Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beaujolais Nouveau at Kermit Lynch

Yesterday I needed to get out of the house and just roam around, and I decided to take a trip to Kermit Lynch's store in Berkeley. Lynch is one of the giants in the wine world. He started importing French wine to the U.S. and selling it out of his shop in the 1970s, and has brought many great winemakers to the market here. For a more in depth profile, check out this New York Times piece from last year about him (link).

His shop, located on San Pablo Ave., looks like an old barn from the street, with weathered wooden boards adorned with a simple sign. Inside, boxes and boxes of French wine are stacked in rows waist high, with written descriptions telling shoppers what they can expect.

This particular weekend happened to be when Beaujolais Nouveau arrives. The young wine, made from Gamay grapes, is released the third Thursday of November to celebrate the end of the harvest. The wine is 6-8 weeks old, has been hand harvested and subjected to carbonic maceration, or a process that creates light, fruity wines with little tannins. The wines aren't meant to be taken seriously, and there are usually parties arranged for their arrival. Many winos criticize the whole affair as just a marketing gimmick, and I've never really been to one of these events before.

So when I pulled up to Kermit Lynch's place and saw the parking lot full of red-and-white checkered tables, a crowd of people drinking wine and a band with an accordion player, I figured it was to celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau.

I walked around inside the shop for quite some time, reading all the shelf talkers and trying to see if any of the names jogged my memory. One did - the Marcel Lapierre, Morgon ($22). I just read a posting about this Beaujolais (some can, and are aged if they aren't pasteurized) on Dr. Vino's blog (link) and had a bottle in my hand ready to purchase, but I eventually put it back (my wine rack is full right now, and I've been trying to cut back my purchases overall or limit myself to bottles under $20. I might come back and buy this at some point, but guilt got the better of me this time).

So, after all that agonizing, I went outside to get a glass of wine and just enjoy the beautiful fall day. The sun was out, a slight breeze took the edge off the heat, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. At the bar I asked for a taste of one of the Beaujolais Nouveau offerings, and wham! it really punched me with sour tarts. Too much, I thought, so I ended up ordering a glass of 2007 Cote de Brouilly, Cru Beaujolais, Domaine Thivin. It was still tart, but more substantial than the initial one I tried. Being alone meant that I could find a single seat at one of the tables, while everyone else in groups and couples circled around looking for an opening.

Quite a nice time, I have to say. As a parent I don't get much time to just be alone with my thoughts, but I certainly stole some time to enjoy a glass of wine outside on a beautiful day.

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