Drink: Wines from Kermit Lynch

06Oct10

I figure it’s about time we gave Kermit Lynch a shout-out. After all, we have been loyal fans drinking his wine for almost a decade now.

As most of you oenophiles already know, Kermit Lynch is somewhat of a living legend in the wine importing world. He is highly respected for his portfolio of wines, which he hand-selects while staying true to his philosophy- supporting producers who represent the best of their appellation in the purest form, with minimal external influence or manipulation- or as the French say, vin naturel. He is also an author, an educator, and a winemaker. His first book, Adventures on the Wine Route, is a must read for anyone interested in how a self-described hippie helped to revolutionize the accessibility of French wine in the US. I have read it twice.

Thomas Jefferson's sacred words "good wine is a necessity of life for me," adorn each bottle blessed with Kermit Lynch's label- and truer words have never been spoken.

Last November, Susie and Albert shipped me a case of Kermit Lynch’s (“Kermie” in our family) wines- an early Christmas present. To say that it was difficult to keep my hands off of the case for 6 months is an understatement, but I was determined not to break into it until they came to visit me in DC. When Susie came for a weekend in April, we finally broke into a first bottle of Silvio Giamello’s “Villa Gentiana”, a classic rich yet subtle Nebbiolo from Barbaresco. Susie and Albert, having met the winemaker personally the year before (during which Alby self-admittedly developed a man-crush on Silivo), couldn’t stop raving about his wines. I was sold the moment I encountered the first aromas from the glass. It was a truly lovely evening with my family as we drank from a bottle of handcrafted wine delivered to us by Kermit Lynch and baked goat cheese, prosciutto and olive pizzas.

Since then, I have opened each bottle from the case with assiduous care. That is not to say that I am hoarding the wines, failing to spontaneously enjoy those that are ready to drink now, but rather making sure that each time I open a bottle it’s with people that I love and want to share the memory with. Luckily, the past few weeks have given me special occasion to open two more of the coveted KL wines: a bold Syrah from Domaine Auguste Clape in Northern Rhone and a Gigondas-esqe Grenache blend from Brunier. Both proved to be true expressions of the terroir from which they were born.

2008 Domaine Clape Le Vin des Amis

Nose: musky nose with warm spices of cloves and nutmeg, violet aromatics, and notes of black pepper and fennel.

Palate: vivid palate of strawberry, cherry, and dark plum fruits; dry with medium tannins and a savory complexity.

Notes: region- Cornas (a tiny 250 acre village) in Northern Rhone ; varietal- 100% Syrah; Auguste Clape is affectionately called the “King of Cornas” by many, both because his wines are widely considered to be the best from this tiny appellation and because he has fought to maintain its integrity and recognition over the years. Clape continues to use neutral oak barrels or steel for all his winemaking, and he has no problem waiting months on end for the fermentation to finish. Likewise, most of his wines are still made by hand and meticulously picked, sorted, crushed and fermented in single lots. These lots, after they have taken their time to ferment and age for a while, are blended to make the final wine.

2007 Brunier "Le Pigeoulet en Provence" Vin de Pays de Vaucluse

Nose: dark fruit aromas of raspberry and plum, roasted sage, tobacco and sandalwood.

Palate: flavor of crushed herbs, cherry, pomegranate, and raspberries; open and soft with nice acidity and a mineral core. An excellent everyday drinker.

Notes: region- Provence, France; varietal- 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Cinsault, 5% Carignan; The name Pigeoulet was given to this Vin de Pays de Vaucluse – the “house wine” at Les Vignobles Brunier – because it is the name of the vineyard where the family home is located. Because there is no irrigation on Brunier’s vineyards, there is considerable hydric stress in the summers, which contributes to the intensity and character of the grapes. The maturity of these grape and harvesting tend to come two weeks later than in CdP. The grapes are picked by hand and destemmed, then undergo 12-15 days’ vinification in temperature-controlled concrete vats. Pneumatic pressing and systematic malolactic fermentation take place before the wine is aged in vats for 6 months, and then in foudres for a further 6 months or so. Click here, for my review of the Pigeoulet blanc.

“Wine is, above all, pleasure. Those who would make it ponderous make it dull” – Kermit Lynch

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