Daily Drinker of the Month: Kiona Lemberger

Although I drink almost daily, I don’t drink a lot of daily drinkers. This isn’t on purpose . . . I just don’t happen to have many under $20 wines in my stash. (This is the price at which I consider a wine to be a “daily drinker.” Some people want their daily drinkers to be under $15 . . . YMMV.  As will mine after hubby retires!) 😉  Most of the wine clubs I’m in ship me wines well in excess of $20/bottle. I don’t usually purchase wines at the grocery store or “big box” stores like Total Wine & More, where I’m more apt to find daily drinkers. However, with my awesome employee discount at the wine store, I’m often able to buy a wine that puts it at a daily drinker price.  But since the market value is still in the mid-$20 range, I think that’s kinda cheating. :-/

Anyone can find a great wine that’s $30 or more, that’s easy. It’s more challenging, and nerdily, corkdorkily rewarding, to find a yummy wine that’s under $20. So I’m going to attempt to find a daily drinker each month and put my thoughts about it into my blog. This will be a wine that, while it won’t change my life, is one that I would happily add to my drinking arsenal. Of course this means getting out of my comfort zone of Oregon Pinots and Washington Syrahs!

Isn’t it appropriate that my first “Daily Drinker of the Month” comes from my sweet, dear old Dad? Always on me to save a buck. I constantly ask him to please NOT bring any wine to my house whenever he visits, but does he listen? No. (Although, he IS hard of hearing . . .) 😉  I also find it fitting that this winery is just around the corner from where I grew up . . .

USA, Washington, Red Mountain.
Kiona Vineyards (photo courtesy of the amazingly awesome Richard Duval)

A red wine for under $20 from the Red Mountain AVA is almost unheard of. But so is the grape Lemberger.

It’s Corkdork Time! Lemberger, or Blaufränkisch as it’s known in Europe, is Austria’s leading quality red grape varietal producing lighter bodied, fruity, dry reds. The grape is believed to have been brought to the United States from central Europe in the early 1900s. The first plantings of Lemberger in Washington were in 1941 by Dr. Walter Clore (aka, the Father of Washington Wine). Early on, it was a rising star in the state and was considered to be the third best suited red grape, after Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for Washington’s climate. While Lemberger is a delicious, approachable wine, it’s unfortunate name has hindered its progress and appeal to the masses. Lemberger is a hard sell for retailers and restaurants. As a result, there are maybe around 50 acres of it in the state today.

The wine. Kiona Vineyards 2013 Red Mountain Lemberger, $15. kiona-bottle

My notes: 95% Lemberger, 5% Carmenère (another Red Mountain favorite of mine!) Medium bodied, with delicate aromas of earthy red fruits and a hint of smokiness. Cherries galore. Slight spiciness on the palate. Some earth and cedar notes, vanilla. Rustic/dusty tannins. Peppery finish. There’s a whole lot of tastiness going on with this wine – I’d expect the price tag to be twice as much. And if it were, I’d be totally fine with that.

About Kiona Vineyards: In 1976, Kiona planted Washington’s first commercial Lemberger vineyard on Red Mountain. Today, they produce around 3,000 cases of Lemberger. (I just checked their website where it says “sold out” for their current release). They also make a ton of different red varietals and most are under $40/bottle . . . cannot say the same about many of their neighbors on the Mountain.

I really enjoyed this wine and would love to try Lemberger from other producers.  Might be a bit of a wine “treasure hunt” though since it just isn’t widely available.  As for the future of the grape, while it has staunch supporters in Washington State (Kiona, Thurston Wolfe), it’s future might lie in cooler wine producing regions such as British Columbia and New York Finger Lakes.

There is also discussion amongst winemakers about marketing it under the more familiar, European name Blaufränkisch so as to make it more appealing to consumers. In my mind though, isn’t this kinda like saying “My name is Helga, but my friends call me Bertha”??  🙂

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