Appetizers
October 29, 2007
A Letdown, Then Jubilation

The 500th posting to a blog, which this is, calls for something especially notable, but all I have to offer is this little note of disappointment.

I've just returned from L Wine Lounge and Urban Kitchen at 18th and L in midtown Sacramento, where representatives of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant of Berkeley were introducing to buyers for local restaurants and retail wine shops their current lineup of wines.

I went hoping that Kermit Lynch himself, who has been importing wine for 35 years, would be on hand to answer a few questions, like what rock band he played for back around the Summer of Love, how he gets the esteemed novelist and poet Jim Harrison to contribute essays to his wine shop's newsletter, and how California wines based on grape varieties most closely identified with France's Rhone Valley compare with wines from the Rhone Valley, from which he draws many of his wines and which was the topic of his first book. Alas, those questions, among others, will have to wait for another day.

Thus, I had to fall back on Plan B, which was to taste through many of the more than 60 wines Lynch's associates brought with them. All of them were from Europe, mostly France. As a group, they showed why California vintners fret about the slow but steady rise that imported wines are grabbing of the domestic market.

The principal attribute that stood out about the wines was their individuality, though drinkability was a close second. Each wine had a distinctive character, and each tasted and felt as if it had a story to tell about the person who made the wine, about the site where the grapes were grown, and about the history of the appellation. They weren't "international wines," which is to say wines of a similar fruitiness, fleshiness and oakiness, regardless of region of origin. Instead, they drew you in by their singular but not bombastic personality, though they could be eccentric, in a charming more than threatening way.

Big local retail supporters of Kermit Lynch wines are David Berkley Fine Wines & Specialty Foods and Taylor's Market. Each had representatives at the tasting, and if their palates were aligned with mine they will be stocking up on the wonderfully aromatic Domaine Comtesse Bernard de Cherisey 2004 Meursault-Blagny "La Genelotte," an exceptionally creamy, minerally and citric white Burgundy ($76); the full-blown and multi-layered Domaine de La Grange des Peres 2004 Vin de Pays de L'Herault, a luscious blend principally of syrah and mourvedre ($75); the exuberant Domaine de Terrebrune 2004 Bandol Rouge ($30); and the amazingly inky, bacony, smoky and floral Domaine Gramenon 2006 "Sierra du Sudd" Cotes-du Rhone ($30). And if local merchants don't order them, there's always Lynch's shop at 1605 San Pablo Blvd. in Berkeley.

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