Monday, May 27, 2019

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

Today I sold a Kermit Lynch white burgundy to a customer and pointedly told her, "Whenever you see 'Kermit Lynch' on a wine's back label, you know it's going to be good."  I've repeated that statement so often over the years I don't even think about it.  Until today.  That's why we're posting now.

So who is Kermit Lynch?  I actually never thought about it.  For all I knew it was two guys, Kermit and Lynch.  Or maybe it was a made up name.  Pleasantly, it turns out Kermit Lynch is a real person with a great personal story which is available at  It's well worth a look-see.

Lynch got his intro to wine via foods. The right way.  He had been raised in a spartan white bread and tee-totalling home like many of us and going off to college meant for him an introduction to the world of fine foods...and wines.  Friendships with restaurateurs and food writers created opportunities for trips to Europe and meetings with winemakers there.  In 1972 with a five thousand dollar loan Lynch bought his first thirty-five cases of wine for re-sale.

Today KLWM does five to ten million dollars annually.  Lynch has written three books and recorded five roots music CDs and been awarded twice each by the French government and the James Beard Foundation.  He has also become part owner of Domaine des Paillieres in Gigondas in the Cotes du Rhone.

From the beginning Lynch understood that terroir is everything in wine appreciation just as it is with food.  He faults varietal wine labels because any single type grown around the world may have as much in variance from the type as it has in common.  Terroir matters more than grape type so place of origin labeling makes sense.

Lynch also disparages the printed wine press for their colorful characterizations that differ so much from the product on retail shelves due to the passage of time.  With time any wine will have dissipating fruit flavor changes so why characterize fruit when place of origin and age are so much more appropriate.

Monday, May 20, 2019


According to Lettie Teague in her September 15-16, 2018 WSJ wine article, fashionable and popular mean quite different things when applied to wine appreciation.  A popular wine is one that appeals to newer wine lovers, one that may be talked up at parties and probably has a hefty advertising budget to promote it.  A fashionable wine is more likely to appeal to seasoned wine lovers who recognize its historic value.

White Zinfandel was a 1980's sales monster that practically killed the rose category.  Yellow Tail is a line of inexpensive Australian wines that have been killing it since the 2000's.  What Yellow Tail has been killing is basically the entire Australian wine business since it seems to be the only Aussie that sells now.  While Yellow Tail could be called a marketing creation, White Zinfandel's success was organic.  It just happened and the rest is history, as they say.

Both of these are examples of popular wines and both could be considered to be predators of historic wine styles. 

On Thursday May 8th we tasted four from Treasury Wine Estates including Minuty Cotes de Provence Rose.  Provence Roses have become the leader of this large fashionable rose category.  The Provence Rose style is the model the rest of the world emulates and may have been around since the Greeks established Marseille in 600bc.  That's 2,600 years.  Archaeological evidence there shows earlier winemaking using indigenous grapes before the Greeks re-planted and this is where it gets interesting: Roses have actually existed since the very beginning of winemaking, that is, whenever pottery was first created.  Maybe 6,000 years ago.  So is fashionable even the right term?

The Minuty is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.  It has the standard light and bright Provence color and crisp and round mouth feel.  The nose features orange peel and red currants; the mouth, peach and candied orange.  The entire tasting experience displayed a smooth acidic freshness.

Like all roses, this one would accompany any meal but especially soups, salads and grilled meats.  It would also go well with tee-shirts, cut-off, old sneakers and a porch swing.

Please join us after 5pm this Thursday the 23rd when Dave Klepinger presents a tasting of new French Burgundies here at the store.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Georges de Latour & Andre Tchelischeff

Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon is the premier wine of Beaulieu Vineyards of Napa Valley and one of the great wines of the world.  The wine is named for the Frenchman who in 1900 purchased four acres in the heart of Napa Valley and began planting wine grapes.  His wife is said to have remarked at the time that their new home was a "beautiful place" or beau lieu.

While the Prohibition Era (1920-33) was devastating for the wine industry as a whole, for a select few in the "sacramental wine" business, it was good.  Beaulieu Vineyards was one of those and as the era progressed their business continually improved.  When it ended Latour was in a position to hire the kind of winemaking expertise that would make Beaulieu the best in California.  He went to France and secured the services of the premier viticulturalist/enologist, Andre Tchelischeff, who would become BV's vice president and head of winemaking.

Among Tchelischeff's many accomplishments at Beaulieu were the introduction of recent French winemaking improvements including small barrel fermentation and aging.  Over time at Beaulieu Tchelischeff contributed to other revolutionary winemaking methods like cold fermentation and malolactic fermentation.  By working with various grape types in different places, he delineated microclimates leading to appellation designations, the type of spade work that would pay dividends for future winemakers.  Tchelischeff was a visionary who reached out to other wineries to share his insights understanding that the big picture of wine as a central part of our culture meant all would prosper.

In 1938 Tchelischeff crafted the first Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine would become standard fare at many White House functions through the years.  In 2016 Beaulieu was purchased by Treasury Wine Estates who say the great wine will remain estate-sourced from the same historic Rutherford district Napa vineyards.

This Thursday at 5pm Rob Dye leads us in a tasting of three from the fine Italian wine company, Zenato.  The Lugana white, Alanara red and rose will all be on the table that evening as will the Paso a Paso Spanish Tempranillo.  Please join us!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Portela 2014

A month ago we tasted the wines of Ole Imports of Spain and proceeded to order two dozen new Spanish and Portuguese wines.  Last time we posted about the 2016 Zestos Blanco, our best buy among the whites.  This time our subject is the best red in the bunch.

Like Zestos, A Portela is old vine wine.  This time the the vines are 20-25 years old and the D.O. (place of origin) is Valdeorras in northwestern Spain.  In the latter half of the first century Rome mined gold there, hence the name, "Valley of Gold."  Viticulture followed the mining there and just like always, the church took over the management of the vineyards and wine making.

The grape type here is Mencia (men-thee-ah) which is only grown on the Iberian Peninsula.  Genetic testing has shown Mencia to be a cross between two Portuguese parent grapes so it has its origin across the border.  Again like Zestos, this wine is sourced from 2,000 ft elevation vineyards and the soil is a mix of slate, granite and clay.  Typically Mencia is 85% of a blend utilizing other indigenous varieties to flesh it out.

If you are a Pinot Noir lover, Mencia may be up your alley.  Earthiness and red fruit flavors and aromas dominate here.  Additionally Mencia wines may show black pepper, minerality and either a floral or vegetal character.  This is complex wine and it's our olfactory system that best comprehends what's going on here.

Think of your flower garden or better yet, the spice rack in your kitchen.  What so overwhelms us with spices are terpenoids, the organic chemicals that abound in sixty percent of all plants, only more so with spices.  Mencia grapes display the exceedingly rich aromas of those organic chemicals.  No oak aging is required for such a wine.

A Portela is a twelve acre estate.  Before fermentation the grape juice (with skins) receives a five day pre-soak at forty-five degrees to enhance the aromas.  Then after fermentation the soak-with-skins continues for ten more days for more color and tannins.  The wine is then aged for seven months in stainless steel.

Mencia is recommended as an accompaniment to chicken, pork, salmon or whatever you typically have with your Pinot Noir.