Is Summer really almost over? You must be pulling my leg (of lamb).

Summer is almost over and if you’re anything like me you’ve been squeezing in all the barbecuing you can while the weather is still warm. And also pairing pinot noir with every meal except breakfast. Brunch doesn’t count. But what can you barbecue that pairs well with (hopefully Senses) pinot noir?

Before I go any further I want to say my philosophy is that there is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” way to drink wine. Drink it with taco bell if that’s what does it for you and don’t let anyone shame you for it. But, if you have those bougie friends or maybe disapproving in-laws who think their son or daughter could have done a little better, this will surely win them over.

As for what kind of barbecue, as a general rule sweet is out. That means you’ll probably want to avoid baby back ribs or drumsticks drowning in barbecue sauce. Instead go for something that stands up better on its own without heavy sauces. My personal favorite is a recipe my mother taught me for leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary and my pick for a pinot to drink with this meal is the Terra De Promissio pinot noir. It has the perfect balance of bold cherry fruit character while maintaining enough backbone to stand up to the meat plus a mild earthiness that pairs nicely with the rosemary.

What you will need:

  • Leg of lamb (size up to you)
  • Olive oil (enough to coat the lamb in a sealable plastic bag)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 5(ish) cloves of garlic roughly chopped (adjust to your taste)
  • A few hearty sprigs of rosemary
  • A beer
  • A meat thermometer

To get started mix the olive oil, white wine and garlic together and then pour it over your lamb which you’ve put into a resealable plastic bag. Allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight.

After marinating pull the lamb out of the bag, pat it dry and let it to sit for about an hour to come to room temperature. Then put half of your grill burners on high. I’m talking the highest setting possible. Play the desert crossing scene from Lawrence of Arabia in the background to encourage extra heat. I know I said there is no wrong way to drink wine, but there is a wrong way to grill lamb and anything other than maximum heat is it.

Sear the lamb for a couple of minutes on each side. What we’re trying to do is get a good crust going. It may flare up, that’s okay. There may be some smoke, maybe even some tears from those watching fearing for the safety of their meal. That’s also okay. Remain calm. The lamb may even catch fire. That’s not okay. Remember the beer? Of course you do, and I bet now you’re wondering why I included it earlier. Well, it’s for drinking and fires. Open it and take a swig. And use the beer to douse any part of the lamb that may catch on fire.

Once you’ve seared the outside of the lamb move it over to the other half of your grill that is off and close the lid, allowing the lamb to cook through indirect heating. Test the thickest part of the lamb with the meat thermometer and pull it when it reads 130 degrees. Allow it to sit before carving for about 10 minutes, it will continue to cook after you pull it from the grill and should read 140 when you serve it.

Carve this masterpiece of perfectly-crusted, pink-in-the-middle meat and throw it down triumphantly in front of your dinner guests. Dare them to criticize you while maintaining eye-contact. Keep the carving knife in your hand for added effect. Oh, and enjoy the (hopefully Senses!) pinot noir alongside!

– Myles

Winston, The Churchill and Brexit

The UK has less than two years left until the clock runs out and it will officially be out of the European Union. What that means for many industries, on both sides of the channel, is not yet clear: it has not been decided how “hard” or “soft” of a Brexit the UK and EU will agree on. As a result the internet abounds with wild speculation of all types, some of which the wine industry will certainly be affected by. I will not be adding my two cents. I am not an economist and I like to keep my politics and my wine separate. However, one thing does seem to be emerging from the fray: The Winston Churchill is back.

I am, of course, speaking of the pint-sized bottles of champagne (often referred to as just “The Churchill”) last produced by Pol Roger in 1973, not a zombified British Prime Minister (though someone should write that screenplay, stat). When the UK joined the European Economic Community and adopted the metric system for all goods sold in the UK in 1973, the last market for these uniquely sized bottles dried up and The Churchill was resigned to history.

But, with the prospect of Brexit around the corner, Pol Roger announced it is in discussions with its suppliers to bring The Churchill back for sale in the UK. Churchill himself would no doubt approve, as he seemed to find the pints of champagne to be just the right amount, observing in 1908:

A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred, the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces a contrary effect. Excess causes a comatose insensibility.

Winston was famous for his drinking and his remarks about his drinking, especially champagne. Contrary to popular belief, however, the smaller bottle of champagne was not created for him specifically but was originally released by Pol Roger in 1874. Nonetheless he became closely associated with the bottle and the brand, reportedly drinking two pints a day during World War II (in between whiskey sodas starting at 9am, cognac, claret and a brandy nightcap). His fondness for the bottle earned the pints of champagne the nickname “The Winston Churchill.” Upon his death in 1965, Odette Pol Roger announced the company was in mourning and put a black band across the label of their Non Vintage White Foil. Understandable, as at his peak consumption Winston was supposedly $75,000 dollars in debt to his wine merchant. Don’t we wish we had him on our list today. In 1975 Pol Roger produced the first Cuvee Winston Churchill after the style of champagne he was most fond of to replace the pint sized bottle retired two years earlier. Though these were in the 1.5 liter magnum bottle.

Winston once remarked “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me,” a statement which appears to ring true decades after his death with the return of the bottle of champagne most associated with him. Personally, I’m fascinated by the rapidly changing alternate-format market in wine, especially with the advent of cans both in the US and abroad. And as a history nerd I’m delighted by the nod to one of history’s greatest wine drinkers. What will be next to be resurrected? Wine in Clay amphora? I could see hipsters drinking that.

– Myles


CREDIT: DANIEL JONES via The Telegraph