Wines to accompany lamb, plus a look at spiritual synergy

April 3, 2021

Although many are aware of the inspiration for Passover, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, how many people of other faiths are aware it is also the beginning of the 49-day period named Omer that culminates in the holiday of Shavuot? This commemorates the arrival of the Torah, the first five books (Pentatuch) of the Old Testament, at Sinai. The precepts contained in Torah are integral to the foundation for most civil law now in vogue worldwide, as well as Judaism, Christianity and the Muslim faiths. Although the Qur’an contains a version of the 10 Commandments, the wording is slightly different. The underlying good advice is the same. You can read a side-by-side treatment here:

The commonality of all three is expressed by the phrase Abrahamic Faiths. In fact, the 10 Commandments are referenced in Exodus 20:2-17 (most quoted), Exodus 34:12-26 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Often folks are surprised to learn that Muslims, generally speaking, revere the Old Testament. Here is a very broad-brush description of the link, which many in academe accept. Muslims believe there is truth in the “Old and New Testament, but distortion and falsehood were introduced over time,” which is why Allah sent Jesus (peace be upon him) with the Injeel (Gospel), and eventually, Muhammad (peace be upon him) with the Quran. Two references to Jesus found in Qur’an are: 5:110 and 2:112-115. There are several references to “Old Testament Prophets” also. Those who wish to pursue this line can find a brief synopsis here:

Lamb symbolizes spring, sacrifice, and fertility, and has long been the choice of fare during this season. Wine bibbers reading here may recall that several strains of varietal wine were prompted by the consumption of this easy-to-grow protein that also provided material for cloth that didn’t necessitate slaughtering the animal. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti and Syrah have become the best companions for the rich, usually highly seasoned lamb recipes. Lamb’s gamey flavor advises searching for wine with balanced tannin, acidity and some bottle age when possible. Adventurous folks may wish to try a spicy Gewurztraminer, especially those who prefer the Middle Eastern, Northern African and Indian recipes. 

Don’t let the name fool you – Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer is from Sonoma, Calif.; it will set you back about $20. Look for allspice, jasmine and citrus aromatics, and grapefruit, lychee, nectarine and starfruit flavors with a subset of fresh ginger and coriander. Goes great with some curries and most Moroccan recipes. Consistently comes in at 88-90 McD points; 2018 and ‘19 both hit 89.

Those who prefer Spanish recipes with a balsamic twist and Old Vine Tempranillo should look for Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2018 or ‘17 DOCA. Rated 90 McD since 2014. It spends two years in American oak and one in the bottle before release. The nose is balsamic and spicy; on the palate, lovely viscosity, clean acidity and smooth tannic grip. Finishes long and clean with hints of oaken spices. A wonderful wine, it gets 2 price points, normally found under $18. I would be remiss indeed not to mention Bordeaux, the most famous lamb wine. My best value will set you back under $60, 93 McD. I recommend the Chateau Gloria 2016. Just entered its window and will cellar at least 10 more years. Look for currant and graphite with faint eucalyptus-nuanced aromas. Blackberry, currant, sage and vanilla flavors ride a finely tuned acid/tannic structure. Finishes long with cassis and sandalwood.

If the prices for lamb leg and rack and Cali Cabs get you down, try to find a shoulder roast or shanks to cook in your slow cooker or crockpot. Serve it with Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Sonoma County Cab. These have rated 88-89 and been priced well under $20 since forever. Actually blended of Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc, Carmenere, and Petit Verdot, Cali law says it must be 75 percent Cab to be so named. This site,, shows several delicious recipes with lots of options. The KJ Grand Reserve Cab, 91 McD, will run around $23. It is worth the upgrade. Buy the reserve to cook with and the grand for drinking.

Best wishes to all for a joyous Easter!

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter