Holiday Meals : Part I
It gets earlier and earlier every year. The moment Halloween masks came off, decorations for Thanksgiving and Christmas were being placed in store windows, twinkling lights were being strung up, and the question of when it’s ok to play the first Holiday song of the season started popping into everyone’s mind. Maybe it’s the rough year we’ve all had, marred by Covid, the shutdown, the lack of travel, the impending second shutdown, and knowing for a good number of us that we won’t be seeing our family for the holidays this year, that we feel a need to focus on something positive, like a light at the end of a very, very long tunnel.
Even with the cancelled plans and adjustments we will be making, we will undoubtedly be cooking those special holiday meals for friends and family who live close - the ones we spend a little more time preparing, accompanied by that bottle of wine we’ve been eyeing on the store shelf, or have tucked away in the closet or wine fridge already. The good silverware comes out and we light candles to provide soft, flickering light to the table, creating scenes in our homes reminiscent of the classic holiday films we love.
On my menu this year are grilled lamb chops, marinated simply in rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. And to pair, a wine to match the complex gamey aromas of lamb and herbaceous accents of rosemary, is needed. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this dish, as it’s a recipe that allows the quality of the ingredients, along with the wine, to shine. Classic pairings include the big left-bank Bordeaux wines of Pauillac, but Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhône can pair equally as nicely, and Domaine Saint-Préfert has the strength and elegance we need for lamb.
The powerhouse behind the estate is Isabel Ferrando. Born in Carpentras in Southeastern France to an Algerian father and Provençale mother, Isabel was exposed to the spices of the Orient, and sweet, floral aromas of the Mediterranean from birth. These fragrances were influential in her sensory development, and from a young age she knew she wanted to be a winemaker - in tune with the seasons, creating wines with the same olfactory aromas from her childhood.
Isabel’s path to winemaking did not follow a straight line, however. She first became a banker and rose to the position of senior manager for a large bank. Then, with the birth of her only child in 1997, she knew it was time to fulfill her lifelong dream, and returned to school to apprentice winemakers. It was not an easy road, but in the autumn of 2002 Isabel’s dream came to fruition as she purchased Domaine Saint-Préfert in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and her lifelong desire to make wine began.
The 2018 Domaine Saint-Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape is medium ruby in the glass. Ripe, warm cherry, Mediterranean herbs, white and black peppercorns, red plum, smoke, and warm earth are just the tip of the iceberg of aromas perfuming the glass. An ultra-velvety textured wine, this big, full-bodied, savory smoke and ripe fruit laden stunner swirls on your palate in an almost dizzying manner, as the wine gains even more complexity over time. Paired with the grilled baby lamb chops, the herbs and gamey notes meld flawlessly together in holiday bliss, creating a truly special meal that can take your mind off of the chaos of even this year.
As the holidays approach and the grip tightens with regulations due to the pandemic, I say blast the classic holiday tunes of Bing Crosby, Darlene Love, and Eartha Kitt now, put up your tree and decorations, light the menorah, and stay focused on the positives around us, the uplifted spirit, the special meals, exceptional wines, and warmth that only the holidays can bring. Cheers.