Shannon Ridge Wines & Lamb Recipe –for your Easter dinner or spring gathering!

According to an article in today’s LA Times, Easter and Passover is when most people eat lamb. But in the US, nearly 40% of the population has never even tried it! At the peak in the 1940s, Americans consumed 6.6 pounds of lamb per person; these days, it’s less than one pound. Experts say it is because it is expensive (a rack of lamb will set you back between $12-18 or more) and because it is relatively unknown in the US so people don’t know how to prepare it.

I never appreciated lamb until I met my husband, and yes it was love at first bite! (In fact, today was our 9th wedding anniversary–we were married on Good Friday 2003!) We have lamb regularly and I have found it pairs well with many wines making for a special dinner.

So how should you prepare your lamb this Easter? And what wine should you drink with it? In this post, I’ll share Audrey Shannon’s Lamb Shoulder Recipe with some preparation tips and ideas for Shannon Ridge wines to pair with your holiday meal.

Shannon Ridge

Shannon Ridge is up in Lake County, an area that I’ve been hearing lots of good news about as an up-and-coming wine region. The portfolio of award winning Shannon Ridge wine includes the Single Vineyard Collection and Ranch Collection: the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon won DOUBLE GOLD at the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc won the GOLD MEDAL at the 2011 Dallas Morning News and TexSom Wine Competition, the Riverside International Wine Competition, and the Critics Challenge Wine Competition. Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery was named by Jon Fredrikson as one of ten “Hot California Wineries in 2011.” Annual case sales have increased more than 300% over the past four years, from 25K in 2008 to 104K in 2011 –which means you can now find this sustainable, affordable brand in a big box store near you!

One reason I really like Shannon Ridge is their authentic commitment to sustainability and the land. The Shannons truly are farmers first.

According to press materials,

The Shannons are committed to preserving their land, not only for the great vineyard sites but also for the bear, elk, mountain lions, eagles and other creatures which live there. Of the approximately 1,400 acres on the ranch, only about 35% have been converted to vineyards. The balance of the land has been preserved for the wildlife which wanders through the property from the expansive wilderness area to the north and east. The vineyards were carefully planned out, leaving corridors open to migrating animals and protecting sensitive nesting areas.

Shannon Ridge’s vineyards are certified sustainable, and are known for their woolly compost machines – a flock of 1,000 sheep, complete with shepherds and a team of highly trained sheepdogs. The sheep do an excellent job of canopy management and leaf removal, and pick the vineyard clean after harvest. They also manage the cover crop in the spring and work hard to reduce fire danger in the surrounding hills the remainder of the year.

Not only do they use the sheep for compost, canopy management, and leaf removal, but they also sell the lamb! While I haven’t tasted their lamb, Audrey Shannon sent me a copy of her lamb shoulder recipe which I prepared using a leg of lamb from NZ that I picked up at the grocery store.

So how should you prepare that Shannon Ridge or other lamb?

My husband usually barbeques lamb for us but since we were staying in a lovely townhouse in Mammoth with another family, it was the perfect opportunity to try Audrey Shannon’s recipe. Here it is, with a few modifications!

INGREDIENTS

1 lamb shoulder roast (or other large chunk of lamb!)
LOTS of fresh rosemary–at least a cup!
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
garlic salt
fresh garlic
roasting vegetables –small red potatoes, pearl onions, carrots, brussell sprouts, garlic etc
1 cup white wine–we used Shannon Ridge Chardonnay!

Pat the lamb dry, then rub it with olive oil, and a blend of several cloves minced garlic, fresh ground pepper, kosher salt, lots of rosemary, and any other herbs you desire.

Heat a large skillet with 1/2 cup olive oil. Brown the roast a golden tan color on all sides to lock in the juices.

If possible, place the lamb on a rack in a large roasting pan.

Toss the vegetables in any excess oil and herbs from the meat and add to the pan.

Add 1 cup Shannon Ridge Chardonnay.

Cover the roast lamb with additional rosemary, then cover with foil and bake at 400 about two hours. (Ours was done more quickly–closer to 90 minutes).

Check with a meat thermometer: lamb is done at 145 degrees.

Slice and serve immediately. This served four adults and two children with enough leftovers to scramble up in eggs for breakfast the following morning. Next time, I want to try to make this using a Dutch Oven.

So what about the Shannon Ridge wines?

2010 Sauvignon Blanc “Ranch Collection” $16 (suggested retail)

Our notes read:
–bright color
–very traditional style citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, but with a bit of pineapple, guava and tropical fruits, and some peach from skin to fruit
–savory
–would go well with a variety of foods from oysters to mac n cheese (I tried it the next day with a chicken salad–wowzers!)
–be a good wine to intro a chardonnay drinker to sauv blanc
–stainless steel fermentation, crisp with lots of complex fruit and nice finish
–2,884 cases
Great with caesar salad, pesto, arugala, most salad courses. I loved it with chicken salad.

Shannon Ridge “Ranch Collection” Chardonnay 2010 ($19 suggested retail)

From our notes:
–good nose, vanilla
–part went through ML
–barrel fermented, but not overpowered by the oak, lots of fresh fruit flavors
–wonderful citrus highlights, flavors of green apple, some ripe pear
–has a classic chardonnay-ness
–nice body, not too heavy
–balanced but rich, buttery, creamy
–very good wine for a wine bar…affordable, pleasing, even a Napa wine snob might like it
–easy to enjoy
–12,500 cases
We had this with cheese (it really shined with a brie with mushrooms!), then for dinner, I paired this with linguini and fresh manila clams and used it to cook the clams too. Yum!

Shannon Ridge 2009 “Ranch Collection” Zinfandel $19 (suggested retail)

We thought:
–had an awkward moment but basically, a great easy drinking zin
–perfect for a backyard BBQ of turkey burgers
–bramble fruit and vanilla cola
–it was good with the lamb but nothing spectacular
–2,060 cases
If you’re doing ham or turkey, this would pair well and be accessible and enjoyable for most family gatherings.

Shannon Ridge 2009 Ranch Collection Cabernet Sauvignon $19 (suggested retail)

We thought:
–mild, soft, accessible, subtle
–open it and let it breathe for a bit; you’ll be rewarded
–cherry vanilla cola
–mostly cab with some syrah, PS, and a pinch of malbec
–13,800 cases produced
–sturdy enough and rich enough for the lamb!
For Easter, this is a nice all-around wine that would work with most red meats and meals.

Overall, we liked the wines. For just under $20, they’re a decent value, but truth is, I found them on sale for much less–around $10. That’s a real bargain for a sustainable product!

While the above wines were sent to me as samples, by chance, the family that went to Mammoth with us brought a bottle of Vigilance Cimarron which is also owned by the Shannons so we sampled that with the lamb. This wine was the clear winner of the evening–and the weekend’s selections of wine! Nice bright purple and garnet, heady aroma of vanilla, berries and dark stone fruit, flavors of ripe cherry, very rich. Really awesome with the lamb! This wine disappeared fast! Suggested retail $25 (bought at Bevmo during one of their 5c sales for about $12 my friend said.)

Here’s Technical Data–the blend is what’s most interesting to me:

Alcohol: 14.5%
Total Acidity: 0.55
pH: 3.70
Residual Sugar: 0.65
Composition/Blend: 45% Zinfandel, 38% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Grenache
Appellation: Lake County
Time in Barrels: 14 months
Cases Produced: 15,00

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