Cooking to the Wine: JB Neufeld Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon with Instant Pot Lamb Shanks

I recently shared an exploration of Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare, where we took a look at three different bottles to get to know the Yakima Valley. We loved all the pairings, but as I couldn’t fit all the recipes in one post, I promised to follow up. Today I’m doing just that and sharing the recipe for the Instant Pot Lamb Shanks we paired with the JB Neufeld Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2018 ($43).

Note: This bottle was provided as a media sample. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

As a recap, JB Neufeld is a project by husband and wife team Justin and Brooke Neufeld. Cab lovers, this one is for you. They’re all about it! They currently make four different bottlings, all with fruit from within the Yakima Valley AVA, but each from completely unique sites.

As the goal is to showcase the diversity of terroirs found in the region, they always aim to put the fruit first. So while Justin, as the winemaker, finds oak to be an important component in the winemaking to help build the structure of the wines, it has to be used carefully. He prefers barrels with a lighter toast so as to not mask the fruit’s aromas, but that just help provide a tannic spine to the wine. (Their website goes into depth about some of the types of barrels they use, so if you like to geek out about oak, click here.)

I tried the first vintage of their Ciel du Cheval bottling. The fruit for this wine comes from the Red Mountain subregion of Yakima Valley, the smallest appellation in Washington State. It’s located on a southwest-facing slope in south-central Washington. The grapes here get tons of sunlight! Thanks to the particular placement of the vineyards, it’s the warmest region in the state and they get almost two hours more sun a day than Napa. Things cool down at night though, thanks in part to the proximity to the Yakima River which moderates temperatures and ensure continuous airflow, helping to slow down the ripening process and maintain acidity. This combination is particularly ideal for red wines (although some white grapes are planted here too) which are able to achieve bold flavors and powerful structure. Red Mountain wines are also known for having a distinct minerality.

The JB Neufeld site describes the particular characteristics of the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard: 

First planted in 1975 on Red Mountain in the Yakima Valley AVA. When the great Spokane Flood formed the Red Mountain region, the Scooteney Channel backed up leaving deposits of gravel and huge stones. The Ciel du Cheval soil is composed of loam on gravel beds that extend 12 feet or more. Our fruit comes from Clone 337.

Straying away from the geeky details for a moment, the name of the vineyard reminds me of the discussion in Notting Hill of Chagall’s La Mariée during which Julia Robert’s character, Anna Scott, says, “Yes, happiness isn't happiness without a violin-playing goat!”

1950 Chagall La Mariée.jpg
Image borrowed from Wikipedia

I emailed a bit with Brooke Hamilton-Neufeld in advance of my Yakima Valley post, and she was nice enough to get back to me with thoughtful answers to my questions.

Is there a particular terroir signature you associate with the Yakima Valley?

I love this question and it is tricky because the Yakima Valley is such a big AVA. We both always get a chalky tannin on wines from the Yakima Valley and good acid (in both reds and whites). As far as Cabernets are concerned, I feel like those primary cherry notes are quintessential Yakima Valley across the entire region and across most producers.

What do you think is special or unique about how Cab expresses itself in the region?  

Our winery focuses only on Cabernet Sauvignon and one of the reasons we did that is because Cabernet is such a good communicator of terrior and it is very resilient to winemaker interruptions. The Cabs from across the Yakima Valley are well structured (from our long growing days), have good acidity (thanks to diurnal shift- extremely hot days and very cold nights), delicious bright cherry notes, and chalky tannins (from our soil composition-because of the Missoula Floods). Also, most of the Yakima Valley's Cabs are young tasting. In comparison to California and obviously France, the Yakima Valley is still a relatively young growing region and our Cabs are young and full of potential and it will fun to see what happens when they age.



I also asked Brooke about favorite pairings for this bottle and she had lots of good thoughts.  

We just released our Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Designate Cab Sauv so have had fun trying different food pairings this winter. Hearty meals are so perfect for layered Cabs, the timing is awesome. Sadly, I'm not much of a cook and we have three young boys so I pretty much fall back on meals that I can cook entirely in my dutch oven without much effort. I find any braised meat, like lamb shanks, really enhances the earthy parts of the wine and lets the cherry notes sing. I am working on a meal to pair with the Ciel for my dad when he comes to visit next weekend. My dad loves Cabs but he is also vegan so I am planning on making a vegan cassoulet-something with white beans and crusty garlic bread. I think that would be a good compliment to the Ciel without falling back on meat. The wine is very classic Red Mountain – it has some fun graphite and crushed rock notes and the fruit is a strong cherry and bright red fruits. It is a young wine so the tannins are pronounced that is why I think it does well with meals that have some fat!

Image borrowed from

I really appreciated the realness of her response and I think we can all relate to the need for dishes that don’t demand that much attention. As much as I love to cook, I often get caught off guard by time (time and I are not the best of friends), so my problem is often realizing I don’t have enough time to make the thing I’d intended to make. My Instant Pot often saves me in these cases. When I do plan ahead, I also love braising things in the oven for much the same reason that Brooke mentioned – you can just put things in there and not think about it. I find it’s helpful to know how to switch between the two methods, that way you can fairly easily roll with the punches time might throw at you.


I loved the idea of lamb shanks with this wine and decided to prepare them in the Instant Pot in this case, however, you can easily adapt this recipe for braising in the oven. It’s pretty much just a matter of the amount of liquid and time – you’ll need more of both to cook in the oven. You can pretty much follow all the steps in the same way. After searing the lamb and then sweating the vegetables on the stovetop, return the lamb shanks to the pot, then add enough stock and/or wine to come up about ⅔ to ¾ up the way of the lamb shanks. Cover the pot then place in a 350°F oven and cook for about 3 hours, or until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, checking periodically to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pot. 

One large shank is about right for two people, but it's definitely worth making more than you need. After the first evening, I shredded the rest of the remaining meat into the sauce to make a ragu and it goes even further this way. Use it however you'd use a meaty sauce.

I used pretty classic ingredients for this braise but just tweaked the herbs and spices a little bit to match the notes I got from the wine. You can see my more detailed tasting notes below, but I got lots of herbal notes, as well as a little licorice and white pepper from this wine, so I tried to work in seasonings that would reflect and complement those flavors.

Trying to stick to the idea of keeping things simple, I took advantage of a pre-packaged mix of grains that were supposed to cook in 10 minutes according to the package instructions. I found they took a while longer to be ready than indicated, and they ended up with a texture similar to risotto, which I didn’t mind at all. A little Parmesan on top was the final flourish. 

This pairing was SOOOOOOOOOO good. The wine became extra plush and velvety when sipped alongside the food. We gave the combo an A/A+ as we were both MMMMMM-ing for quite a while.

Tasting Notes: When we first poured the wine, it was all about the red fruit notes: red plums, strawberry, currants, plus a little black cherry – totally backing up Brooke’s notes about bright cherries and red fruits. There were also notes of red flower petals and spice on the nose. Herbal notes showed up on the palate – Greg was tasting more mint, while I was getting more rosemary – along with white pepper and a hint of licorice. Darker fruits emerged over the course evening, and the wine began to show a more plush texture, but it always retained its juicy acidity. It was a really bright Cab with medium + acidity, body, and tannins.

lamb, braise, instant pot, pressure cooker
French, American
Servings: 4 to 6
By: Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Instant Pot Braised Lamb Shanks

Instant Pot Braised Lamb Shanks

Prep Time: 15 MinCooking Time: 90 MinTotal Time: 1 H & 45 M
This is a pretty classic lamb briase adapted for the Instant Pot. Knowing full well how time can often catch up with us, I've included a few different options for when you find yourself in a rush. Ideally, allow the lamb to cook for the full time, allow the pressure to release naturally, and then allow the sauce to reduce, but if you need to speed things up, use the cheats to speed things up.


  • 2 large lamb shanks
  • Flour, for dredging
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock, plus more for deglazing (about 1½ cups to 2 cups total)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ⅛ tsp fennel seeds
  • Pinch of celery seeds
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp, Wondra flour or cornstarch, Optional
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • White pepper, as needed


  1. Set the Instant Pot to the sauté setting.
  2. While the Instant Pot is heating up, season lamb with salt and white pepper and coat with flour. Once the Instant Pot is heated up, add a generous pour of olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons). Sear the lamb on all sides. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
  3. Deglaze the pan with a little bit of the chicken stock (extra wine will also work well), making sure to scrape up any browned bits. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, season with salt and white pepper, and sauté until the vegetables are starting to become tender and onions are starting to turn translucent – about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the lamb shanks back into the pot, followed by a cup of chicken stock, wine, and the rest of the herbs and spice.
  5. Cover the Instant Pot with the lid and set to high pressure. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes. (Note: The meat is tender and delicious after 30 minutes, so if you’re in a rush, it’s absolutely ready to eat at this point. Leaving the shanks in a little longer though will help to break down some of the additional connective tissue.)
  6. Once cook time is complete, allow pressure to release naturally, if possible. (If you’re in a rush allow it to release naturally for 10 to 15 minutes, then release manually.) Open the lid, remove the shanks and set aside.
  7. Switch Instant Pot back to sauté setting and simmer until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Adjust seasoning as needed. Optional: To reduce the amount of time waiting for the sauce to thicken, feel free to use Wondra flour or cornstarch mixed with water to form a slurry according to package instructions.
  8. Return the lamb shanks to the pot and keep warm in the sauce until ready to serve. Serve with grains, potatoes, polenta, or pasta.


This recipe can easily be adapted for braising in the oven. You can pretty much follow all the steps in the same way. After searing the lamb and then sweating the vegetables on the stovetop, return the lamb shanks to the pot, then add enough stock and/or wine to come up about ⅔ to ¾ up the way of the lamb shanks. Cover the pot then place in a 350°F oven and cook for about 3 hours, or until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, checking periodically to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pot.

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