Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Before handing over the twenty or so dollars for Kermit Lynch's classic homage to French wines and the people who grow them, I quickly glanced to see how Kermit signed my fresh copy of Adventures on the Wine Route.
"Fancy meeting you here in New York City," it read, a satisfying note and fine way to end what was an enjoyable, if crowded, tasting at Chambers Street Wines. Meeting Mr. Lynch was long overdue. I did not engage in small talk, industry chat, or even much in the way of wine speak. The man comes across like his wines: straight ahead and confident; relaxed, knowledgeable, and easily capable of relating a story. Whether he was discussing visiting his college aged kids in New York, his latest discovery in Burgundy (Domaine Cherisey in Meursault, whom he thinks is making some of the best Chardonnay based wine around) or his tastes in Burgundy ("Coche Dury ain't bad...Raveneau's pretty good...."), Kermit was adept at conversing with a wide range of his customers, and I was content to listen while I tasted.
The usual suspects were showing terrifically. 2008 Domaine Ostertag Les Vielles Vignes de Sylvaner was all pure, rounded citrus fruit. Softly textured, juicy and supported by vibrant acidity. 2008 Foillard Morgon Cotes de Py...well, enough said right there. Effortless focus, delectable tiny red berry fruit, well structured but not unyielding. If this wine were a lady I'd marry her after just a month of dating. 2007 Domaine Tempier Bandol is a very young pup, but already showing its neat trick of balancing such ripe, spicy and intense sun baked flavor with real structure not merely from fruit and tannin but acidity as well. Mourvedre is a low acid grape that somehow picks up a bit more acidic drive in the right terroir with the right stewardship, as is the case with Tempier or Pradeaux for that matter.
A few relative newcomers excited me less. White Graves from Chateau Graville-Lacoste? I'll pass. Ditto the 2007 Domaine de la Cadette Bourgogne Vezelay "La Chatelaine" from close to Chablis. 2006 Cedric Vincent Beaujolais for $20? Shave $5, take a look at the back label to remind myself of the importer and, well, it still seems to under-deliver.
There were a couple pleasant surprises as well, though. The 2000 Chateau Aney Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois was every bit of what a maturing claret should be - muscular but beginning to show good secondary flavor development and savor while still retaining some cherry fruit. And that 2005 Domaine Cherisey Meursault Blagny 1er Cru "Genelotte" ? It was very good - even a non white Burg lover such as myself could appreciate the breed and terroir in that wine. As well one should for north of $80.
It goes without saying that Kermit Lynch is a big reason why we have so many wonderful, characterful, imported wines available in the US these days. I suppose one could say he is also a reason why there are so many shitty imported wines as well. For every Joe Dressner there are a few __'s (insert any importer du jour of small estate bottled, unfiltered wines, though of simple and dubious character). Enough of that line of reasoning, though. Clearly Kermit Lynch is owed a great deal of gratitude for all of his efforts, even from an occasionally hypercritical, armchair importer, young whippersnapper soon to be grouchy old retail guy such as myself. It was a pleasure to meet the man who founded a company which imports into the Unites States wines made by so many terrific, benchmark and iconic French estates.