“All great songs tell a story,” says Kermit Lynch. The California-based wine importer, retailer, author and musician recently completed his second CD, “Man’s Temptation” and, in terms of wine industry back stories, has an interesting one. A singer/songwriter for a Berkeley band in the 1960s, Lynch took a break in Europe after losing several band members to drug abuse and, while there, became mesmerized by French culinary culture.
Upon his return to the States, Lynch borrowed $5,000 from a girlfriend and opened a humble wine shop he could only afford to keep open five hours a day/four days a week. Since then his store and his brand have grown to become one of America’s leading purveyors of high-quality, under-the-radar French wines and Lynch—credited with making French wine more accessible to Americans—has received both France’s Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur award and the James Bead Wine Professional of the Year Award (he’s also up for WE’s 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award).
In 2005, the accidental wine merchant returned to music—his initial passion—at the urging of a loyal longtime customer and local vintner—the singer/singwriter, Boz Scaggs. His first CD “Quicksand Blues” is a collection of his own songs performed by pros like Alvin Youngblood Hart, Laurie Lewis, Jon Cleary and Jackie Payne (though Lynch jumped in and laid down some vocals for a few of the tracks). “Man’s Temptation,” an amalgam of country, folk, rock, blues, gospel and R&B all of which are sung by Lynch, also features a number of musical bigwigs including: slide guitarist Rick Vito of Fleetwood Mac; guitarist George Marinelli (who’s worked with Bruce Hornsby); keyboardist Michael Omartin of Steely Dan, and producer Ricky Fataar, whose repertoire includes gigs with Bonnie Rait, Etta James and Crowded House. Songs are a mixture of Lynch originals—such as the on-the-road opener Gare De Lyon—as well as covers including the Carter Family’s “Bear Creek”, the Stanley Brothers’ “Rank Stranger” and Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood.”
“In my music and my wines, I’m not trying to create something revolutionary,” says Lynch, who was dubbed Berkeley’s Wine Radical by the New York Times, “Just something beautiful and hopefully timeless—I’d settle for that.”
“Man’s Temptation” hits shelves on September 22.