By Richy Petrina of Ithaca Wine Ventures
I enjoyed this wine several times this past summer, picking up occasional bottles from Hazelnut Kitchen paired with their farm-to-table goodies. For me, especially in the warmer months, this varietal is perfect for those moments when you want something delicious, but also a tad bit different. A wine to spice things up!
Blaufränkisch, as it is called in Austria, is also known as Lemberger in Germany. In the Finger Lakes, depending on who makes it, you can find it written both ways.
Red Tail Ridge, one of the very solid producers in the area, calls it Blaufränkisch. I call it delicious. It’s bracing, lively, and from first-hand experience, excellent in the colder months, too.
Their Martini Family Vineyard Blaufränkisch is readily available at many of our local establishments, whereas their RTR Estate Vineyard Blaufränkisch—– made in much smaller quantities (137 cases vs. 375 cases)—is only available directly from the winery. I’ve never had them side by side, and I’m curious how the differing vineyard sourcing and oak treatment is reflected in the wines. A task you don’t have to twist my arm to solve at a later date.
The Martini Family Vineyard, the one I tasted last night that’s aged for 16 months in neutral French oak, was immediately noticeable and pleasant. The nose also hit me with freshly ground pepper, dark red fruits, and layered herbaceous notes. If Pinot Noir were a person, this would be its cousin visiting on holiday from Europe whose vintage wardrobe and vinyl collection are marginally cooler.
The wine is medium bodied with soft tannins and a nice bright zing… a combination that keeps true to the varietal. Also consistent are the juicy ripe cherries and savory flavors that allow the wine to play nicely on its own or with food.
To bring out some of these notes, I paired the wine with a simple garlic and rosemary pork—heavy on the ground pepper—alongside asparagus cooked in duck fat (with more black pepper) and Melissa Clark’s instant-pot risotto. We make that risotto a lot, because it is super comforting and perfect for these cold Ithaca nights. The Blaufränkisch, thankfully, provided a fun change of scenery.
I especially enjoy this wine at a slightly colder temperature, removing it from the fridge 15 minutes or so before drinking. It seems more focused, and as it comes up to temperature, loosens up nicely. Then again, I suppose I like this for most reds.
Lastly, a wine like this once again reminds me of all the neat varietals we get to enjoy here in the region. The ones that are harder to pronounce can sometimes be the ones that wake up our taste buds the most!
Richy Petrina founded Ithaca Wine Ventures in June of 2019 to elevate and amplify the region and its exceptional producers. The startup’s latest project, WINEcsa.org, is a wine club from the Finger Lakes featuring a different winery each month, with local drop-offs and nationwide shipping.