The Lamb was sure to go… with MERLOT
“Mary had a Little Lamb, a Little Pork, a Little Ham…”
The now famous pairing of Beef Bourguignon and red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) evolved over centuries: famed for the cattle owned by the Lords and Monasteries of Burgundy, the region’s poor ‘paysan’ farmers would slow-cook tougher cuts of beef with a few vegetables on an open fire, and consume it with the local wine.
The classic pairing of Lamb with the wines of St. Emilion (Bordeaux) is based more upon the flavors of both. On the Right Bank of the Dordogne River, Merlot is the principal grape, with Cab Franc as its usual partner in most St. Emilion Wines (like Cheval Blanc). Together, these embrace the gamey flavors of older, grass-fed lamb; but the delicate flavor and texture of Spring lamb is particularly suited to Merlot on its own.
Spring lamb is largely milk fed, so very mild and tender. Lush and silky Merlot full of juicy red fruit has a slightly lower acidity and less tannin than other Bordeaux varieties, as well as Syrah and Tempranillo (two other lamb-friendly reds). Merlot can also be a touch herbaceous both in very cool or very hot vintages, and lamb partners well with herbs – certainly rosemary, thyme and mint. When perfectly ripe, Merlot can have a whisper of violet aromas, perfect for spring.
If Spring lamb is on the table this Easter, enjoy the flavors and aromas of Merlot with your meal.
Wait!! What about ham?
Rosé is the cure: Rosé has become a staple in on wine lists in Napa and Sonoma, much like all the great wine regions of the world: these winescombine fresh, fruity acidity, complex aromatics and a red wine’s “spine”. (We’ve served it so often at brunch that it is called ‘breakfast wine’ at our house….) With Cured Ham gracing many Easter tables, we’d like to suggest Stepping Stone Corallina Syrah Rose Napa Valley & J Vineyards Brut Rose Sparkling Wine
Baked or Honey Hams often feature glazes, spice or fruits (clove, orange, pineapple, etc…), and you want to “match weights” with an off-dry wine with a little spice of its own (and of course, bubbles would work here, too…): We suggest Nebel Riesling Rheinhessen, Louis Reffelingen Riesling or Domaine Carneros Blanc de Noir
“…Mary passed her plate again and had a little more…”
Here’s a recipe by Bobby Flay for Lamb Loin that combines herbs with Merlot in the marinade. We’ve also included a pequillo pesto as a nice substitute for mint jelly…
1 cup Merlot
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf fresh parsley, plus sprigs for garnish
1 1/2 pounds lamb loin, cleaned
Sprigs of thyme, for garnish
Whisk together the wine, thyme, oil, garlic, black pepper and parsley in a baking dish. Add the lamb and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
Remove the lamb from the marinade 20 minutes before cooking. Heat a grill pan or saute pan over high heat. Season the lamb with salt on both sides and cook until golden brown and seared on both sides and cooked to medium-rare doneness (internal temperature of 135 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Place on a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve slices with a dollop of pesto on the side.
Piquillo Pepper Pesto:
6 piquillo peppers
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Piquillo Pepper Pesto:
Combine the peppers, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until emulsified. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and pulse a few times to combine.
Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay, 2008