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Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

To describe a wine as handcrafted is to suggest a refinement, but not one so rarefied as to be impersonal. Kermit Lynch believes that a wine retailer should be handcrafted, too, and his unpretentious bricks-and-bottles outfit in North Berkeley has convinced a lot of customers. For more than a quarter century, Lynch has imported excellent wines from his favorite European nooks, most of them French. His selection, therefore, is more careful than blandly comprehensive, assembled with the discrete zeal of a true aficionado. Like a friend on whose preferences you rely precisely because of his idiosyncrasies and unswerving good taste, Lynch has shrugged off more fashionable labels in favor of singularity and enduring quality. He exemplifies the Gourmet Ghetto habit of telling us what to like and always being right about it. Logically, other tastemakers praise him. Alice Waters cites Lynch as a professional influence; Robert Parker, the refined-but-regular-guy wine writer, calls him "the godfather of the movement toward more naturally made, unfiltered wines." Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, the store, wisely splits the difference between the chichi and the down-to-earth, and ranges its prices accordingly. And the staff, which has every right to be parochial, is mercifully open and approachable.

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