Wined & Dined: Easiest Lamb Ever


Occasionally, I stop at farmers’ markets. In some cases, this means I walk into farms that work on an honor system and have fridges and freezers filled with fresh, organic lamb.

The only trouble is that the honor system is a cash-only system. This is the story of how I ended up with lamb shoulder chops, the most meat I could get for under $15. They were $14.86, so I’m calling it a big win.

Gazing into my wine cellar bottle pile, I was on the hunt for a pairing with the simplest lamb recipe ever, which I found on The Splendid Table. “Easy” would be an understatement for this recipe: Sear the hell out of the chops on the grill, let them rest; serve topped with an oregano/oil/garlic mixture and lemon.

For wines, I wanted something red that could stand up against the fattiness of the shoulder chops. At the same time, I didn’t want the rough tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon, which might overpower the delicate, gamey flavor of lamb. Instead, I aimed for wines with a smooth mouthfeel to round out the combination. In the end, the vinous lineup included Franciscan Estate 2013 Reserve Merlot, and the Stand Out Red Blend from Slo Down Wines.

This lamb did not disappoint. Unfortunately the Stand Out seriously did, which was a huge bummer since it was a bargain and had a cool label. It seemed thin, bitter, and one-noted to us—both when served at countertop temperature and a cooler temp recommended by most experts.

The Franciscan Estate, on the other hand proved Merlot deserves a place on the pedestal. Plummy, blackberry fruit and its supple, smooth mouthfeel complemented  the herbaceous lamb. This California wine was really fruity—too fruity for many dishes—but since our chops were dominated by earthy flavors from oregano and garlic, everything evened out. 

Wine & Lamb Pairing Uncorked:

Laura Loves: Merlot & Lamb in every iteration since the plummy, velvety wines compliment these juicy babies.

This handy guide about pairing wines and red meat.

Fun Facts: China has the largest amount of lambs in the world.

The name “Merlot” allegedly comes from the French word for “Little Black Bird,” thanks to the dark color of the bunches.

Perfect Pairings: Roasted Lamb with Greek wines like Xinomavro.

Lamb Burgers with Nebbiolo.

Take-out-style Lamb Gyros with Oregon Pinot Noir.

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