Dinner turned out to be a great success, the wines were delicious (my favorite was the ’00 Barbaresco, hubby liked the Brunello) and the pairing worked out quite well!
Since lamb is something we rarely cook these days (I have no idea why since this one was so delicious), we decided to recreate the meal this weekend, but this time for just the two of us… and no Italian wines.
Instead, I was thinking Pinot Noir. I had recently received two samples of Pinot Noir from two different wineries in two different states. Wondering how they both would pair with the grilled lamb, I opened up the two and tasted them side-by-side then again paired with the lamb (recipe below).
Lamb can be a great pairing for Pinot Noir when done right and with the right Pinot. Assuming the Oregon one would be on the lighter side we went with a light herb season and grill, no topping or sauce, simply to taste the pure lamb flavors with no interaction from a heavy sauce. Much like we did with the Italian wines.
I tasted the wines first, before dinner, and then we had them side by side with the main dish, Grilled Rack of Lamb with Herbed Crust and (yes AGAIN) Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese (I told you, we can’t stop eating this salad. Plus, I had a feeling the beets would pair well with the Pinot… and you know what, I was right).
Four Graces 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Four Graces is a family own winery located in the Red Hills of Dundee in the Willamette Valley. Named after owner’s Steve and Paula Blacks four daughters, Four Graces wines are made with only grapes grown on their own two vineyards and with sustainable farming techniques with a focus on both organic and biodynamic practices.
Their 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is their base level Pinot Noir and the initial smell is undeniably Oregon with its light earth and funk characteristics, with undertones of cherry, rose, and herbs. The body was dry with more of that funk, along with spice (pepper), soft tannins, with a light yet elegant finish. The only thing I was missing on this light bodied wine was more of a fruit balance to the earth, but that came out with the pairing. For the price, this is a nice example of an everyday light bodied Oregon Pinot Noir.
Appellation: Willamette Valley
Grapes: Pinot Noir
The pairing: The earthy flavors of the lamb met with the soft earthy flavors of the wine, but neither the meat nor wine really “improved” so to speak. The beets, however, paired with the wine turned out to be a delicious pairing. The rich and sweet roasted flavor of the beets really brought out the bright fruit that was hiding behind the earth of the wine and really freshened it up. To me, that’s what a successful pairing does, it enhances both the experience of the wine and the food. While the lamb slightly overwhelmed the wine with a little too much earth meets earth flavors, the beets provided a great fruit balance. Thumbs up!
Consilience Winery 2006 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard
Consilience Winery, located in Los Olivos, California in Santa Barbara County was founded in 1997 by two couples wanting to produce great wine in Santa Barbara County. Their focus seems to be mostly on typical Rhône varietals of Syrah, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, along with some additional non-Rhône varietals of Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. The majority of the fruit they work with is sourced from growers throughout the county.
I tasted their 2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir initially at a Pinot Noir twitter tasting at Storyteller Wine Company two weeks ago. The wine was somewhat unfairly represented among over 15 Pinots from Oregon and stuck out like a sore thumb (in a bad way). It was too big, dark and high alcohol for that crowd. Since I received a bottle at home I decided to give the poor guy a second chance. Sadly, even unsurrounded by the flavors of Oregon, the wine still seemed too big, hot, and unbalanced. This wine is a BIG wine, something I’m not used to in my typical Pinot.
It had lots of dark berry, cola, leather, and concentrated candied cherry flavors throughout and the alcohol was screaming through on the nose. Dark fruit followed this wine through the finish with spicy bold flavors I’m more used to seeing in a Syrah. Is this really Pinot Noir I thought to myself? The wine was just off balanced to me and hot. Very hot. I couldn’t get past the high alcohol on this wine at over 16%. But perhaps with food it will be different?
Appellation: Santa Barbara County
Grapes: Pinot Noir
The pairing: The Lamb definitely calmed down and softened the wine bringing it down to a level more drinkable, but still had noticeable alcohol. I still didn’t love the wine, but the food did definitely cover up some of the heavy characteristics of the wine. The beets provided too much added sweetness and richness already in the wine that it ended up enhancing the already distracting rich flavors in the wine. To me, it just wasn’t a successful pairing. Perhaps the wine needs something a little bolder to stand up to its big flavors, or perhaps the wine is just too big for me.
Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for… The recipe
Grilled Rack of Lamb with Herb CrustServes 3 (multiply recipe for extra people)
- 1 lb. of lamb racks
- 2 tablespoons each of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and sage) all finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
Snip a little fat off the lamb to prevent major flare-ups on the grill. Salt and pepper the lamb and rub with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle half the herbed dry rub on both sides and place in a container in the fridge for at least one hour to marinate.
Set grill to medium heat. Grill both sides of the lamb until the internal temperature is 140 degrees (for medium to medium rare) approximately 6-8 minutes per side. Remove from grill, then sprinkle the remaining herbs on the meat. Let the lamb rest for 15 minutes. Cut and serve along side with Roasted Beet Salad (recipe here) and a delicious Pinot Noir or older Barbaresco if you have it!