By Rick Riozza
Winner Winner, Easter Dinner!!—or something like that. As opposed to feeling the pressure of coming up with an out-of-this world Easter dinner wine pairing that puts you and your reputation to the head of the vino class 101—relax, relish a quaff, and take the time to smell the lilies of the field.
Remember, the occasion is all about celebrating cosmic liberation from the toils of a fallen state to that of a loving Kingdom. And further, wine and its symbolism are at the forefront in both Passover & Resurrection festivities. Therefore, whatever wine you wish to provide and share with your families, friends, and the less fortunate, it’s a wonderful graceful gesture that speaks ahead to the Scriptural Grand Banquet setting, proclaimed in the Book of Isaiah, where, again God does all the work—and apparently all the cooking—and we simply enjoy:
“. . . the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine–the best of meats and the finest of wines!”
So in the spirit of keeping your springtime feast relaxed, let’s talk about some of the traditional and perhaps some non-traditional or even edgy out-of-the-envelope wine matches for the table.
Of course, one of the most traditional of all meals both for the Jews and Gentiles at this scrumptious scene is lamb. Whether roasted or grilled, a rack-of-lamb will sing psalms and praises from almost everyone. Clearly, lamb is strong in flavor and can handle a strong and tannic wine.
No secret here, the good Lord has always made it easy to pair local fare with the indigenous grape varietals growing right outside the door. Gascony France, aka Bordeaux, has always enjoyed the tastiest of lamb. Thus, red Bordeaux, with its main star of Cabernet Sauvignon is the meal ticket. And we fortunate Californians surely have our stock of great Cab Sauv.
A great traditional pick here is a Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. For you true Zinners out there, you’ll enjoy the Puccioni Old Vine Zinfandel with its elegance at the table. Wine enthusiasts adore pairing this roast with a Rioja Reserva, a Chianti Classico, or an Australian Cab with its minty notes.
Glazed ham, with its sweet and salty richness is another go-to viande on the table which proclaims Pinot Noir as its savor savior. Cool region pinots, alive with low or silky tannins and vibrant acidity, are a match-made-in-heaven selection. Here we cherish the cherry fruit on the nose and a little spice on the palate. I presently love the Lone Pine Pinot Noir Anderson Valley with its earthy expression of the valley’s cedar and forest floor giving way to an explosion of dark cherry, fig, and lavender in the mid-palate. This rich wine finishes with spicy plum and toasty oak notes that continue to linger.
On the other hand, German Riesling, with its aromatic fresh fruits and vivacious acidity, like a Rheingau Kabinett, would be sublime sexy choice. Off-dry Rosé, Grenache, and even Italian DOCG Moscato work as well; a dry Italian Lambrusco is definitely an undercover winner here!
For a roasted chicken that often shows up at this dinner, a Grenache-based Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, or a good Beaujolais Villages or cru Beaujolais, like a Brouilly, is a good choice—a very French combo and delish!. The “edgy” choice, if you will, goes to a brut Champagne; pick a Louis—Boulliot at $19, or, Roederer, at $60. Herb-roasted chicken skin with Champagne is the umami assault!
Speaking of roasting, the culinary trend is the roasting of root vegetables which bring out their concentrated sweet earthy flavors and impress everyone who used to snub them. Sauvignon blanc is always a traditional match but the culinary wine trend is serving the Italian Verdicchio, with its white spring blossom, broom & beeswax, jasmine, green apple, and, herb notes; the Spanish Albariño, showing melon, apricot, mango and honeysuckle; and, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Riesling-like but especially dry with green pepper and lime flavors.
Are we going to see mashed potatoes, potato salad, or some type of potato-based side dish? Well then dry rosé wines, along with famous couchers, love the potato. Of course it’s usually “meat & potatoes” for which a nice Malbec wine will do.
Remember, Malbec vines began as both Bordeaux varietal and the original “black wine of Cahors” in the Southwest of France long before it became the rage in Argentina. We all know of Toulouse cassoulet, but more often you’ll find duck and goose smothered with all types of potato playfulness on the plate washed down with the phenol-drenched Malbec with all its dark fruit flavors.
And for dessert: we should work in all of the lemons we have left over from our limoncello endeavors. Lemon tarts, custards, and lemon meringue pies, along with an occasional coconut cream or apple pie, all saunter-up to the savvy Sauternes wine that unveil intense aromas and flavors of honeyed apricot, butterscotch, tropical fruit, caramel, ginger, marmalade, tasted baking spices, and panoply of citrus themes. Not cloying, its full sweetness is balanced with a searing line of acidity. Present also can be a nutty and a touch musky flavor that gives way to a finish that lasts for up to a few minutes.
For those chocolate bunnies you’ve appropriated from the kid’s Easter basket, capitalize on your guilty pleasure with a Brachetto D’Acqui [bra-KAY-toe dock-kwee], a cheery & seductive lightly sweet red sparkler that satisfies the sweet tooth.
God Bless! Bon Appétit! Cheers!