A friend asked me about a wine recommendation for Easter, which is always a challenge. The Easter celebration is a brunch in some homes, a dinner in others, and menus can include ham (practically an unmentionable when it comes to wine pairing,) lamb, turkey or beef.
Okay, so what can we recommend? Easter Sunday, like Passover this Friday evening, is a happy, joyous holiday. Champagne is always a great option and would work well for brunch or dinner and with any of the main courses mentioned above. There are some excellent kosher Champagnes for Passover, by the way. Champagne is an expression unique to France, but the California versions (almost always called sparkling wines) are excellent, and in some cases better. Our favorites are Domaine Carneros and Domaine Chandon in Napa. The sparklings from these two excellent, French owned Napa wineries are mostly wines of Pinot Noir and sometimes Chardonnay.
If ham or turkey is the main, I would grab a Grenache or a Syrah, or maybe of blend of those. Both are meats that are nearly impossible to pair well, so my suggestion is to either come under or over the taste profile of the meat, meaning come in lighter in your wine choice’s body, or heavier. A sparkling brut would come in under, but some people like Champagne as a cocktail pre-dinner and don’t see it pairing with anything. I disagree with that. Champagne, good California sparkling and even Italian Prosecco can work with a lot of things, including dessert. We’ll come back to this in a future blog. If sparkling isn’t your thing, let’s talk about those reds.
Coming in under or over the taste profile of the meat means you’re not attempting to pair. The wine will either be lighter and airier than the main course or darker and bigger. Good choices will allow you to compliment but not compete with the main course. We had a wine tasting at our office on Monday where we all loved a 2014 Touchy-Feely from The Farm Winery in Paso Robles California. Touchy-Feely is 82% Grenache and 18% Syrah. It was wonderful with good viscosity, mouth feel and a long finish—absolutely perfect with ham. It is nicely compatible with the meat and just north of the ham’s taste profile. You’ll likely not find wines from The Farm Winery locally but look for a Grenache/Syrah blend, or a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) for Easter and make sure it’s from Paso Robles. California has some excellent Syrahs in the wine regions stretching from Santa Barbara to Mendocino but the really big boys are from Paso.
I chose the Grenache/Syrah blend hoping it would work with lamb as well. It might, but lamb can often be a huge meat, almost like game, so I’d go with something bigger. Best choice for me would be a Petite Syrah. Petite Syrah is totally unrelated to the Syrah varietal and, belying its first name, is anything but petite. Good ones are dark, inky, and viscous. If you like lamb and a really big wine, go with Stags’ Leap Petite Syrah from Napa. It’s about $35 a bottle. And make sure you get Stags’ (the plural) Leap, not Stag’s (the singular) Leap. The two wineries are both very good and are neighbors on Napa’s Silverado Trail, but their production is very different.
Check out the website for The Farm Winery for Touchy-Feely and some of the other aforementioned big boys they produce. They do some really good things. That’s it for now. Next up: tax day wine.