Kermit Lynch was bestowed with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor
Leah Garchik/SF Chronicle Tuesday, April 17, 2007
At the Lodge in the Regency Center on Friday night, Kermit Lynch, importer-purveyor of French wines and vintner, was made a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. This was more than French Consul General Frédéric Desagneaux's pinning a beribboned medal on the honoree's lapel. It was a feast, well-wishers elbow to elbow at long, candlelit tables in a glimmering chamber, a scene harking back to days of knights and maidens, fitting for the awarding of a traditional honor.
The venue, former Masonic Temple, dance studio, offices of the Polish Arts Foundation and movie theater, has stained-glass windows, carved wooden walls and glass lanterns that cast a dim golden light. "It has one impediment,'' said menu designer Alice Waters of the venue. "There is no kitchen.''
Planners triumphed over this stovelessness, serving dinner for 220, including room-temperature, family-style starters and desserts, combining formality (an array of wineglasses, brocade napkins) and informality (please pass the olives and almonds?). Sue Murphy emceed, with Odile Lavault playing "America the Beautiful'' on accordion and Applejack Walroth playing "La Marseillaise'' on harmonica. "Do you know the difference between God and a winemaker?'' asked Daniel Ravier of Domaine Tempier in France. "God doesn't think he's a winemaker.''
Presenting Lynch with his medal, Desagneaux noted he was now in the company of Duke Ellington, Frank Gehry, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Ronald Reagan. (This last was iffy in a roomful of people I'd venture to guess hadn't voted for the Great Communicator, but it wasn't a night for quibbles.) Waters, who has known Lynch since the '60s, when he was "just hanging out,'' and has been doing business with him since the '70s, when he opened a shop and then began importing wine from Burgundy, noted that he had been brought up by a Baptist minister. Lynch himself says Welch's grape juice was served at Communion.
Lynch's passion for wine is twinned with one for music, and his good pal Boz Scaggs, with the same set of afflictions in reverse order, contributed a full set, backed up by full band and singers. Lynch circulated and greeted his guests, many of whom fingered his medal with curiosity. He was wearing a burgundy-colored tie, the only one he owns, he said.
"Curiosity, authenticity, loyalty and passion'' were the words with which Desagneaux had described the honoree. He's also a gent who seems to know that wine is about enjoying life.
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