This post comes to us courtesy of wine expert Jordan Mackay.
The great, ritual meal of spring is one of my favorite dining experiences of the year, in no small part because it’s an absolute field day for wine pairing. Easter (and Passover) are gastronome-friendly holidays (goodbye fasting!), bringing to our table spring’s new ingredients and, of course, tender spring lamb—flavors just incredibly welcoming to wine.
Let’s start with some of the vegetables we’ll be seeing. I think of spring and think of wispy baby asparagus and emerald green peas; both have delicious flavors and demand punchy wines. The Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc and the Axel Pauly Riesling make for poignant choices. Both have vibrant, zingy acidity that will meet the veggies’ charge and flavors that are conducive to the taste of spring.
Now, on to the main course. If you’re being very traditional, you’re probably eating lamb, which is perhaps the meat most versatile with red wine. It’s the potency of the lamb you get that might affect the wine you chose, so ask your purveyor if his lamb tends to be gamy, grassy or mellow. I generally go with one of three options.
For meat with a more assertive flavor, I love Syrah. Look for varieties made in the Rhone style, which always lends an intoxicatingly savory blend of pepper, smoke and brambles (such as the 2009 Dauvergne Ranvier Crozes-Hermitage).
With slightly less gamy lamb, Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect match. The 2008 Azienda Agricola Ricchi Ribò Cabernet, a rounded, concentrated effort from northern Italy, offers succulent fruit graced with herbal touches that complements the taste of the lamb.
And with softer, gentler lamb flavors, you can do no better than a fine Pinot Noir, a wine whose gossamer grace I instinctively associate with tender shoots and buds of spring. New World Pinots, I find, work just as well in this setting as Burgundies, so don’t be afraid to try deliciously open California versions like the 2009 Harrington Mendocino Pinot Noir or the 2009 La Fenêtre À Côté Pinot Noir. The acidity in these wines provides a great counterpart to spring lamb’s satiny texture.
The beauty of big dinners is that you don’t have to try just a single wine—the more people you have, the more bottles you can open!
For additional menu ideas and wine pairings, please visit our Williams-Sonoma Easter Wine Shop.
About the author: Jordan Mackay is the James-Beard-winning wine and spirits writer for San Francisco magazine and writes the drinks column, “The Juice,” for Chow, the online food magazine owned by CBS. His writing on food, wine, spirits, and beer has also appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, Wine and Spirits, Food & Wine, Gourmet and others. His first book, Passion for Pinot, was published in 2009, and his second, Secrets of the Sommeliers, was released in October 2010, winning a James Beard award in 2011. He is excited to be a new member of the Williams-Sonoma Wine team.