Kiona, founded in 1972, is located on Red Mountain. The term Kiona is the Indian name for the region, translating to “brown hills.” How brown became red and hills became a mountain I will leave to others. Owners John and Ann Williams planted the vineyards in 1975 and produced their first wines in 1980.
Although perhaps best known as a producer of exceptional fruit, the winery makes a wide array of wine including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Dessert Wine, Lemberger, Merlot, Riesling, Sangiovese, Rose, Syrah, and Zinfandel. The 2005 Lemberger, sampled here, came recommended from a reader. While perhaps a bit too intense for an every day drinker, it is ridiculously good for the price. It was so good I picked up another bottle to see if the first was some sort of fluke. Haven't opened it yet so if it turns out differently I will let you know. (NB 5/11/2009: Re-tried the Kiona Lemberger. The nose on the second bottle was the just about the same but the taste wasn't as opulent the first go round which was what had really won me over. Perhaps some individual bottle variation. Although the second bottle would have been a "+" rather than a "*", it is still an excellent wine for the $. Note that the wine was much better at a cooler temperature in the low sixties and did not show particularly well about 70 degrees).
Inspired by the Kiona Lemberger, I went on to try a few others. The first was from Thurston Wolfe. Located in Prosser, Thurston Wolfe was started by Wade Wolfe and Becky Yeaman in 1987. The winery makes a number of varietal wines that are fairly uncommon in Washington including Primitivo, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, and Petit Syrah. The second was from California mega-producer Jed Steele. While the name Lemberger is common in Washington, in other places it is called Blau Frankisch, the “blue grape from France.” Here Steele does a variation he calls “Blue Franc.” A French Franc note adorns the label.
Sagelands is located in Wapato, WA. The winery is owned by Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines which owns Beaulieu Vineyards and Canoe Ridge Vineyard along with a long list of other liquor companies. The winery produces Cabernet, Chardonnay, Dessert Wine, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rose, and Red Blends. Frederique Spencer has served as head winemaker since 2002. “Four Corners” on the label refers to the origin of the fruit - Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake Hills and the Walla Walla Valley.
Townshend Cellar is located north of Spokane in the town of Colbert. Don Townshend serves as owner and winemaker.
|Kiona Lemberger Estate Red Mountain 2005|| Fairly light ruby color. Abundant floral aromas including stargazer lillies and violets. An intricate nose with orange peel, cherry cordial, raspberries and a touch of mint, along with earth and Red Vines. A bit of alcohol on the nose. Lots of tobacco comes through as it opens up. Big, full tasting wine loaded with fruit, including bright cherries, blue fruit, and cranberry on the finish. Sampled at 62 degrees. 13.5% alcohol. 2,240 cases produced. Purchased from Pete’s Bellevue for $9 ||$12|
|Thurston Wolfe Lemberger Horse Heaven Hills 2007|| Light, bright ruby. Abundant dust and cranberry aromas. Rich in texture with a pleasing tartness across the palate. Touches of herbal notes on the nose and palate. Oak shows through a bit. 100% Zephyr Ridge Vineyard. Sampled at 62 degrees. 120 cases produced. Recommended. Purchased from Pete’s Bellevue for $13 ||$15|
|Shooting Star Blue Franc Lemberger Washington State 2007|| Loads of vanilla, banana, and spice on the nose. A tart, very fun taste. 13.5% alcohol. Purchased from Pete’s Bellevue for $13 ||$13|
|Sagelands Merlot Four Corners Vineyard 2006|| Spicy oak, black licorice, and chocolate on a lively nose. Lots of fruit on a taste that does not entirely hold together but is still a very fun wine for the money. 14.1% alcohol. Purchased from Pete’s Bellevue for $8. ||$13|
|Townshend Cellars RTW Non-vintage||Oak, chocolate, and cedar on the nose. Fairly even on the palate but too much oak overall. Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah. Purchased at Pete’s Bellevue for $8.||$12|