Clairette de Die: A Day in the Drôme Valley

The Drôme département may be the best-kept secret in France. While the Drôme river is a tributary to the Rhône, the two regions share little in common. The Rhône Valley, despite its picturesque orchards and steep banks (think Côte-Rôtie), is largely a world of freeways, industry, and pollution. Just south of Valence, the two rivers meet. East of this point, one can follow the Drôme’s crystalline waters upstream to a land that is worlds apart, in one of the most gorgeous corners of the Earth that you never knew was there. A narrow route nationale follows the meandering valley, flanked on either side by hills and eventually small mountains—a precursor to the mighty Alpine peaks found not too far to the east. The region looks something like a French version of Yosemite Valley, sprinkled with quaint medieval villages and with neat rows of vines planted on all the South-facing slopes.


I pulled up to Domaine Achard-Vincent in my rented yellow Fiat Panda just as the harvesters were returning from a long day of work. Jean-Pierre, whose family has been making wine in the Diois (Dee-oo-ah) for several generations, greeted me before returning to tend to the day’s pick: about a dozen large crates packed with clusters of Muscat grapes, straight off the vine. He proceeded to dump the crates into the de-stemmer, demonstrating the process by which the grapes are crushed and eventually pressed. The entire operation is gravity-fed, consistent with the Achard-Vincents’ enthusiasm for organic and biodynamic agriculture. As the pressing began, a steady trickle of liquid turned into a heavy torrent, slowly filling the empty tank under the press. Jean-Pierre handed me a glass and motioned toward the stream of fresh Muscat juice. Its delicious grapiness almost made me wonder why one would even make wine out of it.


However, fermenting the Muscat has been a long-standing tradition in the Diois—the effervescent Clairette de Die, a somewhat sweet wine made mainly from the Muscat grape, is supposed to have outdated the production of all other sparkling wines. The méthode Dioise, as it is called, involves bottling the wine during fermentation, trapping the resulting carbon dioxide gas. The building pressure eventually reaches a point that causes fermentation to stop, leaving a playful sweetness in the wine that is balanced by crisp acidity and low alcohol. Nowadays, of course, the wine is subsequently racked and filtered to remove sediment and prevent any remaining yeast from finishing the job once the wine is in bottle. The Achard-Vincents also bottle a dry sparkler made exclusively from Clairette. Like the more traditional sweet wine, it is equally delicate and lively, showing incredible finesse.

The following morning, I woke early, eager to volunteer my hand in the harvest. The summer heat had yet to kick in and a pillow-like layer of fog still rested against the hillside. I joined the rest of the crew in the vines and began picking. The work was tiresome but snacking on the grapes provided adequate fuel. Finally, the time came for me to continue my trip.


Still sweaty from the intense labor in the vineyard, I knew I couldn’t leave without taking a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Drôme. I climbed down from the road to the bank of the river before plunging in. I felt refreshed by the bracing cold and cleansed by the translucent purity of the water. My only regret was not bringing a bottle of Clairette to chill in the river and freshen up my palate.


40 Vintages of Sauvignon Blanc

If it takes 10,000 hours of carrying out a task to be successful in a given field, then Régis Minet is not just an expert, but true master of Sauvignon Blanc. For nearly forty vintages now, Régis has worked with the grape of the appellation of Pouilly Fumé, which by my estimate means he’s put around 70,000 hours into understanding how to cultivate, nurture, pick, ferment, bottle, and market Sauvignon Blanc. Few people in this world may be able to match that level of focus on a single variety and they are probably Régis’ neighbors.

Régis recently launched his first website——and I recommend you check it out. Like his approach to wine, Régis keeps it simple online.

In person, he’s affable and dynamic, loaded with energy—is it a coincidence you could use those adjectives to describe his wine, too? When he visited the Berkeley shop a few years ago he was in full form. He brought us two things—small fossils that he found in his vineyards, and little rounds of aged Loire goat cheese, covered in a nearly black rind. The cheese and the fossils were nearly indistinguishable. Régis was proud to show off how he brought the unpasteurized and distinctly scented cheese into the US. He had packed the cheese in air-tight bags, then with a permanent marker, wrote the word “pasteurized” on the plastic. “You see, no one asks if you just write pasteurized on the package.” Duly noted.

The fossils had their own aromatic qualities. If you strike two together, the bright smokiness of gunflint emanates. You didn’t have a choice with Régis in the room—everyone was essentially forced to eat the cheese and smell the fossils.

We washed down the pungent cheese as quickly as we could with a glass of Régis’ Pouilly Fumé, but I still have the fossil from his vineyards on my desk—a good reminder to take home a bottle of his wine from time to time.


February Newsletter: Tasting at Bartavelle, Vieux Télégraphe 2011 P-A, Introducing Château Moulin Pey-Labrie

The February newsletter is now available.
Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…


by Anthony Lynch


My father’s second book is titled Inspiring Thirst. I never fully understood this title until I had the chance to taste certain wines, and La Démarrante is one of those wines that truly inspires thirst vintage after vintage. It is what happens when the Languedoc meets the Beaujolais: old Carignan and Cinsault fermented by carbonic maceration to make something light, fresh, and delicious. I like it slightly chilled and my glass well filled.

$23.00 per bottle $248.40 per case


Opening a bottle of Gramenon is always a special experience for me. In addition to the delightful aromas wafting out of my glass, knowing that what I am drinking is the product of nature with minimal intervention makes every bottle a sensuous and emotional pleasure. Their Syrah is no exception, tasting wild yet impeccably refined. Sierra du Sud finishes with silky tannins and leaves the drinker with a sentiment of awe.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case


It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Terrebrune the wine that it is. Some might argue that the nearby Mediterranean provides cool nights, favoring slow ripening and making an especially balanced wine. The vigneron, Reynald Delille, finds that his unique reddish soils are ideal for his vines to thrive in, giving depth and minerality. Reynald himself is quite a classy fellow, and I believe that he lends a certain elegance to his wines that few others are able to achieve. Perhaps all of these factors contribute to produce a Bandol that, unlike most others, is approachable in its youth with the potential to age beautifully for decades.

$35.00 per bottle $378.00 per case



by Kermit Lynch


Let’s start with two important traits: this is classic and bone dry, and I mean dry like a good Chablis or Muscadet. As for the classic part, it could serve as a role model for Pinot Blancs no matter what part of the world they come from. Leave here with a case at our 10% discount and you’ll be glad you did at least twelve times.

$16.95 per bottle $183.06 per case


Good and dry—that’s one reason I recommend this Riesling to sommeliers for their wine lists. Dry, balanced, flawless, nothing exaggerated or missing—just what one hopes for when ordering Riesling in a restaurant. The price ain’t bad, either. Let’s name it Old Reliable. It does it like it should be done.

$16.95 per bottle $183.06 per case

2009 Riesling “pfoeller” • MEYER-FONNÉ

Such a big year, 2009, and the Pfoeller vineyard makes a Riesling that Félix Meyer always holds onto for a couple of years before releasing because, he says, “it always takes its time to open up.” There is a ripe, mouth-filling texture. Shop for sausages and a couple of cuts of pork, a jar of sauerkraut, some mustard, and this Pfoeller 2009.

$37.00 per bottle $399.60 per case

2010 pinot gris “kaefferkopf”
grand cru • MEYER-FONNÉ

I could berry and cherry you to death with this wine. (Read pages 80–96 in Eric Asimov’s book How to Love Wine, please, to see what I mean by “berry and cherry you to death.” You’ll laugh out loud.)

While tasting this Pinot Gris, ask yourself why it is grand cru and the previous “Réserve” not. Consider the words depth, finesse, nobility, grandeur . . . I like those kinds of tasting subjects more than searching for berries and cherries. Not that I don’t love cherries and berries.

$37.00 per bottle $399.60 per case

Tasting in the Jura

My visit to Domaine Ganevat was eye-opening, mouth-watering, and, if you’ll pardon the expression, bladder-filling. I arrived in the morning following a discouraging restaurant meal the previous night featuring supermarket-brand Comté (the local cheese), melted-cheese-laden sausage, and hair-infused lukewarm crème brulée. In spite of the picturesque pastures on the hazy rolling hills surrounding me, I felt uneasy when Jean-François examined me with a look in his eye that asked, “Who the hell are you?” Finally he came around with an “Ah—I thought your visit was next week.”

Ganevat-in-the-CellarWhile he was busy helping his crew bottle the ’09 vintage, I tasted wine after wine—the whites each conveying purity, freshness, and minerality unlike anything my palate had ever encountered. I was astounded at the paradox inherent in each wine: full-bodied yet crisp, rich yet focused, fleshily fruity yet bone-dry and stony, complex yet eminently drinkable. I tasted only a portion of the many cuvées produced, each with its own distinctive personality. The differences lay in the variety (usually Chardonnay and/or Savagnin), the parcels (exposition, soils, age of vines…) and the level of oxidation (from a Burgundian style to a more traditionally Jura level of oxidation).

Each time Jean-François dipped the glass thief into a new barrel and eased the unfiltered liquid into my vacant glass, he said casually, “Once you finish this one, you can taste the next one.” Finish? ‘Taste?’ Nonetheless, it seemed completely appropriate to be drinking glass after glass of Ganevat’s wine at 11AM (although I admit to occasionally dumping my glass behind my back when nobody was looking as I had a 2-hour drive coming up and wanted to remember which side of the road to drive on). We moved on to his Poulsard rosé, a crisp juice bestowing pleasure like no other. The reds came next, also delightfully fresh to the point that ‘wine’ did not seem like the appropriate word. A Pinot Noir brought to table paired excellently with the rabbit Jean-François’ mother cooked for lunch. The cheese course, featuring a genuine Comté, married perfectly with the Jura’s famous Vin Jaune—each rich, creamy bite washed down by the wine’s nutty caramelized finish.


Old vines at Domaine Ganevat
Upon returning to the U.S., I witnessed the Jura beginning to experience a breakthrough on the wine scene. The bottles I have tasted since always offer something different, putting in evidence the wide range of styles available. The one thing they all share in common is that they are awakening, due not only to their refreshing acidity but also thanks to the way they stand out from the other wines produced in France and across the globe. The Jura wine scene is intriguing in the best sense of the word, and I am constantly thirsty for more.

Wine From Yesteryear

“Have you ever tasted anything like this?” said Kermit to the 23-year-old at our staff tasting the other night. She laughed while simultaneously saying “No, never.”

I laughed along with her, havingd'epire.cuveespeciale.2009.resized.novintage been asked the same question during my first years here, meanwhile relishing no longer being the youngest at these tastings. The wine in question was a 1994 Savennières “Cuvée Spéciale” from Château d’Epiré.

Kermit’s inquiry, though honest, was also rhetorical, and would have elicited the same response from most of us present. I’ve had older Savennières a hand-full of times and each bottle seems to have little to do with the previous. What resonated with me about the wine wasn’t my experience with it, but Kermit’s, and I chatted with him about this the next day. He said the wine took him back in time, when he encountered wines like this older Savennières more regularly in the cellars of many vignerons:

Aromatically it’s nearly impossible to find aromas that we found in that wine these days. It’s not berries and cherries. It’s very hard to describe what you’re smelling with an analogy as you’re in a world that is complete within itself and you can’t encounter anything like it outside of it. The age is what allows the wines to develop like this and it is becoming harder and harder to find white wines that can do that.

Actually, the analogy is the smell of an old, moist, underground cellar. Cellars are sterilized now, so cleaned up that the smell has no character or substance—other than chlorine, at worst. I’ve learned that wines are like sponges—they soak up what is in their environment. The old cellars seasoned their wine with earth smells, barrels smells, the new wine, the mold on the stone walls—that’s rare now. Tasting wines like this 1994 is like entering the inner-sanctum—a place this is totally private, that few experience.

This ‘94 is a wine of yesteryear. A rare find that still exists in a few cellars in France, and specifically it seems that the vignerons of the Loire have a fastidious ethic for reserving a quantity of each vintage to watch it develop. Château d’Epiré recently released the ’94 to us and our final three cases remain on the retail floor for a lucky few to have their own singular experiences.


Château d’Epiré

January Newsletter: Serious Fun, Self-Assured Wines, Monks & Mountains

The January newsletter is now available.
Click here to download the pdf.


by Dixon Brooke


Michel Brégeon unofficially retired after the 2010 vintage, but all that really means is that he found someone younger with better knees to watch over his grapes, harvest them, and bring them to his cellar where he could continue to oversee the winemaking process. Michel’s unique terroir, his practice of keeping yields low, and his insistence on continuing to be one of the last in the region to hand harvest (that’s right, folks) probably set him more apart than anything he does in the cellar, but any visit to the domaine will show you that this is no typical winery. Michel is the mad scientist, cranking out the most hauntingly exciting and typical (by ancient standards) Muscadet in the entire region. Nobody is more consistent in achieving greatness with Melon de Bourgogne.

$16.95 per bottle $183.06 per case


This is one of those wines that everyone at KLWM knows is destined for allocation status. It’s just too good. New Yorkers can usually find it on the list at Balthazar, where it makes itself right at home. The production is relatively small, for Sauvignon Blanc country, as this wine comes from Jamain’s prized vineyard that is composed of Kimmeridgian limestone fossils. Think Sauvignon Blanc from Chablis-like soil. So it has a racy, flinty, aromatic, bone-dry style that works particularly well after you return home from a traffic jam or with oysters—shuckers love it! And it remains a great value, due to the fact that many of you have probably never heard of Reuilly.

$19.95 per bottle $215.46 per case


This beauty makes an interesting Cabernet Franc comparison with the last wine. The vines are organically grown in white tuffeau, the wine is aged for two years in older barrels in a tuffeau cellar on the banks of the Loire River without any additives or manipulation, and the resulting purplish black juice is bottled unfiltered for one of the most unadulterated Cab Franc experiences on the planet. If I had my first choice, I would drink it with a woodcock, served with its organs made into a paté on the side, and black truffles. However, a cut of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, duck, goose, antelope—you get the idea—will work just fine.

$30.00 per bottle $324.00 per case


This “archer’s song” is a delightfully smooth and complex Pinot Noir from Daniel Chotard and his son Simon, who is starting to make his mark on this small family property in Reigny. The Chotards age some of their best Pinot parcels in secondhand barrels from Burgundy, giving their typically bright-fruited red some welcome wood smoke and meatiness. This is a great pinch hitter for the earthy, masculine Pinots of the Côtes de Nuits.

$35.00 per bottle $378.00 per case


Seasonal Sampler

by Mark Congero

On a cold winter night, is there anything more satisfying, more comforting, than a big, beautiful bowl of soup? Add a chunk of crusty bread and a glass of wine and life is good. One of the best things about soup is making it, as there are hundreds of options. It’s easy, fun, and if you start off with high-quality ingredients it’s hard to make a bad soup.

At first thought, wine and soup might sound like an odd pairing, perhaps even redundant, with soup fulfilling our need for both liquid and solid. However, not only is it necessary, it is delicious! Potato and leek soup with lardons, paired with a beautiful dry Alsatian wine: yes, please. Pot-au-feu with a nice chilled cru Beaujolais, most definitely. Bouillabaisse with any wine from Bandol—I think you catch my drift.

We put our heads together and assembled a nice box of food- and soup-friendly wines for you this month. For some added pleasure I will include a few of my favorite soup recipes in the carton and, what the heck, we’ll take 25% off to help ease the holiday pain.

Bon appétit.

per bottle

NV Clairette de Die • Achard-Vincent


2010 Pinot Blanc • Kuentz-Bas


2011 Pinot Grigio • La Viarte


2011 Vin de Savoie “Les Abymes” • A. et M. Quenard


2010 Languedoc Blanc • Château La Roque


2011 Gigondas Rosé • Domaine Les Pallières


2011 L’O de Joncier • Domaine du Joncier


2011 Vin de Pays d’Oc Rouge • Château Fontanès


2007 Lussac Saint Emilion “Les Griottes” • Château de Bellevue


2010 Côte de Brouilly • Nicole Chanrion


2010 Bourgogne Pinot Noir • Bruno Colin


2010 Chinon “Les Petites Roches” • Charles Joguet


Normally $228.80

Special Sampler Price $172

(a 25% discount)

White Wine For Aging? It Is Time To Look To Alsace

In the soon-to-be-released January newsletter, Kermit takes up his pencil to highlight new arrivals from our longest-standing producer from Alsace—Domaine André Ostertag. Kermit first tasted with and began importing André’s wines in the early 1990s and as we approach nearly twenty-five years of working with him, never has André’s artistic precision and sophistication in the craft of winemaking been more apparent.


Sketches of vines in the Ostertag tasting room

Kermit discusses the new vintages of 2010 and 2011 but we snuck a few cases of some very special older bottlings on the same boat for the lucky few that discover them when browsing the racks of our retail shop. It is not every day that you can walk into a wine shop and find vintage Alsatian whites that spent their lifetime aging in the same cellar in which they were bottled.

Here is some insider advice: Many people purchase and age white Burgundy, and with good reason, because the pleasure of a perfectly aged Meursault is a stunning experience. What most enthusiasts overlook is the importance of having the wines of Alsace in their cellar as well. Top vineyard specific Riesling and Pinot Gris from Alsace have more aging potential as most white Burgundy, often at half the price of their Burgundian counterparts.

Here is a rare opportunity. André did the hard work—he could have sold these wines years ago but resisted, knowing the potential they held. The value here goes beyond not having to wait to enjoy finely aged Riesling and Pinot Gris, but also learning what you gain were you to age some yourself.

Quantities are painfully small and priced well below auction levels.

2007 Pinot Gris “Zellberg” $60.00
2007 Riesling “Heissenberg” 34.00
2004 Riesling “Fronholz” 59.00
2002 Pinot Gris “Fronholz” 67.00
2000 Riesling “Heissenberg” 60.00
1999 Pinot Gris “Zellberg” 78.00
1996 Riesling “Muenchberg” Grand Cru 109.00


A panorama of the grand cru Muenchberg vineyard


December Newsletter: Gifting Made Easy, Pre-Arrival 2010 Clape

The December newsletter is now available.
Click here to download the pdf.



by Anthony Lynch


When I first tasted this white from the foothills of the Pyrenees, my eyes immediately lit up. Zesty citrus notes burst across my palate as if I had just squeezed a fresh lemon into my mouth. The attack of crispy mineral and fruit flavors soon gave way to richer notes of ripe citrus. I swallowed, refreshed and in awe, left only with an almondy finish, like the bittersweet smell of an ex-lover’s perfume. The next thing I knew, I was underwater collecting sea creatures for a platter of fruits de mer. A second glass of Jurançon washed away all thoughts of my ex. In other words, this dry white can fire up one’s imagination.

$17.95 per bottle $193.86 per case


Bandol is not known for its whites. However, I believe all colors are created equal, and La Tour du Bon’s white is Exhibit A. Clairette and Ugni blanc are joined by the same Rolle (a.k.a. Vermentino) that creates such fresh whites in Corsica and coastal Italy. The result? A rich, opulent dry white—reflective of the sun-drenched Southern climate—that is balanced by a refreshing core that keeps the wine interesting sip after sip, swallow after swallow.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case


For fans of southern Rhône reds, Daniel Brunier is practically a household name. His majestic Châteauneufs from Vieux Télégraphe and his collaboration with my father to make Les Pallières’ noble Gigondas make him a legend for lovers of Grenache, Syrah, and the other usual suspects. Finally, we have a Brunier wine that is at its very best before ten, twenty, even thirty years of aging. You’ll appreciate that Le Pigeoulet tastes like a more expensive wine and is a perfect candidate to be your latest everyday red.

$18.95 per bottle $204.66 per case


KLWM has become the specialist for Corsican wines over the decades, and this red from the northern cap of the island illustrates the reason why. Fermented in stainless-steel tanks to ensure a supple mouthfeel, this red from Michel Angeli is a true reflection of its place of origin. The nose is saturated with wild berries and, of course, the ever-present maquis. It is the perfect companion to cuisine featuring Mediterranean herbs, but just being thirsty will suffice. The staff agrees: it’s a knockout!

$36.00 per bottle $388.80 per case


Who says Gigondas needs to age years and years before it can be drunk? Who says it needs to cost over a hundred dollars? Well, I don’t know about you, but I want to drink Gigondas now, and spend no more than . . . twenty-seven dollars. Top that! And you’ll revel in those typical dense tannins, dark fruits, and earthy spices that make Gigondas one of the southern Rhône’s top crus. Durban’s 2010 is perfectly balanced, and it will reward you right now as much as it will in the long run.

$27.00 per bottle $291.60 per case


by Anthony Lynch

Gazing up at the Quenards’ vineyards above Chignin, one wonders how they manage to cultivate vines there—or cultivate anything, for that matter. “Soil” is not the appropriate word to describe the steeply inclined mountain rocks into which the vines’ roots must penetrate in search of nutrients. This is pure limestone, and the vineyards are planted in places where landslides have left rocky debris scattered about the precipitous slopes. The Quenards, a three-generation team made up of André, Michel, and the youngest, Guillaume, farm sixty acres in Chignin, situated equidistant from Lyon to the west and Mont Blanc to the east. While they produce a variety of wines—white and red, still and sparkling, simple and complex—the common point with all is the presence of delicate aromatics and a beautiful minerality: the product of hard work and old vines in an exceptional terroir.


Imagine lying down in a meadow high in the Alps on a sunny day. A fresh breeze blows over your head, carrying with it the delicate scents of white and yellow wildflowers. The joyous sound of birds singing is complemented by the comforting trickle of a crystal-clear alpine creek. It may be impossible to reproduce the feeling, but a glass of Chignin works pretty well. In this special cuvée, seventy-year-old Jacquère vines bring depth and minerality to what is rarely more than a simple thirst quencher. Drink it with a baked filet of fish, or pour it by itself to enjoy the subtle aromas of pit fruits and to be invigorated by its refreshing acidity.

$19.95 per bottle $215.46 per case


Bergeron may be the same grape as what most people know as Roussanne, but the Bergeron of Savoie bears very little resemblance to the Roussanne of the Rhône. For starters, Roussanne is never referred to as an “aromatic” varietal. One whiff of this beauty, however, will be enough to convince you otherwise. The Quenards’ Bergeron is a masterpiece featuring ripe peach, apricot, and white flowers, packaged in the most elegant format conceivable. The deliciousness lingers until you reach for your glass and take another sip.

$26.00 per bottle $280.80 per case

November Newsletter: Wine at Table, 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau, Champagne Extravaganza

The November newsletter is now available.
Click here to download the pdf.


by Chris Santini

Grange des Pères is a rare bird. I don’t mean that only in the cult-wine, nearly-impossible-to-find-a-bottle kind of rare, but also in the boundaries this wine transgresses. Here’s a wine that has made wine critics sing the highest of praises, yet still makes the “natural wine” enthusiast bristle with excitement when given a chance to taste. Have a look at the wine lists throughout the world that carry the wine, and you’ll see it on the ultra-select high-end lists that have nothing but the big and fancy names, and you’ll also see it on the lists at the opposite end of the spectrum that feature the esoteric and artisanal approach. Grange des Pères rouge is dark and rich, with deep tannins, full of licorice and myrtle, yet incredibly balanced and nuanced at the same time. It’s got the brambly, animal side of its native Languedoc, as well as the high-toned finesse of Cabernet Sauvignon. You can drink it young or age it as long as you please. There aren’t many wines in our increasingly polarized wine world that can make all generations and all types of palates sit around the same table and nod in agreement. Laurent Vaillé, the man behind Grange des Pères, isn’t one to make stands and statements; he’s never set out to convince anyone of anything, really. The insights he provides in the rare interviews he accords never extend beyond a shy yes or no response to any given question. He is, however, always smiling, always kind, and a true modest soul. He quietly creates what we all can agree is simply Greatness.

$87.00 per bottle

Pre-arrival terms: Half-payment due with order;
balance due upon arrival.



Be the first on your block to taste this year’s sensational, ultra-natural 2012 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau, a once-a-year treat. Visit the webpage below for a list of all California retailers carrying the wine starting Thursday, November 15.

Eric Asimov Book Signing
Thursday, November 15

Join us for a special reading and book signing with the New York Times’s chief wine critic, Eric Asimov. He’ll read passages from his new book, How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto, answer questions, and sign books.

5:30  Meet the author at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar
6:00  Reading and Book Signing inside Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
RSVP Required: Please call 510.524.1524
1605 San Pablo Avenue at Cedar Street,
Berkeley, California

Then and Now – Domaine Tempier

The winery that is most closely associated with our history is undoubtedly Domaine Tempier. Bandol is Kermit’s second home and he was drawn there by the incredible land and seascapes, the vignerons and their families, and Richard Olney. It is a rite of passage for a KLWM employee to visit Kermit near Bandol, stay at his home, and taste with him at the domaines in Provence that we import.

Kermit was introduced to Domaine Tempier by his close friend, Richard Olney. Richard first discovered Tempier at a tasting in Paris in 1955 when he tasted the 1953 vintage. Not more than a few years later he settled near Bandol, close to Domaine Tempier, and quickly became lifelong friends with the owners—La Famille Peyraud. In 1984, Richard contributed a piece about Domaine Tempier to our monthly brochure:

“Domaine Tempier is a wine—it is also a family; exuberance and finesse are the traits common to both. The Peyrauds are Lucien (who pretends to be retired), Lulu (née Lucie Tempier), the two sons, François (who cares for the vines) and Jean-Marie (whose eagle eye controls the vinification, the cellars, and the paperwork), four married daughters, none of them who live far away, and Laurence, the Parisian of the family…and, of course,…a gaggle of grandchildren.”(Inspiring Thirst, pp 118)

When Kermit began importing the wines of Domaine Tempier in the mid-seventies, Lucien was beginning his retirement and the sons were taking over. A few years later, Kermit wrote that “In my personal cellar I own more bottles of Domaine Tempier’s bold-tasting, soulful red than any other single wine.”  Nowadays this fact is probably still true, with Domaine Les Pallières being a close second.

The Peyrauds still run the domaine and the matriarch, Lulu, at 94, happily receives guests. The brothers have retired from their vineyard and cellar work, but work closely with Daniel Ravier, the current winemaker who has honored the Tempier traditions and style as if he were a Peyraud.

A visit to Tempier will exceed your expectations. Modernizations are few and the traditional style of winemaking that the family has always practiced is evident—the cellar is filled with foudres of varying sizes and shapes. You are received by a member of the family (a few years ago, I tasted with Jean-Marie) and treated casually—as if you’d been there before and were always welcome. A trip to the library holdings is hardly different than it was ten, twenty, or thirty years ago—bottles are stacked in cement cubbies, dust covers everything, and you taste the old wines there, shoulder to shoulder with the lucky few who join you. There are no leather couches, varnished oak tables, or chandeliers like the famous châteaux of Bordeaux or “reserve” cellars of Napa. This is Provence, where pretense doesn’t exist and family roots are held to the highest esteem. You can’t help but feel at ease in this homey atmosphere.

It is not hard to see and feel why Kermit chose to live in Provence, near enough to Domaine Tempier so he could fill the trunk of his car as needed. The stories of epic lunches and dinners lasting until all hours are not just things of the past. Kermit has helped preserve the wines and traditions of France by providing a market for the wines in the US, but he also continues the history of hospitality that welcomed him to the region.

If you are in the area, make an appointment to visit. Tell them you buy from Kermit, and you’ll be well received.

Tasting at Tempier, 1983
(L to R) Jean-Marie, Lucien, François, Richard
© Gail Skoff