Perfect Pairings Brought To You By Unwined
Story + Recipe by Brian Acton of Unwined
Some of the most captivating expressions of a given grape variety come from marginal locations where the grapes fully ripen, but at a hard-won struggle. For Syrah, for now anyway, this is in the northern Rhône—the lesser-known half of the Rhône Valley wine region, about 25 miles south of Lyon and some 75 miles north of Avignon. While the region is littered with place names that translate to phrases like "burnt earth" and "roasted slope," these are relative terms. Syrah certainly finds powerful expressions in the southern appellations of the region, but when forced to battle for sugar accumulation, Syrah yields enticing nonfruit aromas ranging from delicate flowers and herbs, such as violets, lavender, thyme, rosemary and bay, to more meaty-spicy elements such as olive, smoked meat and cracked pepper. It is these beguiling characteristics, accenting just ripe blackberry fruit and licorice and an abiding freshness supporting the power of these wines, that keeps me coming back for more.
The wine I would like to recommend to you today is the 2020 Barruol/Lynch Côte-Rôtie “Les Roses” ($90). Côte-Rôtie, which is the aforementioned “roasted slope,” is the northern most appellation in the Rhône. Its slopes are some of the steepest in France, with portions at a gradient of 55 degrees or more. Hand-built terraces line many of the vineyards in an effort to keep the region’s legendary schist and granite-based soils in place, but even these frequently collapse after a rain. Jean-Paul Jamet, one of the region’s cult producers, has been quoted by Rhône expert and author Matt Walls as saying, “You’ve never finished repairing the walls. You could spend your whole life doing it.” Given the precarious nature of the vineyards, most vines are not trained on wires, as is the common practice in most wine regions. Instead, the vines tend to be grown in bushes trained between two wooden stakes, referred to as échalas. Needless to say, the farming and harvesting is painstakingly conducted by hand.
“Les Roses” is the product of a collaboration between Louis Barruol, 14th generation vigneron at the 16th century Château de St. Cosme based in Gigondas in the southern Rhône, and American importer Kermit Lynch. Although Barruol is based in the south, he has an abiding passion for Syrah from the north and knowledge of small conscientious growers. While Kermit, for his part, being one of the first major American importers of wines from France, has set the standard for traditionally made wines in many regions, it is his engagement with the wines of the Rhône, especially its northern reaches, that is most profound. He has worked with some of the revered vignerons in the region: Thierry Allemand, August Clape, Marius Gentaz, Jean-Paul Jamet, Raymond Trollat and so on. Together, with their combined knowledge and passion, Louis and Kermit produce a few barrels of a cuvée in the northern Rhône appellations of Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage each year. Their winemaking methods also pay homage to the traditional practices of the region: spontaneous fermentation without destemming, aging in barrel and bottling without filtration. These are some of my most prized wines in my personal collection.
“Les Roses” is a cuvée that represents their most floral, aromatic and elegant Côte-Rôtie barrels each year. In 2020, it is a blend of three lieux-dits, or named vineyards. It is 75% Rozier, 20% Grand Vigne and 5% Tilleuil and comes from 30 to 50-year-old vines. To pair, I recommend an anchovy butter basted rack of lamb with a fennel/potato mash.
- Two racks of lamb with 4 bones
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons anchovy butter
Pat the lamb dry and season generously all over with salt and pepper. Place the lamb on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate the lamb until ready to cook.
Place the baking sheet with the lamb in an oven preheated to 250°F and cook it until the center of the rack registers 110° on an instant-read thermometer. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes depending on the thickness of your racks.
Heat oil over high heat in a 12-inch cast iron skillet until it just begins to smoke. Carefully add the racks of lamb fat-side down and sear them until a crust forms. This should take approximately two minutes.
Flip the racks and add anchovy butter. Continue to cook the racks and begin basting them with the foaming butter. To prevent scorching, reduce the heat to medium once the butter begins to foam. To baste, tilt the pan toward you so that the butter pools near the handle. Using a wide spoon, scoop up the butter and pour it over the lamb. Aim for any light spots.
Continue flipping and basting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the rack reaches 125° for medium-rare or 130° for medium, which should take between five to 10 minutes total.
Immediately transfer the lamb to a large heatproof plate and pour pan juice over them. Let the lamb rest for five to 10 minutes. Carve and serve.
In a food processor, whiz together eight ounces of softened unsalted butter, 10 oil packed anchovy filets, zest of half a lemon and a sprig of rosemary leaves until everything is well combined. Wrap the mixture in Saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Peel and chop a pound of Yukon Gold potatoes. Trim and quarter, then slice one fennel bulb. Boil it all in salted water until tender, then drain the water. Return the potatoes and fennel to the pot and season them generously with kosher salt, pepper and some glugs of your best olive oil. Hit the mixture with the juice of half a lemon and stir it together with a large wooden spoon until it begins to break up.