Spent some time in the cellar yesterday moving wine around. The 2010 Lemberger (also known as Blaufrankish) had spent the better part of 10 months in a 4 year old 11 gallon American Oak barrel. It was starting to take on some dark dried fruit flavor, which to me means that it's time to come out of the barrel in order to retain as much of the fruity varietal character as possible. Given the age of the barrel, not a lot of oak flavors had been extracted, but frankly for this wine, I didn't really care. Enjoying the fruit forwardness with just a hint of vanilla instead of being over-powered by the oak flavors.
Of course, when a barrel is emptied, you've got to fill it back up to prevent any acetification of the barrel as it sits empty. I had an assortment of left-over wines from previous barrel fillings so I decided to do an "Estate Cuvee" blend. Into the barrel went 5 gallons of 2010 Cabernet Franc & 3 gallons of 2010 Merlot (both from Two Mountains Vineyard in WA). The rest of the space was taken up by about 2.8 gallons of 2010 Carmenere from the Curico Valley in Chile.
That tertiary blend may sound a little odd at first glance, but it's actually a time-honored Right Bank Bourdeaux blend. The Bourdeaux region of France is split by the Gironde estuary and it's two primary tributaries, the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. Wineries along the "Left Bank" along the Garonne River typically produce wines that are more commonly blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot due to the western side of the river typically being a little warmer due to the closer proximity to the ocean breezes. This allows for a longer growing cycle to allow the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to more fully mature. The "Right Bank" wineries along the Dordogne River are known for blends more typically based on Merlot with some Cabernet Franc. However, pre-Phylloxera Bourdeaux vineyards also grew a number of other grape varietals like Carmenere & Malbec. After the vineyards were essentially wiped out and rescued by replanting on American rootstock (the dirty little secret of French wine), the vineyards were replanted in more economically desirable varietals like cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot. Carmenere and Malbec were used more as blending grapes & didn't command high price points, so their plantings in France were essentially extinguished. However, these grapes found a new home in South America due to the Spanish missions (and some fortunate mistaken identities where the vineyards thought they were actually planting merlot).
And that's where we re-enter the Aaronap Cellars story....after filling the barrel with a historically typical Right Bank Bourdeaux blend and making sure the carboys of Lemberger were topped off, I had a half-bottle of Lemberger and a little Carmenere left in the carboy. Can't let a little wine go to waste, so I filled the half-bottle of Lemberger with the Carmenere from the carboy, stopper it up, and let it sit overnight. This afternoon, after working on cleaning out the garage, I sat down to sample this interesting blend.
Frankly, my eyebrows went up a notch. Really, really tasty! Dark purple color. Heavy fruit forward nose with black cherries and raspberries predominating. High tannins in the mouth and a spicy after finish. Both of these wines were unoaked, so the varietal characters were on display. I like this interesting blend!
Don't believe that I've every heard of a Lemberger/Carmenere blend before. What's your wildest grape varietal blend? Ever come across something completely unheard of, but really quite tasty? Share people share!