The Edmond Sun

Food

November 18, 2013

Kermit Lynch’s journey of wine discovery

SPARKS, Md. — “When I wrote the book,” explained wine merchant Kermit Lynch, “I thought the oenologists were going to take over.”

We were chatting about Adventures on the Wine Route, Lynch’s seminal tour of France that can be found on every wine enthusiast’s bookshelf. When the book was released in 1988, Lynch feared that “old-style wines” — artisanal projects that expressed a sense of place — were on their way out, so he launched a crusade to educate his “clients to the diversity and virtue of those wines.”

Lynch entered the wine industry in 1972. A struggling musician, Lynch had been paying his bills by fashioning purses out of rug scraps. That business wasn’t personally fulfilling, so when a suitor came knocking, he sold, using the proceeds to spend four months in Europe.

Lynch came back from Europe with a passion for wine, but wasn’t able to find a job in the industry. So his girlfriend lent him $5,000 to open up a wine shop in Albany, California. Lynch soon became a distributor and importer, as well, and relocated to Berkeley in the early 1980s.

It’s fitting that Lynch moved to Berkeley. The site of so much ferment, it’s a logical place to spearhead a wine revolution. And that’s the only way to describe Lynch’s efforts. He transformed America’s wine scene.

By the time Adventures on the Wine Route hit bookstores, Lynch had gained a dedicated, national following. Unlike other merchants, Lynch’s portfolio was focused -- he assured his customers that he’d tasted and enjoyed every wine on offer. He was obsessed with authenticity, happy to criticize producers who churned out industrialized, soulless wines. He brought attention to unheralded wine regions. And he mocked blind tastings as “spurious and misleading.”

As he wrote in the introduction to his book, “Such tasting conditions have nothing to do with the conditions under which the wines will presumably be drunk, which is at table, with food. When a woman chooses a hat, she does not put it on a goat’s head to judge it; she puts it on her own.”

Lynch spread this gospel across the country through regular newsletters. He spoke about wine comfortably and sought to make it approachable, convinced that “those who would make it ponderous make it dull.”

Lynch inspired many imitators and changed the way Americans purchase wine. These days, if you walk into any good wine shop and watch how the geekiest consumers select wine, you’ll undoubtedly see people flipping bottles over to check the import label. These savvy shoppers know that in addition to Lynch, they can rely on importers like Neal Rosenthal, Louis/Dressner, TerryTheise, Peter Weygandt, and others to bring in good wine.

One could even argue that Lynch helped save wine from itself. By proving that the American market was thirsty for traditional wines from the back roads of France, Lynch helped stave off the industrialization of wine.

During our chat, Lynch was too humble to take credit for any of this. But even though he still worries about the ascension of so-called “pop” wines — heavy, oak-soaked concoctions designed for mass appeal — he’ll admit that his crusade has succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.

“When you go to New York,” he said, “look at the wine lists today and the inventories in the wine shops. Gosh, it’s amazing! Wines from all over the world, regions all over the world, grape varieties you’ve never heard of, little domains that you’ve never heard.”

The 25th anniversary edition of Lynch’s book was published this month. It’s still as relevant as ever and an absolute pleasure to read.

 

DAVID WHITE is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com, which was named “Best Overall Wine Blog” at the 2013 Wine Blog Awards. His columns are housed at Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine.

1
Text Only
Food
  • Shopping smarter for family necessities can help the environment

    There’s a growing trend among consumers to make choices reflecting the goals and values that matter to them most.  In fact, two out of five people say they’re more inspired to try a natural product that does something good for themselves, their family and the planet, according to a recent study conducted by Toluna for natural products brand Tom’s of Maine.

    July 21, 2014

  • Back to school lunch Build a better bag

    Brown bag lunches and back to school go hand in hand. As you’re gearing up for the start of a new school year, it’s the perfect time to stock the pantry with healthy sack lunch options and after school snacks, too.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kids Cook Simple ways canned foods get children cooking

    When it comes to teaching children about healthy eating habits, there’s no better classroom than the kitchen.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls The Canebrake offers summer recipe for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls

    The Canebrake, a destination hotel and spa in Wagoner, is offering the following recipe from its restaurant for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls with Avocado Wasabi Puree.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fruits and Veggies Tips to increase your fruit and vegetable intake

    It’s no secret that the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables are a key to good health — from building immunity, to decreasing inflammation, to helping you maintain a healthy weight.
    Luckily, there are many ways to ensure you incorporate a sufficient amount of produce in your diet to fuel your day and help you feel great.

    June 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Comic books and thoroughbreds, inspired by wine

    Outside the Bay Area, few wine enthusiasts realize that California’s wine scene is incredibly welcoming.

    June 23, 2014

  • Wines of the West slated for June 7

    Stockyards City presents the fifth annual Wines of the West festival on Saturday. The event takes place from noon to 4 p.m. and features wine tasting in an Old West environment. The stockyards area of Oklahoma City has been active for more than 100 years offering western wear, entertainment and ambience. Stockyards City is on the National Register of Historic Places and still has weekly live cattle auctions.
    Ten wineries will provide samples of a variety of locally produced wines. The wineries participating are: Plain View Winery, Stable Ridge Winery, Wood & Waters, Oak Hills Winery, The Range Winery, Whirlwind Winery, Summerside Winery, Canadian River Winery, Base Vines and Cattle and Wakefield Winery. Tasting will be available as visitors browse retail shops in Stockyards City. Food vendors will be set up in the street for convenience.

    June 3, 2014

  • Wine tasting event raises awareness about Y’s international programs

    The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City will present its eighth annual international wine taste event, A Taste Of Culture, at Café do Brazil on Sunday. The event helps raise funds to support the Y’s international partnerships with YMCAs in Belo Horizonte, Brazil; the Czech Republic; Valparaiso, Chile; the Mexican Federation of Ys; and the Sioux Indians

    June 2, 2014

  • BBQ Tips to make great summer barbecues on a budget

    It’s time for fun outdoor afternoons spent with family and friends.

    May 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • At wine-focused restaurants, embrace the unknown

    “Representing real people who make real wine has always been very important to me,” explained Danny Fisher, the general manager and beverage director of Ripple, a wine-focused restaurant in Washington, D.C. “When you’re drinking wine — or any kind of beverage, really — you want to know that someone has put time and effort into it. It shouldn’t be mass produced, toyed with or manipulated.”

    May 19, 2014