New Mexico Wine

Wine Notes and Pairings by Michele Padberg · Photos by Stephanie Cameron

Some people freeze when it comes to food and wine pairings, but with just a few tricks of the trade, you will wow your guests in no time!

First, know your wine body: light-bodied is like non-fat milk, medium-bodied is like full-fat milk, and full-bodied is like heavy cream. Think about how the different fat contents coat and linger on your palate. Now imagine that same thing happening with wines. You never want your wine to be heavier than the dish with which you are pairing it, and you never want the dish to outweigh the wine. Got a lighter dish? Go with a light wine, like a Pinot Noir. Got a big, bold dish? Go with a big, bold Syrah.

The second trick is also the easiest: Cook with the same wine you serve.This is called a marriage and is an easy, instant win. The third and final tip (for today) is to pair only with the main dish or, if using a sauce, with the sauce for that main dish. Still feel uneasy? Don’t worry, wine is meant to be enjoyed. Try a pairing and see if you like it; if you don’t, try the dish with a different wine. Play, be adventurous! The world is filled with millions of wonderful wines that need to be drunk. Cheers!

Beet and Marble Rye Panzanella
Serves 4

This recipe brings together the earthy flavor of rye and beets. Choose a wine that reflects earthy notes but can handle the sugars of the beets and the vinegar. I recommend Noisy Water Winery’s Dirty red wine blend. With its bold fruit, earthy, unfiltered style, and solid acidity, it can not only handle this dish, but shine. Another fun option is the Gruet Brut rosé. This sparkling wine has high acidity and ripe red fruit on the palate, giving it the ability to handle this dish. Tip: Gruet’s rosé from the Santa Ana Pueblo vineyard is incredible, but sells out fast.

  • 1 1/2 pounds small beets (about 10), any color, scrubbed
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 loaf marble rye bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large blood orange
  • 4 ounces feta
  • 1 cup torn fresh herbs (such as dill, parsley, tarragon, and mint)

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place beets in a shallow 2-quart baking dish and add 1/2 inch of water. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake beets until a paring knife slides easily through flesh, 50–60 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, toss onion, 3 tablespoons vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl to combine; set aside.

Toss cut bread and 2 tablespoons oil on a rimmed baking sheet to coat; season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425ºF, tossing once, until bread is golden brown and crisp around edges, 8–10 minutes; set aside.

Rub beets with paper towels to remove skins, then halve (or quarter, if large) and place in a large bowl; add onion with liquid. Using a small, sharp knife, remove peel and white pith from orange. Working over bowl with beets, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes to release juices; discard. Add reserved toasted bread and 2 tablespoons oil and toss to combine. Let sit a few minutes for flavors to meld.

Just before serving, fold in feta and herbs, drizzle with more oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Syrah-Marinated Lamb Chops with Fennel Salad
Serves 6

The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance, and accent the flavor and aroma of food. Most importantly, cook only with wines that you would drink. Syrah is a classic pairing for lamb, and Vivác Winery is known for their Wine Enthusiast–touted Syrahs. The dense dark fruit of this wine, with earthy notes and great acidity, tames the lamb and supports the flavors of the dish without masking any of the subtleties. For a different, but also wonderful option, try Casa Abril Vineyard and Winery customer favorite, Malbec. This big, bold wine has tons of dried fruit notes with bright acidity and firm tannins that, if you choose to go heavy with the red pepper, will be a hit.

  • 2 large fennel bulbs, fronds and stalks reserved; bulbs quartered, cored, and thinly sliced on a mandoline
  • One 750-milliliter bottle Syrah (or Malbec)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Zest of 1 lemon plus
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper
  • 8 loin lamb chops
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche or sour cream

Chop the fennel stalks. Finely chop enough of the fronds to make 3 tablespoons. In a shallow dish, combine the stalks, wine, garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper. Add the lamb chops and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, turning the chops once halfway through.

Pat the lamb chops dry. Strain 3/4 cup of the marinade and reserve. In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Season the chops with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until browned, 3 minutes. Turn the chops, reduce the heat to moderate and cook until medium-rare, 3 minutes; transfer to a plate and let rest.

Pour off the fat in the skillet. Add the reserved 3/4 cup of marinade and boil over high heat, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 4 minutes. Watch this process as your liquid will quickly evaporate. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the crème fraîche. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the chopped fennel fronds and season with salt.

In a bowl, toss the sliced fennel bulb with the lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons each of the oil and fronds. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the salad to plates and top with the chops. Spoon the sauce over the chops and serve.

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