By Celia Strong
Well, once more we are looking a holiday dinner in the face. It has to amaze you, as much as it does me, that these holidays come every year, all year. They stay the same. What is wrong with us that we can’t stop them from sneaking up on us? It can’t be all that hard. We have calendars. And electronic devices. Multiple electronic devices. They send us reminders. Written and loud bell bonging sounding ones. And still, here we are. Really? Easter is this weekend? Are you sure? Geez! I need to get ready. Next year, I will be ready early. Promise! Really?
So, let’s not waste time, and get into our lesson for this week right away. Starting with another look at our Easter dinner. This is the last family dinner, each year, sitting down at the nice dining room table, until the big holiday dinners come in November and December. For these big holiday dinners, where we all have family and friends, there are many glasses of wine poured. These same groups over the summer tend to be more cookouts and casual. More beer and white liquor drinks, with ice. More outside events than the good dining room table events. But, Easter dinner is still special. Last week we looked at wine for a ham dinner. This week, we’re going to look at a wine for a lamb dinner.
Which brings up a small little discussion on lamb. (Please note – sometimes I find topics I want to learn about and you’re just stuck coming along for the ride. But we do keep drinking, so all is not wasted.) Lamb can pretty much be a local meat. Most American lamb comes from larger animals, usually grass fed for most of it’s life. Giving lamb some grain feed, just before slaughter, leads to more mellow flavors and good marbling. American lamb is tender and dark colored. New Zealand lamb is cheaper and more gamey or mutton-flavored. It is also slightly tougher. Also, New Zealand lamb are smaller than American, and they are generally slaughtered younger to get milder flavored and more tender meat. Other sources for lamb, not that we can find them all, include Australia, Iceland and France.
Going back to our wine discussion, we now know that our source for lamb may influence our wine choice. Because it is easier for most of us to find, we’re going to serve American lamb. And an American wine. A Cabernet. From Napa. Because we know, now, that our lamb is going to be tender, milder flavored and marbled, we are going to pick an appropriate Cab. (Really, I already did pick it last summer when I first tasted this wine. I’ve just been waiting for this meal to come again.) A Cab is a Cab, but we all know they’re not all the same. Ours is from Round Pond Estate, located in Rutherford.
Round Pond Estate is owned by the MacDonnell family for almost a quarter of a century. Currently, the second generation runs the vineyard. Their first Cabernet wine was produced in 1992. Because Round Pond is a smaller winery, every step of their wine production is hands-on. They walk every vineyard, every day. Control from soil to bottle is part of their way of getting the quality they insist upon. Their style? A combination of Old World traditions and New World innovations. The Rutherford area is known for opulent Cabernet wines. The grapes get ripe and yield robust flavors.
All of Round Pond’s grapes are either organically or sustainably grown. For wine production, sustainable means everything they do is quality conscious, socially responsible and environmentally sound. Natural processes are used to promote soil health, to control erosion. For ground cover, native crops are used. And composting is done. Everything to promote positive plant-soil interactions.
And, sustainable also includes all the workers; they are considered part of the process. They are treated with dignity and respect because their handling of the soil and vines and grapes cannot be ignored. All the grapes are hand harvested. And hand sorted and hand destemmed. Fermenting is done in small batches. This helps enhance specific characteristics in each batch. Round Pond does make several “tiers” of Cabernet. (That means levels and prices.) Ours is the 2012 “Kith and Kin” Cabernet. “Kith and Kin” is Old English for “friends and family.” Sounds to me that right there, that one phrase, makes this the perfect wine choice for Easter dinner! And, remember the “Salmon Safe” winery practices from our Oregon wine last week. Round Pond Estate is a member of “Fish Friendly Farming.” Same exact idea, just not salmon.
The Round Pond “Kith and Kin” Cabernet is a blend of grapes from their Rutherford home vineyards and nearby appellations. After harvest, the grapes go through a short and cool temperature maceration. This ensures the wine has well balanced tannins, focused fruit flavors and is approachable. The Kith And Kin is aged in used French oak barrels and neutral French barrels. The wine ages for fifteen months in these barrels before bottling. This adds flavor nuances and enhances the fruit-forward flavors – bright strawberry, raspberry and cranberry, black cherry, too. And, toasted oak and vanilla flavors from the barrels. Our 2012 Kith and Kin is a blend of seventy-six percent Cabernet Sauvignon, twenty percent Petit Verdot, two percent Petite Sirah and two percent Merlot. The 2012 vintage? All season long the weather was good. Mild days let the grapes ripen easily. No excessive heat going into harvest time (officially, it started September 5) meant the picking was not rushed. Yields were better than normal, a true bonus with the grapes as good as they were. At pressing, the acidity was bright, the flavors explosive and sugar levels were low to moderate. Brian Brown, the head winemaker at Round Pond, expected the quality of the 2012 wines to be above par. Now that we have tasted his wine, we can agree. Easily.
So, buy your lamb, gather your kith and kin, and have a great holiday dinner. For me? Maybe no lamb. Just this wine. Kith and kin at our house are three cats. Who may get to lick my finger if I stick it in my glass of wine? They may. Or may not. Depends on how many jelly beans they give me. For $26.99. Enjoy.