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Turning One

I took a quick trip to Seattle last weekend for a very special occasion—the first birthday of my one and only niece Clementine. Of course, I managed to have some good wine while I was up there—being that it was a celebration, we tasted some good Champagne. We drank Bougey Cerdon, a most delightful light, low-alcohol and slightly sweet sparkler from the eastern border of France. But my favorite wine was—as usual—had in combination with food. And let me proclaim the ultimate wonderousness of this pairing.

Syrah and lamb is a natural pair, but when you put them in the presence of black olives, something magical happens. My brother-in-law John and I each contributed a bottle to the dinner. I brought a 2004 Cornas from Thierry Allemand, my favorite producer of this northern Rhone region specializing in 100% Syrah (which I bought at the Wine Club on Harrison Street a couple of months ago), and John brought a 2001 Ermitage from Ferraton Pere et Fils. Both wines were dark, mineral, filled with violets and dark berry fruit and, well, sublime.

For the food, we seared some lamb chops in a frying pan with salt and pepper and a few herbs and then finished it in the oven. On the side, we made a crude black olive tapenade (not pureed, just chopped), with parsley, garlic, scallions, thyme and rosemary. To take the edge off the raw garlic and scallions, we briefly sautéed the whole thing in the juices from the lamb chop. When you put it all together, I tell you, it’s one of the great combinations on earth.

That’s Clementine’s sippy cup that snuck into the photo, but she didn’t really have wine. She did act very cute on her birthday, though.