Kiona Lemberger 2014
This consistent award-winner is a signature wine for Kiona. Lemberger is a relatively obscure Eastern European grape that is sometimes known as Blaufrankisch. The vine grows exceedingly well on Red Mountain, where Kiona has established the go-to vineyard in Washington for the varietal. They use their premium fruit and extensive experience with the wine to craft an immensely versatile and universally appealing medium-bodied wine with plenty of style.
This bright, medium-bodied, fruit-forward wine surprises many with its unique characteristics. Kiona’s Estate Lemberger has a vibrant, well-balanced palate along with plenty of earth and spice that showcases Red Mountain’s unique terroir. This wine goes to show that Red Mountain is well-suited to varietals well outside the standard set.
A coveted source of top quality red grapes among premier Washington producers, the Red Mountain AVA is actually the smallest appellation in the state. As its name might suggest, it is actually neither a mountain nor is it composed of red earth. Instead the appellation is an anticline of the Yakima fold belt, a series of geologic folds that define a number of viticultural regions in the surrounding area. It is on the eastern edge of Yakima Valley with slopes facing southwest towards the Yakima River, ideal for the ripening of grapes. The area’s springtime proliferation of cheatgrass, which has a reddish color, actually gives the area the name, "Red" Mountain.
Red Mountain produces some of the most mineral-driven, tannic and age-worthy red wines of Washington and there are a few reasons for this. It is just about the hottest appellation with normal growing season temperatures commonly reaching above 90F. The soil is particularly poor in nutrients and has a high pH, which results in significantly smaller berry sizes compared to varietal norms. The low juice to skin ratio in smaller berries combined with the strong, dry summer winds, leads to higher tannin levels in Red Mountain grapes.
The reds of the area tend to express dark black and blue fruit, deep concentration, complex textures, high levels of tannins and as previously noted, have good aging capabilities.
Inky magenta in color with aromas of violets, herbs and spices, Blaufrankisch was first documented in Austria as far back as the 18th century and today is the second most planted red variety in Austria after its own offspring, Zweigelt. Blaufrankisch thrives in Burgenland as well as in the warmer sites of Niederösterreich (including Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal). While most of the global acreage of Blaufrankisch remains in Austria, the variety has travelled a bit outside of its homeland and taken on a few different names. In Hungary it remains well regarded and goes by Kékfrankos; in Bulgaria it is Gamé; in the Czech Republic, Serbia and Croatia, Frankovka; and in Friuli, it is called, Franconia. The Germans call it Lemberger. Oregon claims a small amount of acreage; there it goes by its Austrian name.
In the glass
Blaufrankisch typically has a deep red to purple color, medium body, fine tannins and a racy acidity. On the palate it is full of blackberry, black cherry, tart red cherry and accents of black pepper, herbs and allspice.
Versatile because of its deep fruit, and medium tannins and acidity, Blaufrankisch goes well with smoked sausage, lighter meats, vinegar marinades, balsamic dressings, tomato-based sauces and of course, traditional Austrian dishes like red potato goulash and creamy spaetzle.
In pre-Medieval times grapes were divided into superior quality, that is those whose origins lay with the Franks, called “Frankisch,” and then all others, which were deemed inferior. Because this grape was well revered, it got the name, blau (meaning blue or dark) and “Frankisch,” or Blaufrankisch. The grape was actually born from a crossing of Blauer Zimmettraube and Gouais blanc, the latter also a parent of many of our modern favorites: Chardonnay, Gamay, Aligoté, Riesling and Furmint!