A Simple Spring Lamb Feast with Maison Nicolas Perrin Crozes-Hermitage #Winophiles



If forced to choose, my favorite wine region for reds is the Northern Rhône. I’m therefore a little shocked to discover that I have not yet featured a wine from this area on its own, although a few appeared in French Wine 101. I’m happy to remedy the problem now.

The red wines of the Northern Rhône captured my heart, taste buds, and imagination thanks to a wild elegance possessed by the wines (by the good ones anyway). They’re rich, rustic, often powerful, and can smell and taste of an intoxicating combination of blackberries, roasting meats, black pepper, and a bouquet of herbs and wildflowers. They sometimes make me think of Catherine and Heathcliff roaming the moors in Wuthering Heights. Rather than wide and expansive moors though, here the landscape is mountainous with rocky slopes so steep that the vineyards required terracing in many areas. The continental climate here can also be harsh, with rough winters and summers.

It’s one of the more forgiving European wine regions to get to know when you’re starting to learn about wine, though. When you’re talking about the red wines, you’re basically talking about one variety – Syrah. By contrast, the Southern Rhône is all about the blends. In Chateauneuf-du-Pape for example, there are thirteen total possible grapes.   

(There are three possible grapes for Northern Rhône whites – Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussane – depending on the appellation, but we’ll talk about them another day.)

The Syrah here is very different from what you might’ve come to expect if you’re better acquainted with Aussie Shiraz (yup, same grape) and other New World versions. While the Northern Rhône versions are still full-bodied, for me they tend to a little leaner by comparison, higher in acid, and they show more of the grape’s floral and herbal notes. 

Another bonus to the Northern Rhône for the wine newbie is that the cru system has no confusing hierarchy to learn. There are just eight appellations in total that fall on either side of the Rhône River displayed on this map borrowed from WineFolly.com.


Map of the Northern Rhône showing appellations colored by what wines they produce. Yellow produce 100% white wines; Pink produce red and white wines; and deep red produce 100% red wines.

Of these, Côte Rôtie and Hermitage are the most respected for the red wines, followed up closely by Cornas. But don’t discount Crozes-Hermitage and Saint Joseph! If you’re looking for wine values in the region, start your search in these two appellations. Today’s wine from Crozes-Hermitage is a perfect example!

Crozes-Hermitage is the largest appellation in the Northern Rhône and produces the most wine. (They also make white wines from Marsanne and Roussane.) It spreads out around the hill of Hermitage and has a much flatter terrain. The wines tend to be less complex and tend not age as long as the wines from Hermitage. However, Crozes makes way more wine and they’re far less pricey, so they can be excellent options if you’re looking for a wine to enjoy sooner, rather than later that won’t break the bank. I will note though that this is a good region to ask for recommendations on from a sommelier or from your favorite wine shop. With so much wine being in the region, you can probably guess that a lot of it is fall into the mediocre camp. On the flip side, wine from grapes from better sites and made by better producers can be gems. Enlisting help in sifting between them can be key!



The Wine & Pairing


My plan was to open the Maison Nicolas Perrin 2014 alongside a lamb dinner for Easter. Unfortunately, Instacart left me high and dry and unceremoniously canceled an order I’d place a week beforehand, so I had to scramble for something to make. (I’m sure a lot of people have had more than one grocery snafu recently.) By the Monday I’d given up on deliveries, sucked it up, and ventured out to bring back a grocery haul. I opted to prepare our intended spring feast a day late. 



Maison Nicolas Perrin was a collaboration between Nicolas Jaboulet and the Perrin Family. Nicolas Jaboulet is a 6th generation winemaker from one of the most famous winemaking families in the Northern Rhône, but after the family business, Paul Jaboulet Ainé, was sold in 2006, he sought out a new project. He eventually teamed up with the Perrins, one of the most famous families from the Southern Rhône. The company has evolved again since then. They eventually teamed up with Guillaume Sorrel along with Alexandre Caso to form Domaine et Maison Les Alexandrins. However, at this point, it was Maison Nicolas Perrin, a boutique négociant.

On the day we opened it, I picked up notes of blackberry, raspberry, and plum on the nose. There was little mesquite note, with hints of flowers and black pepper. On the palate, bright berry fruit notes were followed by a hint of black tapenade, wild herbs, and light peppery spices. It was a rich wine, but not overbearing (I'd say medium+ in body), with plenty of freshness and fine-grained tannins for structure.

I’d bought lamb loin chops for the occasion and decided to try an Easter recipe that had come my way from Campton Place restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant blends Californian and Indian flavors and this recipe created by Executive Chef Srijith Gopinathan follows suit.

It’s pretty hard to follow recipes precisely at present, given that even getting groceries is a bit of trick, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have everything on the list. I have a pretty full spice rack but didn’t have everything or didn’t have it in the form suggested. I just did the best I could with what was around. For example, I was out of yogurt, so I swapped in sour cream, and I’m sure I left out or exchanged several spices. The recipe also calls for racks of lamb, I used the lamb loin chops. It all worked out just fine.

I also decided to cook the lamb sous vide and I’ve added in some directions for that option in the recipe below.

The restaurant pairs the lamb with a sourdough, grilled peach, and basil salad, which sounds amazing. However, I have a surplus of lentils around, so I decided to make those as a side instead. I made them in basically the same way I did in this 8 & $20 recipe but omitted the sausages and arugula, and I used an onion in place of the shallot. I also sprinkled some goat cheese crumbles on top. 


Finally, I decided to make a simple pan sauce to accompany it all since we had lamb stock on hand. I just made a roux, then added in a couple of cups of the warmed stock. I brought it all to a boil, then brought the heat down to a simmer and just let it all reduce until it was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you have extra spice mixture or herbs leftover,  toss a little in with the sauce, or even with the lentils for that matter.

These two made a very easy match. The food brought out the more savory side of the wine, playing up the tapenade and dried herb notes, as well as a little hint of tobacco.


Other Possibilities

The winery recommends this wine with grilled foods and I think it would go perfectly with meat with a little char. This would certainly be a great wine to pair with a bistro-style burger. 


Syrah is particularly well suited to lamb dishes, but many other red wines will work well as too. This is dish that can handle bigger reds in general, so go ahead and open something medium+ to full bodied. 


We enjoyed this Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre Contra Costa County 2017 (sample, SRP $25) with the leftovers of our lamb dish and it also made a tasty match. It had the generous fruit you expect of the new world, but with the smoky, meaty notes of Mourvèdre that matched nicely with the lamb.


This Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre was sent as a media sample. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Money Talk


I was surprised when I looked back on and discovered that I’d bought the wine for $17.99 off of Wine.com. I thought it tasted pricier! Of course, it wasn’t as complex, I’m sure, as wine from Hermitage might be, but I was extremely happy with it at that price point and I’m quite excited that I’d purchased a second bottle. At that price, this is definitely an Overachiever for sure!



Geeky Details


Taken from the tech sheet.

Winemaking:  The grapes are cold-macerated before being fermented to increase the aromas
of fruit. Maceration and fermentation for about 20 days with pumping-over for the first few days followed by punching-down. Aging takes place in barrels for 10 months and then in stainless steel for another 6 months.

Alcohol: 13%





Campton Place Easter Lamb

Campton Place Easter Lamb

Servings: Varries
Author:
Prep Time: 2 H & 15 MCooking Time: 1 MTotal Time: 2 H & 16 M

Ingredients:

  • Racks of lamb or lamb loin chops
  • Cooking oil, as needed
Marinade
  • ginger garlic paste
  • chili paste
  • brown sugar
  • garam masala
  • coriander powder
  • cumin powder
  • chili masala powder
  • grapeseed oil
  • lemon juice
  • Greek yogurt
  • salt
  • cardamom powder
  • (quantities all to taste and scale to your needs)

Instructions:

How to cook Campton Place Easter Lamb

  1. Mix all ingredients and apply mixture to the lamb racks.
  2.  Keep the rack in the marinade for 2 hours
  3. Slice the rack into 6 or 7 chops and grill over an ember or on a grill for 5-8 minutes to serve medium-rare to medium, or another 5 minutes to serve medium-well. Serve.
Sous Vide Alternative
  1. Set sous vide circulator to the desired temp. (I set mine to 127°F for medium-rare.)
  2. Place all ingredients in a food grade plastic bag(s) and toss well to coat the lamb.
  3. Seal the bag either using a vacuum-sealer or, if using a zipper-lock bag, by using the water displacement method. To do this seal the zipper almost all the way, leaving about an inch open. Carefully lower the bag into the water, letting the water press out the air. Once most of the air is out, seal the bag completely, then allow it to drop into the water. Allow the lamb to cook for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Once ready, remove the bag from the water. Remove the lamb and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Once shimmering, add the lamb to the pan and sear just until browned, then flip and sear the second side. Remove from the pan and serve.
lamb, spring, Easter, Sous vide


Did you make this recipe?
Tag @thesommstable on instagram and hashtag it #sommstable
Created using The Recipes Generator



*****

Rupal from Syrah Queen is leading this months' French #Winophiles exploration on the Northern Rhône. Check out her invitation post here. If you're seeing this early enough, join us for our Twitter discussion starting at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET by following #Winophiles. Be sure to checkout the rest of the group's posts.




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    14 comments

    1. We most definitely are living in interesting times! Despite the challenges, your dish looks delicious - lamb and lentils sound like a comforting match perfect for the wine. Hope you're staying safe and sane out there.

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      1. It really was a lovely match. Hope you're staying sane and safe as well!

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    2. Thanks for the introduction to Maison Nicolas Perrin! That wine and your lamb sounds amazing! On a personal note, sometime I wonder if I could go meatless...but then I see a dish like think, and think "Nah...all things in moderation is just fine!

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      Replies
      1. I've gone through that same thought process so many times! LOL

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    3. Crozes has some great values. I love how you paired the Syrah with some curry/Indian flavors in the lamb and lentils. You have inspired me to do the same.

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      1. It was a very tasty match! I loved this topic. Thanks so much for hosting.

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    4. "Over-achiever" is an apt descriptor for Crozes-Hermitage! Love how you improvised with ingredients you had on hand.

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      Replies
      1. Thanks Linda. It's all about rolling with the punches right now!

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    5. I have just started using my sous vide machine and love the tips on that cooking method. It seems there are so many affordable and delicious wines from Crozes-Hermitage to explore. I am a fan of the Perrins and their collaborations, so I am sure I would enjoy this wine.

      I will say that I am unlikely to ever taste a Northern Rhône syrah again without thinking of "Catherine and Heathcliff roaming the moors in Wuthering Heights." Thank you for that. You have brought the book to light in a whole new way for me.

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      Replies
      1. Thanks so much! And have fun getting to know your sous vide machine!

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    6. A perfect springtime feast. We are learning to be very adaptable during this crisis if nothing else. Your pairing sounds lovely. Stay safe.

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    7. Another interesting wine and food pairing to try. Yum! So true, finding all the ingredients on my grocery list can be challenging in the age of COVID-19. Stay safe and healthy.

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    Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!