Kermit Lynch is a Berkeley icon. A San Francisco Bay Area icon. A wine icon.
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So with Bruce Neyers of Kermit Lynch as host/panelist for the Masters of Chardonnay session at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, it was my civic (Berkeley) duty to attend!
Steadfastly stubborn in his opinion on Italian and French wines being the best in the world, there are no other varietals of wine in his Berkeley store. Going to Kermit Lynch is a treat, it is in a tiny little shopping center with the ACME Bread Company (where Berkeley residents stand in line every day to buy the legendary bread) and a tiny cafe that used to be Cafe Fanny (owned by Alice Waters, named after her daughter, closed in 2012) but that is now Bartavelle, a funny and funky spot with great coffee.
The Kermit Lynch wine shop is a great way to explore the wines of France and Italy, the staff is very knowledgeable, part of the community and highly respected. They have wonderful events, they import wines and supply them to many of the best restaurants all over the U.S. and Kermit not only writes an excellent monthly newsletter, but he throws one hell of an annual oyster party.
But I digress! For the festival, Bruce Neyers brought 18 wines to taste. Some of the rarest Chardonnays, or white Burgundies in the world. I had just spent an hour trying 12 rare Cabernets with Colgin Cellars, so I was looking forward to tasting something different!
We would be trying burgundies from three different domains over multiple years. The three properties are in Mersault near Beaune, France not more than a few square miles from each other. Wine production here has been going on for centuries and is passed on generation to generation. Some winemakers still staunchly make their liquid gold using traditional methods, while others embrace new techniques.
The tastings were from Domaine Coche-Dury (here is a great write up from Kermit Lynch on this domain), Domaine Roulot (domain bio here) and Domaine Comtesse Bernard de Cherisey (domain bio here). The wines from Meursault are among the finest white burgundies in the world and is an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC).
The Master Sommelier were so excited they started tasting before the introductions were complete!
Mr. Neyers indicated that to understand [white] burgundy is to understand the makers and their individual styles. He quoted a professor he had in college that said that technically 95% of all wines are the same – grapes and yeast and sulfur convert into sugar and that converts to ethyl alcohol – it is that last 5% that is the soul of the wine and where the genius happens.
For me, I was awestruck. I was sitting in front of glasses of wine from the single-most famous Burgundy producer in the world, Domaine Coche-Dury, the up-and-comer Domaine Roulot and the relatively unknown (read invest in this wine) Comtesse de Cherisey – the four Master Sommelier were geeking out on the fact that these glasses were in front of them and I was beside myself to experience it along with them – knowing it is likely the last time it would ever happen.
I savored every taste and soaked in all the conversation. In this case, I feel like I don’t have the right to claim favorites considering how epic these wines are, but these are the ones that stood out for me:
Of course, there is nearly no chance to get these again, the bottles are meted out in small quantities and have to accommodate the world’s demand. That’s what is kind of cool about the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival (or any festival like this), for the price of the ticket to attend the session, you taste wine with bottle price tags in the thousands (if you can get your hands on one!).
I feel honored to have been in the presence of these great wines from France, the Master Sommelier who led us through and Mr. Bruce Neyers of the phenomenal Kermit Lynch (#BerkeleyProud). I can’t thank <Hawaiian Airlines enough for their generous sponsorship of my flight to Oahu this weekend to attend the festival. They hosted me along with The Modern Honolulu hotel and the Oahu Visitors Bureau.
How about you? Have you done wine tasting at a festival? Is there an elusive wine you’d like to try? What is your favorite thing to eat with a Chardonnay? Do tell!