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I just finished reading Kermit Lynch's book, _Adventures on the Wine Route, a wine buyer's tour of France__ which was published in 1988. Evocatively written, it provides a vivid picture of the changing world of French wine in the late 1970's and early and mid-1980's, and helped me to have a much better understanding of the wine regions, since my only trip to France was a 10-day stay in Paris, fourteen years ago. In the book he rails against the coming of "modern scientific" winemaking techniques like filtration, blind-tasting, scoring, while accepting the logic of temperature-controlled fermentation and the inevitability of some chaptalization in Burgundy. He had to search long and hard to find, even among the traditional-method winemakers, to find wines that had all of the qualities that he sought--a unique expression of terroir, depth of aroma and flavor, complexity, balance, and without flaws that would indicate careless winemaking. He quotes Robert Parker a number of times in the text, when describing a particular wine's qualities, (and Parker is quoted on the back cover, lauding the book), while also condemning wine journalists and critics and their various scoring systems. It seems to me, that in the intervening years, other American importers have emerged on the scene who also have opened up a demand for unfiltered wines made by passionate winemakers, even if they aren't fermenting their wines in 100 year old chestnut foudres, in moldy cellars.

I found the chapter on Beaujolais fascinating. Traditional beaujolais can no longer be found, apparently. In the past, according to KL, it was a very low alcohol, tart, fizzy beverage, not easy to like, but meant to be guzzled with the fatty, pork-based cuisine of Lyon and surrounds. Now at its best, it is a full-bodied, fruity, smooth "poor man's Burgundy"-- KL finds this to be a deplorable turn of events. (?) He also has nothing good to say about Guigal's impact on the wines of the Northern Rhone. Fascinating!

Now that I have read this book, I long to taste some of the wines he talks about, both complimentarily and disparagingly. Unfortunately, most of the rarest-- Cotes Rotie, Hermitage, fine Burgundy from the Cotes d'Or belong to the world of the wealthy, not the world I live in.

I have not enjoyed the few Burgundies I have had the opportunity to taste. Perhaps they were too young to show well, or not the best examples. But I suspect that the way Lynch describes fine Burgundy--ethereal, subtle, poetic, and meant to accompany specific foods to be truly appreciated, would not align well with my penchant for intense flavors, in both food and wine.

I have had several inexpensive K. Lynch wines: his Cotes du Rhone Cuvee, Ch. du Trignon CDR, Clos La Coutale Cahors, Ch. St. Martin de la Garrigue Languedoc. Yesterday, we drank a 2001 Ch. de Lascaux Les Pierres Pic St. Loup, which I have had in previous vintages. All delicious wines, similar in style to others in the same price range I have enjoyed that were imported by Bobby Kacher, Fran Kysela and a few others. In the absence of an importer I trust, though, it is difficult to avoid depending on reviews and points. As Lynch himself observes, just about everything that is made, good, bad and worse, gets sold and offered for purchase and consumption.

I visited Kermit Lynch's wine shop in Berkeley a couple of years ago. He sells only the wines he imports himself there. When I told the clerk what qualities I sought and my price range, he recommended a Mourvedre that Lynch had been able to get only a few cases of, by virtue of having hosted the winemaker's son in his CA home. This was only sold in the shop, there wasn't enough to distribute. Naturally, I can't remember the name of it-- I think it was a Bandol. I didn't get around to opening it, until I was in San Jose, on my way to L.A. OMG--this wine knocked me out of my socks, back out of my chair and across the room. And I was too far away to go back and get more. I was drinking it with some salted nuts, and I'm not sure what food it would compliment-- maybe some strong cheese, or a spicy meat dish. But the depth, richness and intensity of flavor was about the polar opposite of a pale, thin contemplative pinot. Herein lies the essence of the complexity of Kermit Lynch. So far, I have to say, everything that he has brought to my table--vinous and literary, I have thoroughly enjoyed.

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Lynch is also a fine wine writer, even if he is promoting his own stuff. You should call his store and ask to be put on the mailing list for his monthly newsletter. It's a mouth-watering hoot, even if you can't order direct from the store.

Years ago, my wife and I fell in love with Domaine de Trevallon, from Les Baux de Provence. We discovered the 1991 at Morris Miller for $23. At the time, Cleveland Park had it for $29, and the manager there would sniff, "well, Kermit puts his name on the label and then charges more, so you're paying for his ego." (Some idjits used to say the same of Bobby Kacher; nowadays so many importers use their own name I don't hear this much anymore.)

Anyway, my wife called Lynch's store in Berkeley, and they sent us a case at $16/btl + $36 for shipping, or a net of $19/btl. We bought a case each vintage through 1994, when the winemaker apparently read his ratings and doubled the price he charged Lynch. That put it out of our price range. Meanwhile, we also explored elsewhere in Lynch's catalogue, and my wife had such a good telephone rapport with one of his staff that she would just say "send me a mixed case for $XX", and a few days later the wines would be on our doorstep, nice and cool in their styrofoam packaging even in hot weather.

Then of course the Prohibitionists in Annapolis and elsewhere began cracking down on direct shipping. Lynch stopped taking our phone calls. (Well, at least our phone orders ...) For several years he even printed a special edition of his newsletter without prices to send to out-of-staters.

The newsletter lists prices again, but I still live in Maryland. I've lost sight of Trevallon, and my long-planned vertical tasting never happened because I lost the wine in a fire. Oh well. Our current fave is the Trignon Rasteau, which we occasionally see on shelves here at around $20.

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You will never find Kermit's wines cheaper than from his own store in Berkley. That is by design.

One KL wine which I find indispensible is the Diochon Moulin à Vent. In averages vintages or great vintages, it is always among the very best Beaujolais wine that you can find here in the U.S.A.

His newsletter is also available in .pdf format online, and there are archives as well.

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You will never find Kermit's wines cheaper than from his own store in Berkley. That is by design.

I was at the Berkeley shop a couple of weeks ago. He is in a shared space with Acme Bakery and Cafe Fanny, reasons enough to check it out. The shop is not very large; mostly aisles with waist-high stacks of boxes, and large-format photographs on the walls of images from France. They also sell his recent blues CD; the songs are written by him and recorded by Boz Scaggs and friends. After getting some breads at the bakery and boxes of Cafe Fanny granola, they recommended, and I bought, a bottle of J. Lassalle 96 Brut "Cuvee Angeline," for a festive family dinner.

But to get to the point: the bottle was $56 plus tax. It's being sold by Hi-Time Wine in Costa Mesa, CA for $51.98. Is that because there is more than one importer? :) [<--- this is the "mellow" smilie face, because everybody in Berkeley is supposedly mellow.]

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I was at the Berkeley shop a couple of weeks ago. He is in a shared space with Acme Bakery and Cafe Fanny, reasons enough to check it out. The shop is not very large; mostly aisles with waist-high stacks of boxes, and large-format photographs on the walls of images from France. They also sell his recent blues CD; the songs are written by him and recorded by Boz Scaggs and friends. After getting some breads at the bakery and boxes of Cafe Fanny granola, they recommended, and I bought, a bottle of J. Lassalle 96 Brut "Cuvee Angeline," for a festive family dinner.

But to get to the point: the bottle was $56 plus tax. It's being sold by Hi-Time Wine in Costa Mesa, CA for $51.98. Is that because there is more than one importer? :) [<--- this is the "mellow" smilie face, because everybody in Berkeley is supposedly mellow.]

Well, color me corrected. That's very unusual. Kermit doesn't want his wines to be cheaper anywhere else besides his own store.

No, I think that all of his wines are exclusively his imports. I know that Zind-Humbrecht used to share U.S. distribution, but no longer, it's all Kermit now.

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Rocks tells me that Kacher is one of the most famous wine importers in the country. I responded, maybe to you, but I found him the hard way, and I'm glad I did. My first Kacher wines I bought from Total when they used to have a section just for his wines. Unforutnatley, they no longer organnize there wines this way. I fondly remember the Chateau Campeuget (sp) cuvee pretige that I used to get (sadly no longer available). I always would have a couple of bottles on my wine rack and whenever someone would stop by, I would crack open a bottle. The prices were always about $11-13/bottle so there were quite affordable. Yesterday, I decided to experiment with a couple if different Kacher's, a Valcombe Prestige and a Montpezat Prestige. Both are wonderful and at prices similar to the Campeuget.

What are other peoples' experiences with Kacher wines. What else is out there that I'm missing?

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Is anyone else this reliable?
Michael Downey Selections

Wine Traditions

Louis/Dressner Selections

Simon 'N' Cellars

Kysela Pere et Fils

Robert Chadderdon Selections

Jon-David Headrick Selections

C'est Vin

Francois & Jenny Selections

Epicurean Wines

Kermit Lynch

In no particular order. And I'm sure I'm missing a few.

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In addition to those listed above I would add:

JAO Wine Importers - for mind blowing Burgundies for about half of what you expect - that means they are still expensive, during a recent Burgundy buzz the money that I was going to spend on a 50 inch HDTV instead went to their fine Burgundies.

Grapes of Spain - Aurelio does a great job of finding new Spanish producers, and keeping the ones he already has.

On the larger side, I have been very happy with what I have found from Palm Beach Imports.

I guess Terry Theise goes without mention - oops, I guess I just did.

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On the larger side, I have been very happy with what I have found from Palm Beach Imports.

Do you mean Palm BAY Imports?

At the risk of being impolitic (which means I'm probably going to piss someone off) Palm Bay's selections run the gamut from the sublime (i.e. Gosset Champagne) to the ridiculous (i.e. Labouré-Roi - <shudder!>) despite their claim that, "You can trust what's in the bottle when our name is on the label".

To be fair, I'm sure I've had more hits than misses from Palm Bay over the years, but their imprimatur on a bottle is no guarantee of quality to me. For every J.M. da Fonseca, there is a Santa Rita. Probably the biggest complaint that I could lodge at some of their selections is just their uninspiring commercial-ness. Mostly just inoffensive. Still, if I'm presented with one of their wines, I'm more hopeful than guarded, and as a company they hardly fall into a category that I would describe as villainous. They certainly have one of the most user-friendly importer websites I've ever seen, both for consumers and the trade.

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Do you mean Palm BAY Imports?

This is why posting and drinking do not mix. Yes, I did mean Palm Bay. I have yet to be disappointed by anything of theirs that I have purchased, or tried, but I have not come close to having tried their entire portfolio, and I guess I have been one over by too many bottles of Gosset and the line of wines by Feudi di San Gregorio. I would agree with your statement "their imprimatur on a bottle is no guarantee of quality to me" would hold true for any of those importers listed. I have had bad less than stellar experiences from almost everyone mentioned, whether it was a cooked bottle from Kacher, overly syrupy tasting wines from Epicurean, or a much touted Champagne from Theise that I find austere to the point of being utterly boring, the name is only a guide, no guarantee.

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JG,

I also enjoy several of Kacher's wines. You can usually find Ch. Campuget at Calvert-Woodley if you're in the neighborhood. I've also found it at the CC Magruder's. Parrot clued me in on Rosethal and I find that I tend to prefer those over the Kahcer wines.

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Rocks tells me that Kacher is one of the most famous wine importers in the country. I responded, maybe to you, but I found him the hard way, and I'm glad I did. My first Kacher wines I bought from Total when they used to have a section just for his wines. Unforutnatley, they no longer organnize there wines this way. I fondly remember the Chateau Campeuget (sp) cuvee pretige that I used to get (sadly no longer available). I always would have a couple of bottles on my wine rack and whenever someone would stop by, I would crack open a bottle. The prices were always about $11-13/bottle so there were quite affordable. Yesterday, I decided to experiment with a couple if different Kacher's, a Valcombe Prestige and a Montpezat Prestige. Both are wonderful and at prices similar to the Campeuget.

What are other peoples' experiences with Kacher wines. What else is out there that I'm missing?

I love them as well. The Springfield Total has a section dedicated to Kacher wines.

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Joe speaketh the truth. Neal Rosenthal, in particular, has made reasonable Burgundy-buying much easier in these parts. Especially at Sushi-Ko!
Where can I go to find a reasonable selection of their wines?

PS: When I asked the question "what else am I missing," I was referring to other Kacher wines, not other importers. But it's a good topic anyway.

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Mas de Guiot Grenache-Syrah

I tend to like the Cab-Syrah blend better. And the Ch. Guiot rose is usually good. I used to buy a lot of Kacher wines--the Domaine des Cantarelles cab-syrah was my house red a few years ago, and the Mas des Aveylans cuvee prestige of a couple of years back was da (fruit) bomb-- but I've been a bit underwhelmed by Kacher selections $10-15 range wines recently.

Another importer whose name hasn't been mentioned is Eric Solomon -- wildly unpredictable, but has been the providor of some remarkable, low-cost bottles during the past 7 or 8 years -- e.g. Castell del Remei Gotim Bru, Castaño Solanera and Castaño Hecula.

I'll always take a chance on a Fran Kysela import.

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I would agree with your statement "their imprimatur on a bottle is no guarantee of quality to me" would hold true for any of those importers listed.

Quite so, but some importers have a MUCH better track record than others. No one is perfect, but some of these guys try harder than their competitors. Also, some of the individuals listed are much more dedicated to importing small growers than importing larger, more commercial wine concerns. To my mind, seeing Neal Rosenthal's name, or Peter Weygandt's, or Terry Theise's, or Neal Empson's, on a label is almost as good as the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval". Fortunately, there is room for everybody.

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Vias

I find myself drinking far more Vias wines these days than anyone but maybe Kacher - the Greco di Tufo and Falanghina from Terredora di Paolo are especially enjoyable this time of year. Last night I was lucky enough to try all of the most recent releases of the single vineyard offerings from Produttori del Barbaresco, and they were stunning.

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I find myself drinking far more Vias wines these days than anyone but maybe Kacher - the Greco di Tufo and Falanghina from Terredora di Paolo are especially enjoyable this time of year. Last night I was lucky enough to try all of the most recent releases of the single vineyard offerings from Produttori del Barbaresco, and they were stunning.

I managed to snare 6 bottles of the 04 Porra Riserva and it is really in a sweet spot right now. The 05 riservas are also very good. As I recall, they will not have 06 riserva's as the vintage is too soft to justify the single vineyard bottlings. The 07's should be quite stunning.

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I managed to snare 6 bottles of the 04 Porra Riserva and it is really in a sweet spot right now. The 05 riservas are also very good. As I recall, they will not have 06 riserva's as the vintage is too soft to justify the single vineyard bottlings. The 07's should be quite stunning.

These were all 2005, and the Monte Stefano, Rio Sordo, and Moccagatta were my favorites.

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