We're down to just three varietals on our journey through the vast and wonderful world of non-traditional wines in the Pacific Northwest. That's right, friends, Oregon is more than Pinot Noir and Washington is more than Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Gasp! Today I bring you a glimpse of Lemberger, or in more fun yet hard to pronounce German vernacular, Blaufränkisch. To once again properly educate ourselves, to the Wikipedia we go where the hamsters have been working late nights to make sure the wine pages are up to date, accurate, and fun.
Never heard of it? Neither had I until a few years ago when I visited the winery that provided our sample for this post. The name of the varietal sounds more like a fungus than a fine wine, but alas, delicious it is.
An Eastern European varietal that is relatively obscure in the United States, Blaufränkisch means blue frankish and is the namesake for a dark-skinned, late-ripening variety of grape. The name Lemberger is reminiscent of the first import of the wine to Germany, from Lemberg in the present-day Slovenia. Rich in tannin and exhibiting a pronounced spicy character, it has been called the Pinot Noir of the East due to it's spread and reputation in Eastern Europe. Washington State just so happens to be one of the few major wine regions to have significant plantings of Lemberger, with most of the US fruit coming from the Yakima Valley. It's also seen relative success on the Olympic Peninsula.
Kiona Vineyards and Winery, the William's family, provided a sample of their 2006 Estate Lemberger for review in this series. Before I dive in to the wine, let me give you a little aside on Kiona and their role in the Washington wine industry. We've written about them before, for good reason. In 1975, John Williams and Jim Holmes planted some wine grapes on an 84-acre patch of desolate sagebrush near Benton City, Washington with a vision that few others realized. Seeing in the land and climate what nobody else had, Kiona produced it's first vintage in 1980 and never looked back. In working with that 84-acre patch of land, Williams and Holmes pioneered grape growing in one of the hottest wine regions in the country -- Red Mountain. Kiona is still a Williams family enterprise, and for Holmes, he went on to start another vineyard on Red Mountain. Ciel du Cheval...you may have heard of it?
So, on to the wine:
Kiona 2006 Estate Lemberger: 100% oak aged Red Mountain, this wine has prominent aromatics of dark fruit and plum, with hints of spice and leather as a backdrop. A gorgeous deep color leads to a nice, drinkable medium mouthfeel with a taste of tart pomegranate or cranberry and a bit of spice on the finish. We loved this wine all by itself, however, it could be paired well with a late-evening Eastern Washington summer BBQ or as Rick noted, the flavor profile would go well with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Currently at $9.99 per bottle from the winery, might as well pick up a whole case!