, Troplong-Mondot, La Tour Figeac and La Conseillante. And on the Left Bank, Margaux and Palmer, Léoville-Barton, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Pontet-Canet, Pichon-Lalande and Duhart-Milon and Cos d’Estournel. I also have a collection of Bordeaux magnums – wine is always a special treat from a large bottle, and tastes better too.’ The rest of her cellar space is taken up by Californian and Oregon Pinot, plus an array of top names from Italy – Ornellaia, Tignanello, Guado al Tasso, Bruno Giacosa and Poggio Antico.

For everyday dinners, she considers Château Reignac a good-value Bordeaux. ‘But lately, many Spanish wines have been showing up on our table as well – Vega Sicilia’s Unico, Alion and others from Ribera del Duero and Priorat. And through Marimar Torres’ wine club, we receive some really amazing wines every year. The Milmanda Chardonnay reminds me of a good white Burgundy: balanced and subtle.’

Cameron cherishes memories of a visit to Perrier-Jouët in Epernay, as well as Burgundy’s famed Les Trois Glorieuses celebrations. ‘It’s so magical there – from the candlelit auction at the Hospices de Beaune to the underground caves in Meursault. There I tasted more great wines than I ever have and we sang French songs and smoked cigars until the early hours of the morning.’ Burgundy evidently has a place in her heart – Clos de Tart is a favourite – and she makes a point of volunteering how ‘French culture has always had a deep resonance’ for her. ‘But I have an interest in the New World, too,’ she adds. ‘Domaine Serene is a nice Oregon Pinot and I love Michael-David’s Earthquake wines, from Lodi. The 2004 Cabernet is especially good.’

Favourite local merchants include North Berkeley Imports, Martine’s Wines and Kermit Lynch. ‘I read their newsletters; the notes can be very convincing!’ How about en primeur? ‘When a vintage is expected to be exceptional, it gives you a feeling that is comfortable yet exciting. I’ve bought Château Margaux, but have also had very satisfying results with Lynch-Bages and some Pomerols.’

Cameron hopes to continue enjoying wine for a long time. ‘I was recently at Lake Como in Lombardy, and an Italian told me that in the Italian hospitals there are bars so that, with the doctor’s approval, a patient can enjoy a glass of wine. That’s civilised. My worst nightmare would be to die in a home for the aged where wines aren’t allowed

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