Not to be confused with Limberger (a cheese...), Lemberger is not a varietal that most wine fans associate with Virginia. But a few wineries in the Commonwealth are working with this German and Austrian wine, which up until recently was only attempted in mass production in the Yakima Valley of Washington state and upstate New York.
Lemberger is better known amongst wine lovers throughout the world as Blaufränkisch, and several wineries in the U.S. use that original name, versus the easier to pronounce (and spell) Lemberger. A dry, bold red varietal is unusual for Germany and Austria, countries better known for sweeter whites and pinot noirs.
Lemberger is a bold meat wine, quite high in alcohol, yet its tanin content is not as heavy compared to west coast Cab Sauvs and Petit Verdot. It's extremely easy to drink, most offering notes of black currant, plum, black pepper and licorice.
In Virginia, Lemberger is beginning to rear its head as a worthy competitor of not only Norton, our other unique red, but the state's red standard, Cabernet Franc.
Where to try Lemberger:
Ox Eye Winery, one of the blogmasters favorite locations in the entire state, is doing incredible things with Lemberger. "Go for it" their tasting sheets proclaim. Admittedly, this is not a varietal that Virginia wine fans are accustomed to (yet). Ox Eye's beautiful Lemberger is well-priced and in addition to the currant/plum/pepper notes previously mentioned, notes of bacon fat are there (the late Dennis Farina, from the film Bottle Shock, would approve).
Otium Cellars, in Loudoun County, is owned by a German, so the varietal is called by its native name there. Medium tannins and black cherry notes combine with a leathery finish for this Lemberger....excuse us, Blaufränkisch.
Also in Loudoun County, Notaviva Vineyards has accepted the challenge to produce the varietal, and also prefer to use the original namesake. Their Blaufränkisch is combined with Cab Franc to produce a blend that more Virginia wine fans will be comfortable with, as opposed to diving head first into a 100%. The Cab Franc gives their Lemberger a more earthy nose, and the wine becomes complex yet delicious and easy to quickly consume. This blending approach is similar to what many wineries are doing with Petit Verdot, another increasingly popular red varietal in the Commonwealth.
The Notebook invites you to impress your winery hopping friends and ask about this varietel on your next visit to any winery in the state!