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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


On Betrayal of Confidence and Threats to Journalists: An Open Letter to Kevin Zraly, Technical Director of the Recently Concluded WineFuture-Rioja 2009

* * * * *

Kevin Zraly, Technical Director
WineFuture-Rioja 2009

* * * * *
Background to my open letter to Kevin Zraly:

The following are my notes on the telephone conversation on August 31, 2009 with Kevin Zraly about what has become known as Campogate, the Pancho Campo WineFuture-Rioja 2009 Affair:
(I assumed that the telephone conversation I had with Zraly was in strictest confidence, but apparently it was not, and I gave him ample opportunities via e-mail and telephone messages (see below) to convince me that I am mistaken, so I no longer feel bound by such confidence, therefore I am reproducing the gist of our telephone conversation from some very careful notes that I took.)

After telling Kevin Zraly that I was calling because a distinguished mutual writer friend had told me that the information (See Expanded Background to the Pancho Campo-Kevin Zraly-Robert Parker Wine Futures Rioja Affair 2009)  that had come to me about the Pancho Campo affair was something that he should know, I said:

“I was sitting here thinking  'I know Kevin and I think he would be interested in knowing this stuff."  

(I was hoping that I might get some more information about the Campo affair, which I was investigating as a journalist, but Zraly said he knew nothing about it, so I forwarded a third-party e-mail to him with information about the Interpol warrant seeking Campo's arrest while we were having the phone conversation.)

Kevin Zraly (after reading the e-mail while we were still on the phone): “Absolutely, this is big shit, you know. I don’t hang around with the criminal type.”

Kevin Zraly: “For me, I can take it (WineFuture Rioja 2009) or leave it. I can just go with the flow, but it is important that you sent this (info about the Campo affair). I appreciate it.”

Kevin Zraly (later in the conversation):  "Again, I do appreciate it (your letting me know the information about Pancho Campo)."

(After talking about going around the world with Robin Kelley O’Conner [another speaker at WineFutures-Rioja 2009] to wine regions in "25 countries" [other reports say 15] to update the 25th Anniversary version of his Windows on the World Complete Wine Course book [a book for which I received acknowledgement for my help in updating the Spanish chapter in an earlier edition], Zraly complained about the alcohol and overwrought style of the wines in Chile, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa. [Dare I say "Parkerista" style?-GD]) 

Then Zraly said, “It is not just Spain, not just California.”
(Note:  These statements seem to be in direct contrast with the interview with Zraly published on The Wine Academy's WineFuture-Rioja 2009 pages; see question #11. )

Kevin Zraly: “To be honest with you, Gerry, I am disillusioned with the whole (wine) thing. I am disillusioned with everything, everything. I'm glad I did everything (in wine) when I did, but moving on, I am not inspired.”
(There was more conversation about wine, but most of it does not really relate to the point.  However,  during the conversation, he told me that his wife, Ana Fabiano, had signed a contract with the Consejo Regulador of La Rioja to promote Rioja wines in the United States.  I subsequently found out only recently that Ana Fabiano appears on a Pancho Campo Wine Academy videotape endorsing his wine courses in the United States.)

Kevin Zraly: “If you hear of anything else that is going down, please, please, please let me know. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your thinking about me.”
* * * * *
On October 1, after the information about an Interpol warrant for the arrest of Pancho Campo had come to light in the Jim Budd/Adam Lechmere article and had caused a brouhaha for the month of September in Spain, Pancho Campo, under heavy pressure from within La Rioja, resigned as "Director" of WineFuture Rioja 2009. 

Campo also issued a statement saying he had "resigned" as President of The Wine Academy of Spain, a private company founded by him and members of his family. Campo named his brother-in-law, Rony Bacqué, as President of The Wine Academy of Spain. Campo's wife, Melissa, an American, is also active in the Wine Academy.

In early October, Kevin Zraly was named "Technical Director" of WineFuture Rioja 2009 to succeed Pancho Campo in running that event, even though Campo's Wine Academy of Spain was still in charge of the event and still stood to profit from it.  It is clearly stated on The Wine Academy website that the WineFuture Rioja 2009 is the propiedad (property) of The Wine Academy and the event is thus a private enterprise, from which the Wine Academy stood to gain a substantial amount of money. The event was supported in part by private sponsors, but with a substantial commitment of public funds and facilities from the government of La Rioja and full support and some funding from the Consejo Regulador (Regulatory Council) of La Rioja.

Many, including journalists, winemakers and political figures in La Rioja, believe that Kevin Zraly, who lives two hours northwest of New York City and does not speak Spanish, was a "straw man," a figurehead who allowed Pancho Campo and his Wine Academy to continue to direct the conference behind the scenes.

As noted earlier, Kevin Zraly's wife, Ana Fabiano, early in 2009 signed a contract with the Rioja Regulatory Council--composed of a coalition of grape growers and wineries--to promote the wines of La Rioja in the United States.

The interview excerpt below was posted on the Wine Academy of Spain's website, on October 14, 2009, after Zraly's being named to direct WineFuture-Rioja 2009 and after additional information on the Campo case had been published did nothing to dissuade the Zraly as "straw man" belief among skeptics.

(*Interview dated Oct. 14, 2009.) 

Wine Academy Question 14. Which [sic] is the outcome you expect from Winefuture-Rioja?
Kevin Zraly:  "That there will be more WineFutures! Pancho Campo has done a tremendous job in bringing all segments of the market together to discuss how we can all move forward in the distribution of wines throughout the world. The logistics of putting a first time event like this together were enormous and I congratulate Pancho and his team for having the foresight and energy to organize this event."

* * * * *Open Letter to Kevin Zraly From Gerry Dawes  

Preface to the letter:

Kevin Zraly, you are a man I have known for more than thirty years and have had a cordial relationship with over that period.  You are the man for whom I quit my first job in the wine business because my company refused to keep my word of honor to you when you were Wine Director and Sommelier at Windows on the World. 

At your request several years ago I also revised pro bono the chapter on Spanish wines for your book, The Windows on the World Wine Course Book--see the frontespiece for my signature, the "payment" you give as acknowledgment for each expert's contributions to the book.

On October 9, 2009, I sent a version of the following letter to your e-mail address and received no answer, so I re-sent it on October 12, Columbus Day. You had a Windows On The World Wine School class scheduled for the evening of October 12, so I waited another day, hoping that you would have a chance to respond to my queries.

On October 14, I made two phone calls, one to your cell phone, where I left a message, another to your office, where I left another message with Michelle, the woman who answered the phone. 

To date, I have received no answer to any of these attempts to reach you for comment.  Therefore, I decided, as a last resort to write on open letter to you in hopes of getting some answers to questions that have been on my mind for more than two months. 

What follows is a letter that includes my account of what transpired between you and me in relation to the Pancho Campo - WineFuture-Rioja 2009 affair, including the notes of my August 31, 2009 telephone conversation with you (see above).

Dear Kevin,

First off, no one doubts your credentials, nor do I.  You are a giant in the wine industry and in the wine education field. You have helped organize some of the top wine events in the United States, including The Wine Spectator's Wine Experience and you have partnered with Robert M. Parker, Jr. to found a wine education program.

But, I have some serious questions--as a journalist, and personally because recent events that relate directly to me--about your actions in light of the information that has come out over the past two months  or so about what is being called "CampoGate" or the "Pancho Campo Affair" surrounding the WineFutures-Rioja 2009 Affair held on November 12 & 13 in la Rioja.

The following was published on Decanter magazine writer Jim Budd's blog.  It is part of a time line on the Pancho Campo case."Following publication (of the first Decanter article on Sept. 4 about the Pancho Campo affair), PC [Pancho Campo] phones me and tells me that his lawyers have warned an unnamed American journalist who has been investigating this story."
After my more than 30 minute phone conversation with you on August 31, two days later (on Sept. 2), before the publication of the Decanter article on Sept. 4, I was threatened with various actions from someone claiming to be Pancho Campo's lawyer in a phone call from Spain, plus he said he was coming to New York the following week and wanted to meet with me to arrive at "an amicable compromise." He also sent an e-mail to the third party address from whence came the e-mail that I forwarded to you from that same e-mail address during the course of our telephone conversation.

The e-mail I sent to you contained a translation of the information about Pancho Campo and the Interpol arrest warrant internet link that I had received from several reliable sources, including journalists, in Europe.

I forwarded only four similar e-mails about the Campo affair from that e-mail address, three to trusted people who were either investigating the affair as journalists or who had contributed information, the fourth to you.

As you may know by now and can certainly check on
Jim Budd's site (see above), almost every detail in the e-mail you received, except a couple of more precise dates since confirmed, have proved to be correct and have proved to not be "falsedades" as claimed by Alfonso Martínez, Campo's lawyer, when he called to threaten me on September 2, 2009 at 6:35 p.m. (00:35 Spanish time, a strange hour for a lawyer to be working). 

During that phone call, Martínez told me in Spanish that Pancho Campo was "muy, muy, muy enfadado con usted, "very, very, very angry with you."  He also said, "We have e-mails with your name on them (he probably did not) that contain many "falsedades" (as I said, most of those claimed to be "false" have been proved true)."

Martínez also warned me, "We don't want to have to go the American Embassy or to the Spanish Embassy with this, nor do we want to get into litigation, but we want you to stop sending those e-mails.  I will be in New York next week and I would like to sit down with you and see if we can come to an acuerdo amistoso, (an amicable compromise)."
Indeed, I have it from good sources that Campo, Martínez and others had  done something similar to  journalists in Spain during the period the Interpol information was emerging.  According to these well-regarded sources, threats, veiled attempts at "enducements" and other methods such as pressure from highly placed people were used to try to suppress this story before several publications and blogs published it.

In addition to the "warning" issued to me by Pancho Campo's lawyer, Campo also offered a speaking engagement at another event to an English journalist (Jim Budd) who has reported on the case and he also put out a veiled suggestion of a payment of a preposterous amount to a Spanish journalist.

Now many of the facts are out about the Campo case and most of them are not really disputable. In fact, Campo himself has confirmed to various sources events and dates that have validated most of the material  that I had prior to August 31 and those have even been published in multiple publications and on websites throughout the world, although Campo himself has given conflicting information about the dates on which a couple of events occurred and the circumstances, they have not been denied.

I think you can see how the journalists involved in these threats and coercion attempts found them particularly reprehensible. It reminded me of Watergate, where the crimes were less serious than the attempted cover-up by the Nixon White House.

The reason I am writing to you is to inform you that, using input from my own investigations and those of the four other journalists, two Spanish and two English, working on this story, along with blogger Manuel Camblor of, I am have been writing some reports of my own,  including this report/open letter about the Campo affair, my dealings with you on the phone, the third party e-mail and the subsequent warnings to "an unnamed American journalist who has been investigating the story."

My questions to you are:

1) Did you or your wife, Ana Fabiano, who is doing promotions for Rioja wines in the U.S., provide the third party e-mail I sent you directly to Pancho Campo and, if not, did either of you provide that e-mail to anyone in the CRDO Rioja? 

Or did either of you, provide the e-mail, again almost all of whose information has been proved correct--to anyone else who caused the e-mail to reach Pancho Campo and his lawyer, thus causing me, "an American journalist," to be "warned," which I see as being threatened and an attempted intimidation to supress a valid ongoing investigation?

2) Were you, as the Technical Director of WineFutures Rioja 2009, a (former?) partner of Robert Parker in a wine education program, husband of the person recently signed on to promote Rioja wines by the CRDO Rioja, a "straw man," a figurehead standing in for Pancho Campo, as some in La Rioja and elsewhere are strongly suggesting?  Was Pancho Campo still pulling the strings for the event behind the scenes? (Since he actually was allowed to appear at WineFuture-Rioja 2009 after being forced to resign as director of the event, it certainly appears that he was still heavily involved in the event despite his "resignations.")

3) And lastly, as an author and sometime wine writer yourself, how do you feel about journalists being threatened by lawyers for passing private e-mails  (in strictest confidence) and the reports of journalists being offered "enducements," however veiled, by Pancho Campo and/or members of his retinue? 

Given the circumstances surrounding the Pancho Campo story and the political elements and intrigues going on in Spain, I feel that I must ask as a journalist and I think it is only fair that you be given a chance to respond. Your responses will be fairly incorporated into any of my future reports on this situation.

If I may paraphrase my very precise notes on your comments during our telephone conversation (below), Kevin, this whole episode has also made me “pretty disillusioned with the whole (wine) thing,” however, I am “inspired,” because at least a few journalists and quite a few bloggers have chosen to step forward to write about this incredible saga and have refused to be denied our freedom of speech, nor our ability to function as journalists.

Now, after sitting on this information concerning our telephone conversation for more than more than two months, it is my turn to write about it.

Regards, Gerry Dawes

About Gerry Dawes
Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table.  Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009.

Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Culinary Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected):


  1. Hi Gerry. I'm an wine&food publisher and I wrote this post (here the english version):

    I'd love to have your point of view in a comment.

    Best regards, keep on.

    Filippo Ronco

  2. Gerry Dawes6:11 PM

    Dear Filippo,

    Thanks very much for looking in on my blog and making a comment.

    On your blog, (, you wrote:

    Decanting the establishment

    "On the one hand we are witnessing a radical realignment (if not the crumbling) of the entrenched establishment of the traditional worlds of oenology and gastronomy, punctuated by mavens grasping at straws, changes at the top of important publishing groups, dissolutions of long-standing partnerships as well as the eclipsing of icons and independent points of reference.

    On the other hand the emergence of new, noteworthy and important figures in the world of the web is becoming more and more frequent and intense. And so does the blending and the decanting between the two worlds: the traditional one and that of the web.

    We have been trying forever to convince them (the big guys), that they should catch up with the times and start communicating on the Internet. Now that they have grasped the importance of being there, they have finally listened and answered the call. And their means and resources allow them to play a major role very quickly.

    It almost looks as if we were watching the colonization of what used to be a motley, fragmented crew of small-time independent publishers, each bent on following their own individual paths, but all inherently connected by a common modus operandi. Real grassroots stuff!"

    I agree with a lot of what you wrote. I just have a problem with "the big boys" getting involved and sponsoring blogger's conferences. A big part of the problem, as I see it, is that they "big boys" have taken over the wine business and are turning out one Parkerista wine after another to the point that I have trouble tasting and judging a lot of the wines I review, let alone drinking them.

    I think more blogs like yours with an independent voice are needed to combat the big money elements of the wine business, but then again I guess I am just a Quixote-esque Romantic who thinks wines should be honest reflections of the people who make them and of the place from which they come.

    But, wait, maybe some of these travesties that are being passed off as great wines are just that: relections of the people who make them!

    My best regards, Gerry


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