Monday, May 5, 2008


So, my new sales rep for Heidelberg Distributing in Kentucky – Wendy Huff – blessed me with an invitation to a training seminar for Kermit Lynch wines last week, and I have to tell you, I was really stoked. For those of you who haven’t heard of Kermit Lynch, he is by far one of the most recognized importers of French (and now Italian) wines. He has a terrific book entitled ADVENTURES ON THE WINE ROUTE, which has to be one of the best wine books ever written. Bruce Neyers, of Neyers Vineyards in Napa Valley, has served as the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch for nearly two decades, and was flying in to Cincinnati specifically to train the sales staff of both Heidelberg Ohio and Heidelberg Kentucky, and I was graciously allowed to join them.

You may or may not think this to be a big deal, but Kermit Lynch wines have been a rather inconsistently supplied line of wines in this state (at least for us). Though not technically an exclusive line, the previous distributor sold them mostly to one store here in Kentucky, so many of the great brands that Kermit Lynch represents in this county were really not available to us. So I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store.

When I arrived, Bruce was held up in traffic, so I was able to say hello to everyone I knew there and take my seat. Displayed on the counter before me was a total of 41 wines, from Kermit Lynch’s French and Italian lines, as well as a few selections from Bruce’s own winery. Once he arrived, we settled into a very informal, somewhat whirlwind tasting that was almost overwhelming, but nonetheless impressive.

Bruce Neyers is an affable guy, who is extremely passionate about wine and all its eccentricities, and that passion resonates in each and every syllable he conveys. He was excited about the new wholesaler situation and was eager to show the staff at Heidelberg the wines, which were as follows:
1. Domaine Kuentz-Bas Alsace Blanc 2005
2. Domaine Meyer-Fonne Pinot Gris Hinterburg de Katzenthal 2004
3. Domaine Meyer-Fonne Riesling Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg 2006
4. Domaine Lavanturex Petit Chablis 2006
5. Domaine de la Cadette Bourgogne Vezelay Blanc 2006
6. Philippe Colin Bourgogne Rouge 2006
7. Phillipe Colin Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chaumees
8. Bouvier Marsannay Rouge Clos du Roy 2006
9. Buisson St.-Romain Blanc 2005
10. Domaine du Poujol VDP de l’Herault Proteus Rouge 2005
11. Chateau Saint-Martin de la Garrigue Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc 2006
12. Domaine Chotard Sancerre 2006
13. Regis Minet Puilly-Fume Vieilles Vignes 2006
14. Domaine Salvard Cheverny 2007
15. Domaine Champalou Vouvray Fondraux 2006
16. Domaine des Grandes Perriers Sancerre Vieilles Vignes 2006
17. Cuvee Selectionnee par Kermit Lynch Cotes-du-Rhone 2005
18. Domaine le Goeuil Cairanne Cuvee lea Felsch 2005
19. Domaine les Pallieres Gigondas 2005
20. Domaine Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Mourre des Perdrix 2005
21. Domaine Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 2005
22. Domaine Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Hautes Brusquieres 2005
23. Rousset Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2005
24. La Viarte Colli Orientali Inco Bianco 2006
25. La Viarte Colli Orientali Pinot Grigio 2006
26. La Viarte Colli Orientali Fruilano 2006
27. Aldo Marenco Dolcetto di Dogliani Bric 2004
28. Guido Porro Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna I Pari 2005
29. Guido Porro Barolo Vigna Liazziarasco 2003
30. Tintero Moscato d’Asti Sori Gramella 2007
31. Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico 2004
32. Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2003
33. Sommariva Prosecco di Conegliano Brut NV
34. Corte Gardoni Chiaretto 2006
35. Corte Gardoni Bianco di Custoza 2006
36. Neyers Chardonnay Carneros 2006
37. Neyers Chardonnay Thieriot 2006
38. Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
39. Neyers Zinfandel High Valley 2006
40. Neyers Syrah Old Lakeville 2006
41. Neyers AME Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

I don’t want to really give you the play-by-play, because suffice it to say, they were all good (except the La Viarte Friulano, which was corked). So what I would like to do is give you some of the highlights. [NOTE: Prices on many of these wines were not yet available as this is a completely new venture for Heidelberg Distributing.]

For starters, if you are looking for the big Parkerized fruit bombs, then you’d be sadly disappointed. It has been said that Kermit Lynch, a self-proclaimed traditionalist, has been referred to more of as an historian of French wine than an importer of the same. He seeks out small, family-run wineries who have labored long-and-hard to preserve the traditions of their forefathers by making wine that speaks of it origins – that dreaded word “terroir.”

Of the three Alsatian wines we tried, the stand-out was obviously the Grand Cru Riesling from Meyer-Fonne. Full of mineral and ripe pear in the nose, this full-bodied white was rich with viscous, spicy white peach and hints of mineral and white flower throughout the finish. Though quite pricy (it would come into us at around $43/bottle), the wine has quite a few years in the bottle, and would be an excellent white wine for any Francophile.

We tried 6 total Burgundian wines, shifting from white to red like a Le Mans race car driver would, with the standout being the Domaine de la Cadette Bourgogne Blanc from Vezelay. Simply for value-sake, this wine is phenomenal with its light-to-medium-body, and hints of nectarine, pineapple and lemon cream, with surprising minerality and clean finish. (Price not yet available).

Two wonderful Languedoc wines – the white from Chateau St.-Martin de la Garrigue and the red (called Proteus) from Domaine du Poujol – were both extremely enjoyable, showing off the fantastic versatility that winemakers have there. The Proteus ($ NA) is a blend of Merlot/Cab/Carignan/Cinsault, and demonstrates dynamic red and black fruit, a hint of forest floor in the nose, velvety dragonfruit, cherry and red currant flavors, and a robust, full-flavored finish. The Garrigue Blanc ($16.59) is primarily Picpoul and Grenache Blanc, and shows off floral notes in the nose, followed by rich stone fruit flavors, medium body and a hint of lemon at the finish.

Loire was next, with the Champalou Vouvray Fondraux 2006 showing the best for me. It was a delicious example of Chenin Blanc, with mineral and white flower in the nose, racy d’Anjou pears and traces of carmelized sugar on the palate. It finishes elegant and clean for a wonderful white wine experience. ($ NA).

2005 was a glorious year for French wines, not just Bordeaux and Burgundy, but also Rhone. And Kermit’s less-familiar Domaine, Charbonniere served up not one, not two but three phenomenal Chateauneuf du Papes. The Mourre des Perdrix was full-bodied with deep, dark, rich, red and black fruits, roasted meat and tobacco notes. ($ NA). The Vieilles Vignes was more rustic and more robust than the Perdrix, but still very impressive. ($59.98). The Brusquieres – my personal favorite – was much more elegant, with a gorgeous bouquet of black and red fruits, roasted game, leather and black pepper. Amazing stuff! ($59.98).

Kermit Lynch has been working with Italian producers from Friuli, Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto for several years now, and the traditionalist mentality still applies. Only old-world style, classically produced wines will do for Mr. Lynch. And that is just fine with me – an Italian purist at heart. The most exceptional of all of these wines was the Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva, which was everything you’d expect from a CCR – cherry, tobacco, hints of leather and light spices – it’s a real homage to Chianti Classico Riserva ($ NA).

Finishing off the tasting were the wines of Bruce Neyers’ namesake vineyard, which are the antithesis of Kermit Lynch’s wines – big, bold, opulent fruit-bombs that still somehow show off a rare elegance not found in many California wines. The standout was the tasting’s final wine, his new AME Cabernet Sauvignon, which was 100% Cab, full of lush, magnificent blue and black berry notes, lots of cedar, mocha and coffee flavors, and a full-bodied presence in the glass and on the palate. An absolutely amazing wine. (Heidelberg has yet to take over distribution rights for the Neyers wines in KY so stay tuned!).

In describing Kermit Lynch’s wines, Bruce evoked the image of these wines possessing “soul.” It is a description of an increasingly smaller amount of wines in my opinion, yet all of these wines possess a soul not seen too often in the wine world. Kermit and Bruce take great care in the wines they represent, making sure that quality is in the bottle from the time it leaves the winery, until it arrives in the customer’s hands. It’s truly a labor of love, and it is what I personally look for as a professional buyer. I have to be able to trust where the wines come from in order for them to get a spot in my store. Liquor Direct is not in the business of selling bad wine, and I personally want the customer satisfaction to be as close to 100% as I can possibly get it. With importers such as Kermit Lynch, I have nothing to worry about – and neither will you.
Look for these wines and more in the coming months.

1 comment:

damong said...

That sounds incredible. I look forwar to some of the Lynch wines coming in. Oddly enough, his book is next on my list of reading.