Kermit Lynch is an evangelist and promoter of fine French and Italian wines. Much of his success is due to enthusiastic, poetic storytelling both in his books and his retail and importing enterprises. Customers fall in love with the authentic wonder and romance he imparts to the wine, the producers, and the places he describes.
A bon vivant on the Berkeley scene in the same generation as kindred spirit Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, his enterprises include an importing business, an online wine shop, and a Berkeley retail shop; all specializing in wines that express the personality of their terroir.
Each wine is personally selected and imported directly from producers - in fact, Kermit Lynch is regarded as a revolutionary because he bypassed the middle-men/négociants in the French wine-selling business by showing up directly on producers' doorsteps and convincing them to make exclusive bottlings. In the 1970's (!) he was an early champion of small, out-of-the-way wine-makers and regions - not just Burgundy and Bordeaux.
How does Kermit Lynch, the man, and now Kermit Lynch, the business, do this?
With "little propaganda pieces" he calls them. For example, when describing Jean-Charles Abbatucci, above, we learn, "To keep his vines happy, he’s known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play traditional Corsican polyphonic songs over loudspeakers for their benefit. After the harvest he’ll treat his cellar to the same music as his grapes ferment and come of age. All part of the terroir, he says."
How could one resist? There can't possibly be any of this wine still in stock.
In his book "Inspiring Thirst", he describes his first trip to Corsica, "I first set foot on the island in 1980. I remember looking down from the airplane window seeing alpine forest and lakes and thinking, uh oh, I got on the wrong plane. Then suddenly I was looking down into the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. Corsica is a small, impossibly tall island, the tail of the Alp chain rising out of the blue sea."
And this is just Corsica!
On a more serious note, in 'Adventures on the Wine Route', he sums up his philosophy: "Wine is, above all, pleasure. Those who would make it ponderous make it dull. People talk about the mystery of wine, yet most don't want anything to do with mystery. They want it all there in one sniff, one taste. If you keep an open mind and take each wine on its own terms, there is a world of mystery to discover."
Kermit Lynch has had so much success shining the spotlight on small, artisan producers that he has won two James Beard awards and was knighted by the French government with their prestigious “Legion d’Honneur”.
Besides visiting their website, do yourself a favor and drool over their Instagram profile and sign up for their newsletters, which have a cult-following and include covers by Kermit's talented photographer wife, Gail Skoff.