Some Saturdays just start off wonderfully. The weather in Portland was gorgeous this weekend, and by 9:30am, I was on my way downtown to the lovely Heathman Hotel for a wine tasting of the Kermit Lynch portfolio. Actually, just a tiny part of his portfolio, as he imports from 120 Domaines!
Surrounded by wine retailers, restauranteurs, and fellow wine educators, we went through 13 wines in 2 hours. At 10 in the morning, if you don’t spit, you’ll be as toasty as your breakfast! And if you skip the Breakfast of Champions, they’ll be picking you up off the floor!
Kermit regaled us with stories of his adventures, and we soaked it up. Although I have had both delightful and disappointing experiences in his shop (see my previous blog on questions wineshop guys should be asking – they didn’t!), I had never met the man in person before. I found him offbeat and charming, very passionate and opinionated. His funniest phrase was “vinus interruptus” – he finds that many French winemakers block malolactic fermentation, but the wine “isn’t finished yet.” He has many wines specially made for him, with full (or partial) ML.
I can’t say I loved all his wines, but that wasn’t the point. I learned a lot, and found a couple wines that were very impressive. Specifically, the 2007 Arnaud Ente Bourgogne Blanc was deep and complex on the nose, soft in the mouth finishing with surprising acidity, and with a lingering presence. Also, the 2006 Patrick Jasmin Cote Rotie was splendidly delicate yet round, and kept changing in my mouth.
In my wine seminars, I encourage everyone to analyze the wine and make notes, and no one is allowed to say anything for a couple minutes. This gives everyone the chance to fully experience the wine for themselves. Then we can exchange insights and opinions. Sometimes someone who is less confident in their palate will ask me for the “real answers,” thinking that what I say (or Robert Parker or someone else) must be right, and they must be wrong. That’s BS! Occasionally, I won’t even tell them what I think I smell or taste, because I always say that the only palate that matters is your own, and there are no right or wrong answers in wine.
If you don’t love what you’re drinking, stop! But do give it a decent amount of time to show its best qualities in your mouth. Don’t judge a wine by the first sip.
That’s one problem with these tastings. I’d really prefer another hour to go through that many wines, so I can take my time, revisit them, and give each of them a real chance. 13 wines in 2 hours may not seem like a lot, but Kermit had so much to share that we only covered 4 wines during the first hour.
One question that came up was about wine reviews, and why there are so few negative ones. Kermit thinks wine writers are afraid of offending the producers (and maybe getting their samples cut off), so they follow my Mom’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
In that spirit, I will say honestly that there were a couple of wines that just didn’t do it for me. It doesn’t mean they won’t do it for you, so don’t stay away just because I didn’t like them.
I found the 2008 Eric Chevalier Muscadet Cotes de Grand Lieu to be simple and sour. It tasted like watered down Granny Smith apple squeezings. The 2007 Etxegaraya Irouleguy Rouge gave me the feeling of sawdust in the corners of my jaw.
On the other hand, the 2008 Fontsainte Corbieres Gris de Gris was like an ice pick wrapped in suede. I got a jolt of sharp acidity which immediately softened and mellowed. Quite the circus act!
If you have the chance to taste some of Kermit’s wines, I encourage you to give them a try, with an open mind and lots of time to let them show themselves to you. Challenging your palate is a great way to expand your horizons and understanding of wine.
Thanks, Kermit! Come back to Portland soon!