The first time I tasted a glass of Lemberger was about twenty years ago. I had never heard of such a name for a wine, let alone a grape. Of course, I first associated it to Limburger cheese and Lemberger wine was nothing like the smelly cheese. The first label of Lemberger I purchased was from Quail Run, now known as Covey Run Winery.
Today, flashback almost seven years ago and I am visiting with a man who inspired Quail Run to take a gamble on such a grape with such a funny name. In fact, it was Quail Run Winery who had the first label approval for a Washington state Lemberger.
The man’s name was Stan Clarke. I was one of his first viticulture students at the college and this was his first quarter to teach at the Center for Enology and Viticulture. Our classroom was discussing various grapes and their origins. Stan mentioned Lemberger and everyone in the class started laughing about the funny name and some couldn't believe there was such a grape - - but I knew and believed. I was familiar with the grape that was also known as Blaufrankish in Austria. Many bottles of the Lemberger I owned...and of course, drank.
Stan and I later visited about the grape that was his favorite and was pleased he had met another lover of the Lemberger. Stan told me about his vineyard and winemaking history at various wineries in the Zillah area, such as Quail Run, Hyatt and Zillah Oakes. We knew that somewhere, those many moons ago, our paths had crossed. Perhaps he poured the first glass of Lemberger for me and even the seasonal May Wine from Zillah Oakes (now a defunct winery) that I purchased every spring release.
Last Saturday at the Institute for Enology and Viticulture building in Walla Walla, we toasted a glass or two of Stan’s favorite wine - - Lemberger. You see, it was Stan’s memorial reception and the building bulged with people, laughter, tears and memories. Many attending were associated with the wine industry and so were their memories - their memories of Stan Clarke and how they had met him because of the Washington state wine industry. This man, Stan Clarke had brought us all together and once again, his purple hand had been involved with the wine they were sharing. A 2005 College Cellars Lemberger - 2005. It was fruity with flavor bites of Bing cherries, chocolate and finished with spice. It made me smile through the tears.
From the time I discovered that Stan and I both loved Lemberger, every time I picked up a bottle of Covey Run Lemberger, I always thought of Stan. Now - - even more - - I’ll never forget.