EASTER STAFF PICKS
While the Easter dinner table has become more diverse over the last decade, we still get a lot of questions asking what to pair with the traditional ham and lamb. Side dishes have gone away from the classic Norman Rockwell dinner table, but the main protein has stayed tried and true. Side dishes tend to pair with the main dish so if the wine pairs with the main dish it should also go with your sides. As a way to give you all some ideas of what to drink this Easter we have had each of our wine buyers pick one wine to pair with ham, one with lamb and one that’s a safe bet for whatever is on the table.
2021 Hollow Wines Zuma, Gilroy, CA.
I believe Chenin Blanc and Riesling are great pairings with honey baked ham. Both have some tropical fruit characteristics but also the minerality to balance out the sweetness of the glaze. A combination of 65% Riesling and 35% Chenin Blanc, this wine is co-fermented and has 5-7 days of skin contact. Rich tropical fruit, melon and orange, coat the palate nicely. More richness in the form of nectarine fruit adds more weight to your experience while just a hint of acidity comes out on the finish to give the wine a bit of a backbone.
2020 Jimenez-Landi Vinos Singulares Natural, Spain.
I love lamb, it’s one of my favorite meats and think Syrah is a great pairing with it. This Spanish wine is a mix of 85% Syrah and 15% Cabernet, this is a savory wine with some rounded fruit to balance it out. 30% of the grapes are destemmed before fermentation, after it is aged in French oak and foudres. Black olives lead to roasted cherries which brings just a touch of juicy fruit. Light white pepper creates soft tannins in the mid-palate. Hints of black cherries and subtle olive notes on the finish.
Sanctum Sticks & Bugs Piquette, Stajerska, Slovenia.
If you're looking for a wine that is a safe bet, a light body red is a great idea. A profile with rich fruit but light on the finish allows it to go with a lot of foods. Usually with Piquettes you get a light wine that has a little fruit but tends to lack length or body. this combination of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and Pinot Noir helps provide both to this Piquette from Slovenia. Dark cherries and blueberries coat the palate nicely with some richness. Salted plums on the finish add depth but also brings a nice pop to the wine.
2020 Fritz Haag Estate Riesling, Mosel Germany $21.99
Riesling is the classic pairing with the traditional Easter Ham dinner and rightfully so. The crisp acidity and refreshing fruitiness is the perfect counterpart to the salty ham and rich side dishes. The Fritz Haag Estate Riesling is harvested from steep, slate-soil vineyards in the winery’s home village of Brauneberg and in the neighboring village of Mühlheim. It is made in a off-dry style (called “feinherb” in German) that perfectly balances its fine peach and citrus fruit with the typically brisk acidity of Riesling grown in this cool-climate region. More dry than sweet, it's delightfully refreshing enough to enjoy as an aperitif but has enough weight and intensity to pair with a variety of foods.
2013 Peñafiel Mironia Ribera del Duero Reserva, Spain $41.99
The Spaniards know that Tempranillo is a great match for Lamb as it doesn't overpower the sweet meat. This medium bodied Ribera is in a great place with nearly 10 years of age on it now. Plenty of ripe red and black cherry fruit have integrated with sweet baking spices from the French oak aging to make a smooth, elegant wine. Notes of earth, leather and tobacco add complexity and balance the bold wine. 85% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot.
2019 Renato Ratti Barbera d'Asti, Piedmont Italy $19.99
I often describe Barbera from Piedmont as the Beaujolais of Italy. It has the same crowd pleasing fruitiness and freshness and the ability to pair well with a wide variety of foods which makes it a great wine to bring to dinner when you don't know what's on the menu. This is a beautiful and bold medium bodied Barbera from a Piedmont master. Deep, dark ruby in color and packed with ripe black cherry and berry fruit, this is a very crowd pleasing and vibrant Barbera d'Asti with supple tannins and great length.
When asked what to pair with any holiday meal my answer is always an emphatic, "Bubbles!" Not only for it's celebratory nature of sparkling wine, (though don't save those bubbles just for celebrate, make Tuesday nigh a celebration and open a bottle of something sparkling) but a tummy full of bubbles make that family holiday table a little easier to handle. But seeing as we are picking wines for ham and lamb, here are my suggestions.
2019 Christophe Semaska Syrah D'Auguste Coteaux De Vienne
This domaine began in 1988 but it is in a restored domaine that was abandoned, and untouched since 1789. The lovely estate is nestled into the hillside of the Rhone Valley’s esteemed village of Cote Rotie, choice Syrah country. Since 1988 they have acquired more vines in Condrieu, Saint Joseph, Cotes du Rhone and, Coteau De Vienne which is where this layered and lip-smacking Syrah comes from. Classic aromatics of cured black olives, cracked black pepper, smoke and dark fruit. Full and juicy on the palate but there is a dazzling mid palate of savory dried herbs. Big flavor but not a monster by any sense. The herby and peppery flavors are perfect for lamb, grilled sausages and hearty stews.
2021 Cardwell Hill Cellars Rose of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
I know this doesn't seem like an occasion wine but ham is a tricky pairing with all that sweetness and smoke. Save the fancy for after the meal and pair this fruit forward, friendly Rose with the salty pig meats.Such an amazing value! Oregon Pinot Rose, full of ripe round fruit and nice weight with a soft and easy to love finish, all for $12.99? No wonder this one keeps vanishing on us.
N.V. Emilio Lambrusco Di Modena, "Nessun Dorma" Emilia Romagna, Italy
A compromise, red wine and bubbles. Lambrusco is such an unappreciated food wine. Far too many people remembering that sickly sweet, poorly made Riunite which is a crime seeing just how many serious, food loving, dry and elegant Lambrusco there is out there, just like this wonderful offering. All organic and made from the Lambrusco Grasparossa, here you have a dry red wine with super fine bubbles and a sexy mouthfeel. Loaded with spice, smoke and plummy notes along with a touch of herbs and pepper. This wine would work with either lamb or ham.
Savage 2018 Red Wine Syrah Coastal Region, South Africa
For lamb I suggest, The Savage 2018 Syrah, this year the “Red” is 100% beautiful Syrah. This wine shows a softer juicer side of Syrah. This wine was farmed Biodynamically and spent 2 weeks on skins, 50% whole-bunch and 13 months 500L barrels then 9 months in large format foudre. Full of blueberry, cassis, blackberry, and a nose of flourishing spring floral notes. Sweet herbs, peppercorn spice and enticing white lily. This wine is pure and elegant.
Alheit Vineyards 2019 Chenin Blanc "Broom Ridge" , South Africa
This is the wine I suggest for Ham, Broom Ridge is the tightest most restrained of Alheit Vineyards Chenin bottlings, usually taking a couple of years to show some of its potential. Trust me though, the bud will burst and the flower with open. This wine is coiled up now, bristling with lime and thatch, elderflower, and sweet herbs. The palate is racy and pure, slightly pithy and saline.
Joyce 2020 Gamay Noir Submarine Canyon, Monterey County
This modern classic is rooted in the style of Gamay Noir from Beaujolais; intended to be poured while still young, served with a light chill and shared among friends. It’s light body, vibrant red fruit character, and savory spice aromas are like a Rorschach test of the senses. A complex cast of familiar characters that invite a new outlook with every sip.