Aridus, Aridus Wine Company, Arizona, Arizona Terroir, arizona wine, Arizona Wineries, Arizona wines, az wine, AZwine, Blaufränkisch, Eastern European Varietals, High Lonesome Vineyard, Lemberger, Lisa Strid, McNeal, red wine, terroir, Tom and Edie Gustason, Tombstone, wine, Wineries without tasting rooms
Continuing our examination of rarely-explored Arizona Grapes comes the 2016 Lemberger from High Lonesome Vineyard, which is located in the high desert in McNeal Arizona, not terribly far from Tombstone. High Lonesome is a relatively new vineyard, breaking new ground in an area with high potential: a fertile valley surrounded on the south by the Mule Mountains, the Whetstone Mountains to the west, on the north by the Dragoon Mountains and on the east by the Swisshelm and Chiricahua Mountains, and rests at about 3,600 feet in elevation. I had the pleasant experience of visiting with the owners and growers, Tom and Edie Gustason, a few weeks ago when visiting Tuscon for the Savor AZ festival. Alongside the Lemberger, the fine folks at High Lonesome are also growing Tannat, Malbec, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Picpoul, and a few other varietals. I am eagerly awaiting further wines from this unique vineyard.
The Grape: Lemberger, also known as Blaufränkisch, is a rare grape in Arizona, only grown in one other vineyard in the state that I am aware of Dragoon Mountain vineyard. Two blends made with this grape have been reviewed in this blog before, but this is the first full varietal version I’ve reviewed here. As a varietal, Lemberger likely originates from Styria, in Northern Slovenia, and is widely grown across central and Eastern Europe. It is a grape which likely dates back to at least the early middle ages. In the US, it is also grown in Washington, California, and Ohio.
The Wine: The 2016 Lemberger from High Lonesome Vineyard was made at the Aridus Wine Company crush facility in Willcox, Arizona, by Lisa Strid. The wine was aged in neutral and new French oak barrels. The idea, according to Tom and Edie, was to create a low-tannin version that could be imbibed young and would be reminiscent of a Pinot Noir. The grapes were, of course, Lemberger from their vineyard. The wine is a lighter garnet hue, to me, quite reminiscent of a wine made from Gamay.
The Nose: The nose of the 2016 Lemberger opens with rich notes of Anise and Allspice, intermingling with aromas of cherry, huckleberry, rhubarb, and rich forest floor. Hints of plum, vanilla, and emerge after the wine has been decanted for a while. No notes of blue (or any other cheese) can be found in this wine, unlike the aforementioned other vintages featuring this grape prominently which we have examined before.
The Palate: The 2016 Lemberger is a medium-bodied red with medium acidity, and rather low tannins, reminiscent to me of a Saint-Amour Cru Beaujolais. The palate opens with notes of rhubarb, plum, and huckleberry, intermingling with black cherry, anise, allspice, and cinnamon. Notes of Elderberry and strawberry emerge after the wine has been decanted for about two hours. The finish of this wine is relatively short, lasting for 30 seconds, with notes of flint, black pepper, sea salt, cherry, strawberry, and violets.
The Pairing: I want to treat this wine in terms of food pairing as one would treat a Cru Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir. My first thought for a local pairing would be to use quail, slow roasted in a red wine sauce. You could also easily pair this wine with pork chops on the grill, or hoard a bottle for Thanksgiving. For a vegetarian or vegan pairing, I would serve this wine with a dish that has large amounts of sweet potato or a butternut squash soup.
Impressions: The 2016 Lemberger makes me think more of a Cru Beaujolais, (especially, as I mentioned above, Saint-Amour) rather than any previous Blaufränkisch vintages I’ve encountered anywhere in the world thus far. (Though to be fair, I have yet to meet an actual Eastern European version as of yet.) I was quite impressed. This makes me suspect that the cheesy note I get on most versions of this varietal is an artifact of some part of the winemaking process with this grape that was not done here, and I am not sure what that could be. This wine is drinking great now; I would not cellar for more than two years. Currently, the best place to buy a bottle is at Hoppin’ Grapes in Sierra Vista, but you can also arrange for a private visit to High Lonesome Vineyard by checking their website, http://www.highlonesomevineyard.com. If you are a lover of Pinot Noir or Gamay, definitely hunt this bottle down.
For some reason, this wine makes me think of Agatha Christie. It’s a mystery writer, who is well traveled, and perhaps a bit quirky, but is well-loved and friendly. She also has a random fondness for tweed, tea with crumpets smothered in jam, and obscure French Cuisine.