Sunday, July 6, 2008

Once you get to know Lemberger ...

You would be accurate in referring to the Lemberger wine that Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery in Breiningsville, produces as unique. John Landis and his wife Jan, who bought the five-acre lot back in 1973 and planted their first vines a year later, said he first tried the wine out West and it made enough of an impression to make room for it on his Eastern Pennsylvania plot.

“I liked the finish on it,” he said recently. “It was a cool climate red that we thought would grow well here in our climate. We tried it out and its done well for us. The hardest part of that was name recognition. A lot of people have never heard of it. They wonder, ‘What am I buying?’ So that’s why you need to have the people on site to try it, and then if they like it, they like it.”

On the Vynecrest site, Lemberger is listed as the winery’s flagship red, with its “big, bold flavors and rich tannis finish.” Growing it, he said, isn’t a big problem. The late-bloomer is susceptible to powdery mildew, but Landis said no more so than other vinifera. He produces about 300 gallons, which converts to more than 100 cases. The 750 ml. bottles sell for $13.99. Vynecrest is a member of the Wine Trail of the Lehigh Valley, which will be celebrating its 11th anniversary with a fete on the weekend of July 12-13 at all the wineries.

A wine with its roots in the Danube River Valley, which originates in the Black Forest of Germany, Landis notes that it goes by two names: the Germans call it Lemberger and the Austrians call it Blaufrankisch. “So you’ll see different wine lists with the two different name," he said. "On the East Coast, there are maybe four of us [that grow it]. There’s one up in Pennsylvania,
Presque Isle Wine Cellars. We’re the only ones that grow it in our region. And there’s a couple wineries in the Finger Lakes [of New York] that are grow it, but the majority of it is grown in Washington state. That’s where I first had it.”