I also couldn't believe they were letting me even taste this stuff; I expected them to kick me out just as soon as they realized I was there. Instead, I learned that day that wine collectors must know their treasures are worthless if they are not shared. Collecting is about the joy of showing off what you had the foresight to squirrel away years ago, but also about the joy of sharing something you value with another who will value it in the same way.
I learned something else that day, some fellow named Kermit Lynch was really important. Anytime his name was on a label it got attention, and very often the most revered wines we tasted were revealed to be his imports. I really felt out of my league, and my pallet was not at all prepared to appreciate much of what I was tasting, but I took away those two great lessons.
Fast-forward several years and now I’m an independent wine retailer myself. I didn't waste any time stocking the shelves with Kermit Lynch imports, and the timing could not be better: Kermit Lynch is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his industry-changing memoir, Adventures on the Wine Route.
As I read the book I kept thinking, “This guy has amazing taste! He likes what I like!” Silly me. It eventually occurred to me that I’m living in Kermit Lynch’s world, not the other way around. My tastes are a direct result of the influence he’s had on the American palate through the wines he’s imported for decades.
If you’re curious about French wine, I strongly recommend his memoir. It’s part travel journal, part wine geek narrative, but one hundred percent entertaining. I also recommend you take home some of his wine. Lynch hand-selects cuvees one barrel at a time and even works closely with growers and wine-makers to produce wines that reflect the traditional old-world style he advocates. His wines are often unfiltered and unadulterated, just as they've been made by the generations that preceded us.
My favorite is the Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge, but the red Burgundies are also terrific. A fabulous Chinon, Tavel, and Cotes du Rhone are all available for under $20. Now that I think about it, it's warming up so much outside it's about time for a glass of Tavel in sunshine. We carry eleven KL wines, and I intend to grow the collection.