Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Gallic Love-fest for Kermit!

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I could think of no other individual who has been more influential in the world of wine, particularly French wine, during the past three decades than Kermit Lynch.

Before Kermit, the British largely dictated what wine consumers should drink, and that meant almost always Bordeaux, particularly the region’s aristocratic classed growths. Kermit’s untainted passion for wine and sense of adventure (and maybe because he's Roman Catholic and Irish) led him to France’s seldom trodden wine paths. He gushed about the peasant wines of Provence, the Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, South-West France, Savoie, Alsace, Corsica, and the Loire Valley like they’re the equals of the famed wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

But that’s not all. Kermit’s obsession for quality and authenticity made him pay more importance on how wine is made and shipped, rather than on titles, classes, and pedigrees, which were the main focus of the British wine trade. He demanded of his French producers not to filter their wines so they so they won’t be stripped of their essential flavors. As Daniel Brunier of Vieux Télégraphe noted in a speech, Kermit taught even the French about wines! But that's not all, Kermit pioneered the shipping of wines across the Atlantic in reefer containers, regardless of whether they cost $5 or $100 a bottle, to maintain their freshness. Today, any wine importer with integrity follows this practice.

Above all Kermit promoted to wine consumers, especially in his book and in his witty monthly newsletters, a humanist, rather than a mere hedonistic, appreciation of wines. A belief that he shares with one of his heroes, Thomas Jefferson, is that wine and civilization are inextricably linked. Altogether, I believe Kermit's contributions to wine would have a more lasting effect than all the point scores and ratings from wine journalists.

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It was only fitting that Kermit Lynch was inducted into France's most prestigious honor, the Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur, which was established by Napoleion Bonaparte in 1802, last night in San Francisco on Thomas Jefferson's birthday. The ceremony and celebration were a great tribute to Kermit and many of his friends, clients, and wine producers were there. I was just happy that my wife and I were invited to share the moment.


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The Harry Potter-like setting of San Francisco's landmark Regency Center

The event was held at The Regency Center, a 1909 landmark neoclassical, beaux arts style building with a Scottish Rite design interior. Inside, the cavernous hall looked like the set for Harry Potter, with its high, arched ceilings, stained glass windows, dark wood paneled walls, and ornate chandeliers. None other than long-time Kermit pal, Alice Waters, prepared the dinner menu; while the party music was provided by his good buddy, Boz Scaggs who opened up with his hit "Lowdown" and grooved on through the night with his mellow soulful and jazzy tunes.

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Daniel Ravier of Domaine Tempier commenting that his English is about as good as Kermit's French

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Daniel Brunier of Vieux Télégraphe noting that Kermit even taught the French about French wines!

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French Consul General, Frédéric Desagneaux, finally pinning the Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur medal on Kermit's lapel

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Kermit Lynch with the medal

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Alice Waters offers her tribute to her pal, a tricolor sash...

Before the induction by the French Consul General, Frédéric Desagneaux, roast testimonials were offered by Daniel Ravier of Domaine Tempier and Daniel Brunier of Vieux Télégraphe. But the most poignant gesture was from Alice Waters, who unexpectedly got up to the podium to announce that someone other than a French should say something! She was beaming with pride and obviously near tears as she recounted their friendship over the years. Then she placed a sash with the French tricolor over Kermit's shoulder and planted him a big kiss.

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...and a poignant kiss

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post, Alex. I'm a big fan of Kermit's "Adventures" and think it required reading for anyone with a passion for wine.

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  2. Alex,
    I've printed this blog entry to include with my gifts of "Adventures..." to my friends.
    Good Job.
    Thanks,
    John

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  3. John. No problem. Glad you like the post.
    Alex

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