Oakwood Cellars 2007 Blackie Bear’s lemberger blanc

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on Aug. 10, 2010:

First off, a solemn tip of the hat for Alaska’s great loss of their beloved ex-Senator Ted Stevens. Every state has a political legend. Oregon had Mark Hatfield. Washington had Henry Jackson. Hawaii has Daniel Inouye. Alaska had Ted Stevens. Every intelligent state should know: once you elect a senator, keep that individual in there as long as possible (if he/she plays the game and keeps his/her pants on). The earmarks that benefit their state will only increase through the years. It’s a fact of life, so get over it. And, if you’ve ever been to Alaska (I’ve been there 4 times in the past decade), you’ll appreciate the lack of oil drills on the last pristine landscape America has. Good beer and the freshest salmon are the hallmarks of Alaskan cuisine. Not to also mention…the reindeer hot dogs. Rudolph was good for something for adults after all!

Back to the program… Germans are dirty. (Chorus—let’s say it together now: “How dirty are they?”) Well, let the wineman tell ya. Germans are so dirty that a cat in the German town of Bayreuth somehow turned on the vacuum cleaner while home alone. A neighbor heard its cries for a few hours then called for emergency help. The medics summoned were actually useful in calming down the feline. If you own a cat, you know how seriously comedic the scenario was (I used to terrorize my cat with the vacuum). Police stopped a 51 year-old man near Buffalo, NY for running a stop sign, then were shocked, after hearing the sound of meowing in the trunk, to find a 4 year-old cat there marinating in oil, crushed red peppers and chili peppers. The man told police he was going to cook the cat, named Navarro, because it was ill-tempered. He also told police that his neutered male cat was pregnant. Hmmm…so this is what happens when one drinks Finger Lakes wines, eh? Not signing up for that one.

It is with sadness that I drink this wine as this longtime winery in the Red Mountain AVA is up for sale at this time. I knew of the possibility when I visited the winery earlier this summer, but it’s the real deal now. Hurry and visit this winery as a piece of Red Mountain history will disappear soon.

Evelyn “Eppie” Skelton has been running the operations of Oakwood Cellars, founded in 1985, after her husband passed away in 1998. Smartly, she has been the winemaker since 1994 once she knew her husband took ill. Both were versed in winemaking from UC-Davis classes. The winery quietly sits on Demoss Road, just past Terra Blanca on the left, next to the northerly flow of the Yakima River. The “estate” vineyard is planted to riesling (a great foundation for a mimosa) and the backyard of the “home” winery is meticulously manicured, inviting picnics and other small get-togethers. Eppie has adopted two cats that were abandoned at the winery 8 months apart. She supports the Benton Franklin Humane Society and urges others to contribute.

The Skeltons originally settled in the area with Robert working for nearby Hanford and Eppie taking a position with a rental car company. Their love of wine birthed a winery with personality, something lost in today’s cookie-cutter wineries.

The winery home is rustic and the 1980’s Beacon Hill basement-like tasting room is warm and inviting with souvenirs for sale covering the walls. Eppie pours the wines (no tasting fee) and provides a lifetime of stories. She vacations at the winter surf capital of the world, north of Haleiwa, HI, which is where, I suspect she will spend many of her future days. Also armed with a military i.d., she has access to roads and views not seen by the typical kama’aina (locals). She loves Spam-anything, which further confirms her Hawaiian identity.

Tonight’s wine is a truly unique gem to be found nowhere else. Lemberger blanc. While lemberger, the red wine, is slowly being re-discovered as a beefy red wine, this version is its sweeter sister. A low-alcohol level, rosé-style wine, gives this flexibility in pairing throughout the spectrum of a meal. As a starter, pair it with a fruit plate, boiled peanuts or cheeses. Great with salads or a light, daily version of spaghetti. Finish with a creamy fruit dessert. Amazing flexibility that used to be taken for granted.

Color: orange-salmon-pink. Nose: faint salmonberry. Mouthfeel: thick, riesling-sweet. Flavors: white cherry, dash of strawberry, and visions of 10-foot waves at Pipeline. Tasted at 37-57 degrees F.

Alcohol: 12.1%. RS: 2%. Yakima Valley AVA. BW-WA-128. Rated: 87. Value: $10. Paid: $9. Numerous vintage awards. Music pairing: “Many Classic Moments” by Kalapana. Label picture is of Blackie Bear, the black long-haired kitty left at Oakwood Cellars, mingling amongst the cherry blossoms. Signed, “A toast to your kitty! Eppie”. We will miss you greatly, Eppie. Enjoy your world travels, you deserve it. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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