One of the revelatory taste experiences of my life was eating baby lamb grilled over vine cuttings at the wine estate Tinto Pesquera in Ribera del Duero, Spain. Owner Alejandro Pesquera waited until the fire had died down to embers to cook the lamb, watching it carefully, turning the pieces to brown them evenly. It was unbelievably succulent and sweet and when you followed a bite of lamb with a sip of his gorgeous Tinto Pesquera, sublime.
Lamb is a constant on menus in almost every wine region. Pinot Noir with roast leg of lamb is classic. Or baby lamb from the salt marshes with Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Gigondas. Grilled lamb chops with Sangiovese is another favorite. I could go on and on.
Whether you’re making a roast leg of lamb for Easter or grilling some chops over charcoal, here are some wines to enjoy with that lamb. Not to panic if you can't turn up the exact same wine (check www.wine-searcher.com). Go with something similar.
2010 Bodegas Mauro Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Léon (Spain)
A gorgeous red from Spain made by Mariano Garcia, former cellarmaster at the legendary Vega Sicilia in Ribera del Duero. Ninety percent Tempranillo and 10 percent Syrah, the 2010 Mauro is pure pleasure to drink. On the first sip, this full-bodied red seems very straightforward, just pure fruit. Another sip, and another, and the wine reveals not only concentrated sweet fruit, but also earth, tobacco, cedar and more, all tightly fused. It’s feisty and smooth. From $40 to $45.
2012 Loring "Central Coast" Pinot Noir (Central Coast, California)
Loring’s Central Coast Pinot Noir is fresh and direct, round and smooth. And you want to take sip after sip. An extraordinary wine for the price, and if you’re a Pinot Noir lover, run, don’t walk to grab a bottle before it’s gone. The Pinots from Santa Rita Hills or Santa Lucia Highlands from this label are around, too, in the $30 to $35 price range. From $20 to $25.
2011 Domaine Saint-Damien “La Souteyrades” Gigondas (Rhone Valley, France)
If you love Grenache and have a penchant for Gigondas from the Southern Rhone, this is the wine for you. A blend of 80 percent old-vines Grenache with 20 percent Mourvèdre, the 2011 Domaine Saint-Damien “La Souteyrades” has plenty of spice, pepper and plums in the nose. Rich and full-bodied, this gorgeous wine is a reminder of how very great well-made Gigondas can be. About $30.
2010 Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy)
For awhile it seemed the days of the $12 Chianti Classico were long gone, but here’s one in that price range that could easily cost much more. From Castelnuovo Berardenga in the southern reaches of the Chianti Classico region, the 2010 Borgo Scopeto tastes of dark cherries and spice with a touch of pepper and anise. A very pretty wine and an amazing value. From $12 to $15.
2012 Broadley Vineyards "Shea" Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
A great example of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Oregon in an outstanding vintage. The grapes come from the famous Shea Vineyard in Yamhill county. The result is a Pinot with lovely dark-toned fruit, a pretty nose of rose petals and cherries and a smooth silky texture. And you don’t need to know a thing about wine or Pinot Noir to appreciate its beauty. From $33 to $50.
2010 Alto Moncayo "Campo de Borja" Garnacha (Aragon, Spain)
A big brawny red from Spain, Alto Moncayo’s Campo di Borja Garnacha is deep ruby in color with aromas or raspberries and ripe fruit. It’s a bright, juicy mouthful of Grenache. Give the wine time to breathe: You might want to open the bottle an hour or so before you plan on drinking it. From $37 to $40.
2011 August West "Santa Lucia Highlands" Pinot Noir (Central Coast, California)
Always on the lookout for a juicy California Pinot, one with some character and grit, I think I've found it in this collaboration between Ed Kurtzman and growers Howard Graham and Gary Franscioni. It tastes of black cherry, plums and earth. Keep an eye out for their Pinot from Rosella’s Vineyard as well. About $32.
2011 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France)
Still run by the Geoffray family that purchased the estate at the end of the 19th century, Château Thivin has vineyards planted with mostly 50 year old Gamay vines, one reason these wines have such character. Pop the cork on the 2011 and guaranteed the bottle will be finished in a flash. There are still a few bottles of the 2011 around, but mostly now it’s the 2012 vintage. With its bright fruit luscious texture and all around geniality, Thivin’s Côte de Brouilly goes down very easy. Keep a few bottles on hand ready for any occasion. About $23.
2010 Château Teyssier Saint Emilion Grand Cru (Bordeaux, France)
For the price, you can’t do better than this Grand Cru Saint Emilion from Château Teyssier. Come again? I thought I was mishearing the price — $30. A great basic that’s much more than an entry-level Bordeaux. This is the real deal from an estate that goes back to the 18th century. Winemaker Jonathan Maltus, the genie behind Le Dôme, works with the estate’s Merlot and Cabernet Franc to produce a fresh take on classic Saint Emilion. Spicy and rich, with all the right notes, the 2010 Château Teyssier is a great buy — and it’s widely available. About $30.
2011 Hirsch Vineyards “San Andreas Fault” Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, California)
Hirsch Vineyards makes seductive, high-toned Pinot Noir from the cool-climate Sonoma Coast. The 2011 “San Andreas Fault” is a fascinating tangle of Santa Rosa plum, sweet cherries, herbs and earthy notes. And that’s just to start. Spend an evening with a bottle and you’ll discover even more flavor passages. About $55.
2009 Bodegas A. Fernández Tinto Pesquera (Ribera del Duero, Spain)
A stellar Tempranillo from Alejandro Fernández’ Tinto Pesquera in Ribera del Duero. The vines are old and the wine is so dark and inky, you could paint with it. Pour it into the glass and the aromas of blackberries, dark plums, anise and earth jump out of the glass. It’s round and full-bodied in the mouth, as delicious as red wines from this part of the world get. From $28 to $50.