Off the Vine: Kirk Lambert has a passion for wine

October 3, 2012 

Sometimes it the small chances that we take that make all the difference, but most of the time it is the larger risk that pays off. In meeting Kirk Lambert, it was interesting to hear the enthusiasm in the voice of a young man whose career choices have done a 180 degree turn over the course of a fairly short time.

Kirk had graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in mechanical engineering, but he quickly became bored with his profession and moved to the "land down under" to work in the vineyards of his family's winery. While working the vineyards, Kirk realized that wine was his passion. After earning his master's degree in oenology from the University of Adelaide, Kirk has worked his way up to head winemaker at Lambert Estates.

Although the name Lambert Estates Wines is fairly new, the wines are quite recognizable to those familiar with the Stanley Lambert portfolio. Stanley Lambert began in 2004 as a collaboration between Wisconsin native Jim Lambert and a venerable winemaker named Lindsay Stanley, but the name was changed after Stanley's retirement.

The winery is in the Barossa Valley, which is one of the major wine producing regions in Australia. The valley receives a nominal amount of rainfall, which along with minimal irrigation causes small grapes that have quite intense flavors.

The Lambert Estates 2011 Pristine Chardonnay Unwooded is crisp and refreshing and retails for $12 a bottle. This wine has pear overtones and would complement grilled shrimp topped with a

garlic aioli sauce.

If you favor red wines that are not overly tannic, the 2008 Thoroughbred is a choice. It contains ample flavors of black currant, but it is not an overpowering Cabernet Sauvignon. In tasting this wine, my thoughts turned to a slightly seasoned bone-in rib-eye fresh off the grill.

The 2008 Lambert Estates Forgive Me Zinfandel was a real treat to taste. This wine was aged in 50 percent Hungarian oak which adds spiciness to the finish and it has the jammy flavors of black cherry and plum. Kirk suggests that this wine is best paired with a spicy Thai curry dish. The 2008 is the first vintage of Forgive Me and retails for about $15.

Although the wineries' Choc-a-Bloc Tawny Port was not a part of this tasting, it is a delicious Port that is made by infusing dark chocolate into a fortified Tawny wine and as the name implies it contains chocolate both in the aroma and the taste.

Kirk Lambert's goal as winemaker is to produce wines that are approachable and easy to drink the day you bring them home from the wine shop, however the red wines definitely have the structure to cellar for several years if you desire.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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