I don’t know about you, but when it comes to holiday or special meals, not many combinations make me froth at the mouth with excitement quite like digging my teeth into a rack of lamb; cooked and seasoned to perfection, paired with a delicious, earthy, hearty red from France’s Côtes du Rhône wine region.
But I ask, “WHY does this classic pairing need to wait ‘til Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve? And why can’t this ‘formal union’ of tender and succulent heaven, topped with fresh rosemary, partnered with a gusty Côtes du Rhône red be enjoyed anytime?” Rather than wait for Christmas Day, or worse yet, until New Year’s Eve, I thought that I’d take matters into my own hands and hit the streets to ask for a little help. First, I hit the local butcher shop and told my butcher that I was going to snap if I had to wait another day to bite down on a little lamb. He asked, “Do you want a leg or rack of lamb?” I told him, “I’m pretty hungry and my wife is fully capable of doing her own damage on a sizeable piece of lamb, but between the two of us, I’m not really sure if we could take down a whole leg or rack.” (At least, I don’t think so…) So he suggested a few center-cut loin lamb chops. “Perfect!” , I said. Now all I needed was some primo Côtes du Rhône to go along with the chops. I decided to call in the experts for some help. I set off to visit several terrific nearby wine shops that have a huge selection of Côtes du Rhône wines, as well as having knowledgeable wine staff. I asked each of the shop owners the very same question : “Can you recommend a terrific, inexpensive, Côtes du Rhône red (i.e., no more than $20) that would be a marriage made in lamb heaven? Whether it’s my simple, center-cut lamb loin chops or a rack/leg of lamb fit for a king?”
Here were the recommendations chosen by my team of local wine experts:
- 2007 Chateau Du Trignon Vacqueyras ($20)
- 2009 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône ($15)
- 2007 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône ($15)
- 2010 Saint – Damien ‘La Bouveau’ Côtes du Rhône ($17)
- 2007 Chateau Du Trignon Côtes du Rhône ($15)
- 2009 Domaine Alary ‘La Gerbaude’ Côtes du Rhône ($15)
Before revealing our top three picks, let me just say that the margin of uber pleasuredome between all of them was thinner than LeAnn Rimes in a string bikini…so kudos to my local wine merchant for delivering an amazing selection of wines. If you see any of these wines on the shelves at your local hangouts, BUY ‘EM!!
Ok, so coming in 3rd place was the 2010 Saint – Damien ‘La Bouveau’ Côtes du Rhône ($17). This Rhone blend is made of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. It’s still just a baby. Big, sharp and a bit tart around the edges. The red fruit was bursting like the Fourth of July! Once the 2010 Saint – Damien ‘La Bouveau’ Côtes du Rhône has a chance to grow up in the next couple of years, it’s really going to party!
Our second place wine was the 2007 Chateau Du Trignon Côtes du Rhône. I believe the first word that came out of my mouth was “WOW!” Fully mature and totally awesome! The 2007 Chateau Du Trignon Côtes du Rhône is a delicious blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre; beaming with dark fruit and peppery spices, it packs a super long finish.
Our first place winner happened to be the most expensive wine in the group. At $20, the 2007 Chateau Du Trignon Vacqueyras was a beast of refinement and elegance. What can I say other than, it truly tasted like it was the most expensive wine of the group, with its massive concentration of dark fruit, spice and acidity. Drinking great today, this wine has a bright future ahead as well.
To wrap this up (no pun intended), here’s a tip that one shop owner shared with me. He told me to decant all of the wines before trying them. He suggested pouring each wine into a decanter and then funneling the wine back into their bottle. I didn’t do that because there were six bottles and only my wife and I, but I did break out my Vinturi Aerator! Maybe that’s what made all of these wines taste so good! Thanks, Scott, for the tip!!