10 Questions for Keith Idle of V. Sattui Winery

Napa Valley Register
October 6, 2010
By Jennifer Huffman

10 Questions for Keith Idle of V. Sattui Winery

Keith Idle, Cheesemonger

To Keith Idle, cheese is more than just food — it’s family. “Cheese are like my children,” Idle said. On most days, visitors at V. Sattui Winery will find Idle behind the extensive cheese counter at the winery’s popular deli, where he’s worked for 26 years.

“I have 200 little children,” Idle said. “Some are a little bit harder to like than others but it’s just a matter of getting to know them,” he said.

Idle doesn’t just sell cheese, he also makes his own artichoke Parmesan Romano spread. “It’s fresh cheese mixed with artichokes, and Parmesan and garlic. We sell about 250 pounds of it a week in the summer time.”

Do you have a favorite and least favorite cheese?

I tend to go towards fuller flavors. I like hard cheeses (like) piave vecchio. I love camembert, blue cheeses and Roquefort’s. Least favorite? I don’t like smoked cheeses in general. It covers up the cheese flavors. I prefer straight-up cheese.

What’s a common misconception people have about cheese?

(That) cheese has to be refrigerated immediately. Cheese actually benefits from coming to room temperature. All it needs is coolness. Get over the fear of it spoiling immediately. Cheese is much more rugged than people think.

What do you recommend for someone who may be hesitant to try a new cheese?

A lot of people are afraid of cheese. Cheese can have a nose to it but you have to acquire the taste by moving them up slightly. Work your way into stronger flavors and get used to something different and you’ll like them.

Which cheese has the worst reputation?

Limburger is the most infamous cheese. Its bark is worse than its bite. It should be strong and aromatic but there is a difference between strong and spoiled. It’s a matter of getting it in the right condition.

Blue cheese has the worst reputation. It’s a little more aggressive. But if you have a high quality blue, you get used to that flavor. The high-end blues are really great.

Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?

Jack Nicklaus, Paul Simon and John Cleese.

What job would you like to try/not like to try?

Sportscaster. Toll booth attendant.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?

Overcoming the “fast food” mindset of customers.

I can’t live without a sharp knife.

What was your childhood ambition?

Caped Crusader or bus driver.

What other business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions for…”

Rob Monaghan, tasting room/wine club manager, William Harrison Winery.

More from Keith Idle

What was your first job?

Video game machine factory custodian.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Freelance candle salesman.

How did you get into this business?

Food fascination.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

Create a music album of my own compositions.

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?

Triple the floor space.

What’s your favorite gift to give?

Puzzles and books.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I’m somewhat claustrophobic.

What is your favorite charity?

American Diabetes Association.

What’s on your to-do list?

Make a to-do list.

Who do you most admire in the business world ?

Paul Newman.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

Paris café.

What’s one thing Napa could do to help local business?

More visible business from Highway 29.

What’s the most significant project you’ve been involved with in your career?

Setting up an import/export program for a leather company.

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