What’s in a name? That which we call Lemberger
By any other name would taste as good;
So Lemberger would, were it not Lemberger call’d…
Bring it on, I’ll drink it, hideous name and all. My first taste of Lemberger, a wine grape I had never heard of, was to say the least, a surprise. And a lovely one it turns out. The name alone makes you crinkle your nose and turn your head away, but don’t let the name deter. Be bold, and look this Lemberger right in the eye. Fruit-forward and earthy with dark berry flavors and a hit of acidity, this wine is medium in body and smooth, kind of like a Pinot Noir. My husband and I were introduced to it during a weekend in the Finger Lakes this past fall, a spectacular, sunny weekend as it happened, smack in the middle of harvest season.
We had but a single day in wine country, enroute to a big family reunion. Our mission was to focus on finding the best Rieslings we could in one day, and pack the car full of them. That we did. Exceptional Rieslings in a variety of styles are grown and produced with in the Finger Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area) and we performed our due diligence in tracking down more than a few of them in our short 24 hours. See the wineries we discovered (with links) and the wines we loved at the end of this article.
What we didn’t expect to find, were so many other really good NY state wines. Lemberger became one of our favorite new discoveries. This cold-hardy, red wine grape, also called Blaufränkisch in German speaking countries, grows across central and eastern Europe, Canada and in parts of the US, namely Washington state and the Finger Lakes region of New York. It’s a dark skinned grape that buds early and ripens late, taking full advantage of short growing seasons and cool temperatures. Lemberger is probably a bit tender to thrive in Vermont, our sub-zero winters make cool climate grapes like Zweigelt and Riesling a challenge to grow. But I wonder, if it was sited in a protected spot, near the lake perhaps, could it grow? I would sure love to see someone try.
The Seneca Lake wine route we traveled, has none of the flashy, touristy trappings of Napa. No wine trains. We didn’t see a single tour bus and we didn’t wait in a single line as we sidled up to a tasting bar. The roads we traveled were country roads, winding their way through vineyards and farms. The overall landscape was agricultural, not Disney-like, as Napa Valley sometimes suggests to me. The beautiful town of Skaneateles is a perfect jumping off point for a day or two in wine country. It’s a graceful village perched on the Northern tip of Skaneateles Lake with gorgeous historic homes and charming B&Bs. The Finger Lakes are spread out, and there were so many outstanding wineries we didn’t have time to visit. I would have loved to make it to Dr. Konstantin Frank, Ravines, Fox Run, Hermann Weimer, among others, but time was short. We’ll be going back, hopefully next fall. And when we do, it will be with a bigger trunk.
Red Newt Winery happened to be crushing Riesling when we pulled in. They offer a fantastic lunch of charcuterie, pickled veggies and homemade bread to have with your glass of Riesling and your view of the action.
2015 Dry Riesling
2015 Grüner Veltliner
Silver Thread Vineyard
2014 Dry Riesling
2015 Riesling STV Estate Vineyard
Red Newt Cellars
2102 Riesling Bullhorn Creek Vineyard
2012 Dry Riesling Reserve
Damiani Wine Cellars
2102 Cabernet Sauvignon
2013 Pinot Noir
2011 Sparkling Wine
2012 76 West
2014 Riesling Yellow Dog Vineyard
2009 Brut Sparkling
Try these Lemberger wines!
Hosmer 2014 Lemberger
Damiani 2015 Lemberger Sunrise Hill
Fox Run 2014 Lemberger (if you can find it!)
Ventosa Vineyards 2011 Owners Reserve Lemberger
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Lemberger