Finger Lakes Wine of the Week: Lakewood Vineyards Lemberger 2018

The other night I experienced a food & wine pairing epiphany.
Photo provided by Richy Petrina

By Richy Petrina of Ithaca Wine Ventures

The other night I experienced a food & wine pairing epiphany. It was a simple and striking combination of a well-made grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup, and this lovely Lemberger red wine.

Traditionally, soup and wine pairings are rarely, if ever, worth attempting. I find that the lack of texture is the main culprit. And a humble grilled cheese just doesn’t scream appropriate-enough-for-dinner, much less something you’d serve with real utensils alongside a glass of well-crafted wine.

However, if you combine these three tasty components in a thoughtful way, and you have some very happy (adult) campers.

Let’s start with the soup. Instead of pouring something out of a can, I encourage you to use a few basic ingredients and adjust the taste according to you. Given this particular wine, a few extra herbs and a bit of spice really helped make it sing!

Next, the grilled cheese. Make sure you have some good bread, something that can crisp up and give a much-needed crunch. I sometimes like to add a layer of pesto alongside the New York State cheddar, but this time we only used cheese.

Lastly, the wine. Go with something that’s fun and pretty that has a bit of spice, like a Lemberger. This one happens to be made by Lakewood Vineyards, one of the many well-regarded family-owned multi-generational wineries in the Finger Lakes.

Originally grape growers since 1951, the Stamp family began making their own wines in 1988. Today, three generations are working alongside each other as they continue to focus on producing beautiful wines across many varieties.

I have had their Lemberger many times before, and always loved it. It’s a wonderfully enjoyable wine with the right balance of fruit, spice, and structure. It sees a touch of oak, but the focus is on the traditional notes of this grape: bright red fruits, spicy black pepper, and rustic herbaceous dried tea leaves. 

With less than seven hundred cases produced annually of this wine, it is relatively easy to find in local stores under $20. As well, it can be ordered directly from the winery’s website. I think it’s an excellent wine for the changing season, versatile enough to pair with a wide range of foods or to enjoy on its own.

And if you’re up for an effortless dinner pairing, I highly encourage you to try it alongside a grilled cheese & tomato soup! 

Bon appetit & cheers!

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,, is a wine club from the Finger Lakes featuring a different winery each month, with local drop-offs and nationwide shipping.

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