Wine holds an extraordinarily deep fascination for Kevin Pike. No aspect of it feels irrelevant to his appreciation or analysis. As with his myriad other interests—including antiques, art, beekeeping, cooking, farming, geology, history, literature—it is often the finest detail that brings a wine into focus for him. Yet, it is wine’s human dimension that draws him closest to the subject.
In his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, Kevin was lucky to get early exposure to great wines, in the context of shared meals. (An ‘84 Inglenook charbono was the gateway.) Kevin explored cooking and wine during his studies at Swarthmore College and it was then that he started a cellar of mid- ‘80s Bordeaux. After finishing his English degree, Kevin spent a formative period intensifying his love of French culture in Paris, before moving back to the U.S. to pursue what he thought would be a literary career.
Back in Columbus, he supported his writerly aims by taking a part-time job at a local wine retailer. He quickly became engrossed in the unending complexity of wine. He shifted his focus from literature to libations, text to terroirs. He weighed a life in publishing against the world of wine: wine won.
Kevin moved up to a head buying position and became an early champion of the great wines of Austria and the grower-producer movement in Champagne. At a moment when powerful, oaked-out wines were the fashion, he turned toward the delicate, nuanced flavors of great northern European terroirs, which ultimately led him to Germany.
After five years in retail in Ohio, Kevin’s drive and passion were recognized by the Skurnik brothers in New York. In 2000, Kevin joined their team, where he spread the gospel of riesling and Champagne, working closely with legendary importer Terry Theise. Over Kevin’s 13-year tenure at Skurnik, he led a department that grew tenfold in sales, expanded distribution to its largest reach, and educated a generation of wine professionals about grower Champagne and Austrian and German wines through seminars at Aspen Food & Wine, TEXSOM, Atlanta Food & Wine, Charleston Wine & Food, among others.
Toward the end of this time at Skurnik, Kevin was feeling more and more compelled by the idea of putting his hands on an artisanal process, an antidote to business life. Also, having grown up spending lots of time at his grandparents’ farm in Iowa, he wanted to give his own children a similar experience. In 2014, he bought Branchwater Farms—78 acres of wheat, rye and corn in the heart of the Hudson Valley—with the aim of farming thoughtfully and producing high-quality ciders and distillates. Now he, his son and daughter, and his wife, Robin Touchet, are coming to understand the rhythms of nature, the heartbreak and communion of living on the land.
2014 was also the year that, after lengthy examination of the import-distribution systems that dominate in the U.S., Kevin acted on his vision of a more direct and focused model. He left Skurnik and, together with his closest friend, Rheingau winemaker Johannes Leitz, founded Schatzi Wines. Schatzi is the German word for little treasure. It’s an affectionate nickname Kevin and Johannes teasingly call each other, and it sums up their shared values and business ideals: honest and direct communication, cultivating a small and focused portfolio, commitment to stateside inventory, leaner margins, uncompromising service from grower to glass.
When Kevin founded Schatzi Wines, he was acutely aware he was asking growers who signed on with him to take a substantial risk — equal to the one he himself was taking. As mindful of this now as then, he is growing the portfolio carefully, through thoughtful and organic expansion.
He is proud to represent environmentally conscious, small-scale producers from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Switzerland and New York who make wines that respect the earth and give voice to terroir—wines Kevin cares about and feels connected to.
Schatzi Wines works with winemakers who understand and support this vision and who want a stronger voice regarding how their wines are represented in the United States as well as distributors, restaurants and retailers who seek authentic, hand-crafted, terroir-driven wines at a fair price.
Kevin is excited to taste and drink with all of you as soon as possible. Please feel free to get in touch with him with any questions.
Click here to check out Kevin’s most recent interview with Levi Dalton on I’ll Drink to That!