Wednesday Wine Tasting and Pinot Noir Slow Braised Lamb with Carrots and Fennel

Is it Wednesday already?  Where has this week gone?  I have no idea but here we are again…Wine Tasting Wednesday.

Today, we are visiting my friends at Little Raven Vineyards located in the Riverfront Park neighborhood. If you live in the Denver area, I highly recommend a visit to LRV.  They offer tastings twice a week, pay for parking, have a loyalty program and best of all, offer a cork recycling program…10 corks gives you a 10% discount on a bottle of wine.  Good for the environment and good for me and you! Oh and they deliver for a very small fee if you are in the Denver metro area and you buy a case or more.

Ok, ok..enough…on to the really good stuff.

Again this week, they are pairing one of the wines with a fabulous Pinot Noir Slow Braised Lamb with Carrots and Fennel. Who doesn’t like slow braised meat?  Slow braised meat in wine, well, simply put – PERFECT.  I don’t want to be a spoiler but we are not a lamb eating couple so we will be substituting beef on a weekend day where we can linger over the prep.  I can already smell the aromas of fennel, cinnamon and ginger floating through the kitchen. Can’t you?

Lamb Shanks by Nathan Jones

From Little Raven Vineyards website (with a few edits here and there):

This stunning lamb shank preparation accompanied by a Pinot Noir creates beautiful memories and enduring impressions on the palate. Aromas in Pinot Noir can include cherry, strawberry, raspberry or ripe tomato fruits; violets and rose petals; peppermint, rosemary, cinnamon or caraway spices; and even green tea or black olives. This full-bodied and rich (but not heavy) red wine is neither highly acidic nor highly tannic, so it is appealing to both red and white wine drinkers alike…Pinot Noir is very versatile in its ability to match up with foods and is a wonderful accompaniment to lamb.

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks in Pinot Noir.

Total time: 5 hours Hands-on Time: 35 minutes

Serves 4


  • 4 one-pound lamb shanks
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Juice of one lemon, save rinds
  • 1.5 cups Pinot Noir (LRV recommends the Latour Marsannay, Pinot Noir, 2007, from Burgundy, France at $20 a bottle…see below for detail and tasting notes)
  • 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Fresh mint (optional)


Pat lamb shanks dry with paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Place oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add shanks and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour off any excess fat and sauté onion, fennel, carrots and garlic with a large pinch of salt until the garlic is lightly toasted, about 8 to 10 minutes. Squeeze in lemon juice, toss in both lemon rinds, stir in Pinot Noir and transfer to a slow cooker and set the heat to low. This can also be done in a dutch oven (I am thinking of my large Le Creuset Dutch Oven for this task).

Add tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, fennel seeds and water. Nestle the lamb shanks in the dutch oven or slow cooker, cover and cook until the lamb is fork tender and falls easily off the bone, about 4 to 5 hours on high.

Divide lamb among 4 plates and spoon the sauce on top, garnish with fresh mint. I think this would be excellent over creamy mashed potatoes.

The crowning touch–open a bottle of the same Pinot Noir you used in preparing the dish to accompany this comforting meal. I know Mister will be having a glass with his.

Wine Shop by Suvodeb Banerjee

And now for the tasting and sad news (well sad news for me)!  I decided to give up wine for Lent.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I had too much wine when I made this decision!  But a committment is a committment and I have to pass on the actual tastings.

But I only have to PASS for 40 days and trust me, on day 41, I will be printing this post (and all the WW posts between now and day 41) and rushing off to LRV to taste and BUY!  Never a bad bottle and I am sure the below won’t disappoint.

If you have a chance to taste or buy any of the below, come back and let me know.  I can live wine-cariously through you!

The four featured wines for this week:

Vina Robles 2008 Red 4, Paso Robles -$18

A blend of syrah 53%, petite sirah 38%, touriga 7%, and tannat 2%. Smoky scents with hints of vanilla escape the glass and greet the nose. The wine is extracted and ripe, with flavors of black raspberry, sandalwood, violets, and pie cherries. A touch of white pepper tannins grip the tongue on the mid-palate. Hints of spice and flowers linger in the mouth on the finish.

Owen Roe 2008 Myrth Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington -$13

A crisp, clean white, aged in stainless steel to preserve its freshness and varietal character. Juicy and ripe, the wine offers flavors of yellow delicious apples, melon, tangerine, and lime zest. A racy touch of mineral dances with the ample acidity on the finish. This one goes down nice and easy.

Wine Cork by Derek Gavey

Louis Latour 2007 Marsannay, Burgundy, France -$20

A brambly aroma is sweetened with scents of roses and lavender. This pinot noir has very softly polished tannins, which sweep the palate in a black tea tone. As the astringency gets your attention, a focused minty tone develops. There is a ripe raspberry flavor on the mid-palate with an elegant, yet fresh character. As the wine lingers on the finish, it shows a touch of black plum and earth.

Massone 2009 Masera Gavi, Piedmont, Italy -$18

An authentic Italian, made completely from cortese grapes. The aromas offer touches of perfume and summer flowers. It has a minerally, yet delicate flavor. A core of apple and pear flavors are complemented by a soft floral tone. Its lovely lingering finish refreshes. An elegant substitute to pinot grigio.

Salute!  Clink, Clink, Cheers!

Linked to:

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Tasty Traditions, Ultimate Recipe Swap, Cooking Thursday, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Frugal Follies, HoH, Strut Your Stuff, Recipe Swap Thursday, Let’s Do Brunch, It’s a Keeper, Pennywise Platter, Fantastic Friday

Note:  The recipe and wine notes taken from LRV emails and website.  For more information, please link directly via LRV link above and here.

{Captioned photos used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0}


Wednesday Wine Tasting Plus Poached Pears and Blue Cheese

It is Wednesday and for me that means Wandering and Wine Tasting.  The triple W!

Today my friends at Little Raven Vineyards shared a great recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears with Blue Cheese.  How could I not share pears and blue cheese?

Pears simmered in red wine with spices may seem old hat but adding peppercorns is a new twist for me. Add a wedge of Maytag Blue, your best local blue cheese or heck, splurge for a great French cheese and drizzle with the spiced syrup.  A dessert fit for royalty!

If you can find the wines locally, try {and BUY} them and most definitely, make these pears!

Recipe and wine notes from Little Raven Vineyards:

The recipe maximizes the pear’s natural sweetness, combining it with a fruit-forward red wine and highlighting both with a touch of cinnamon and vanilla.

Wine-Poached Pears with Maytag Blue Cheese.


2 cups red wine (We recommend the Velvet Devil Merlot, 2008, $12 a bottle)
½ cup water
½ cup orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
8-12 peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
3 inch piece of vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
4 Bosc or Bartlett pears, slightly under ripe, unblemished, stems attached
6 ounces Maytag blue cheese (If you have a favorite blue cheese, give it a try. There are a number of excellent ones available these days including Rogue River from Oregon or Crater Lake Blue. Make sure to select a high quality blue cheese.)


Combine wine, water, orange juice and sugar in a medium stockpot. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add peppercorns, cinnamon and vanilla bean. Set aside.

Using a sharp paring knife, slice a small amount from the bottom of each pear to form a flat surface. Gently scoop out the core using a small spoon or melon scoop. Peel each pear using a vegetable peeler.

Place pears into syrup and heat over medium high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook the pears for 40 to 60 minutes, turning regularly to ensure even coloring. Remove the pears and cool.

Store them in an airtight container up to 2 days until ready to serve.

Return syrup to a gentle boil and cook until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Strain and store syrup until you are ready to plate up desert. (If you have leftover syrup, try it on ice cream, it is one delicious topping!)

Plate one pear on each plate with a 1.5 ounce wedge of the Maytag blue cheese. Pour 2 tablespoons of syrup over each pear and serve at room temperature.

Delicious!  Elegant!  Fit for guests!

And now to the tastings {and yes…the purchases}!

Tortoise Creek Wines 2009 Zinfandel, Lodi, California -$13

This red is juicy, ripe, yet possessing a smoldering structure with plenty of acidity and grip. Scents of spice and rose petals grace the nose. The wine is a canvas of blueberry and raspberry flavors, splashed with clove, semi-sweet chocolate, and a hint of cigar box. It is complex, with soft black tea tannins and mouth-watering acidity.

Le Grand Ballon 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, France -$14

This wine hails from the banks of the Loire River, in the region of Touraine, where Sauvignon Blanc reins. Aromas of white flowers and citrus scents escape from the glass. In the mouth the wine is refreshing, offering flavors of lemongrass, gooseberries, lime zest, and snappy hints of mineral. An ample dollop of acidity makes this white perfect for your favorite seafood dishes.

Since I will miss the Saturday tasting (yeah, I do this several times a week), I am sharing the wines in advance.  I have never been steered wrong at LRV, so I am going to give them a thumbs up and if they prove to not be all they claim, I will come back and update this post!

Giovanni Rossi 2008 Le Quattro Dolcetto d’Alba, Serralunga D’Alba, Italy -$19

This is a bright, delicious red, with a sultry mouthfeel. Flavors of pie cherries and blueberries fill the palate. The wine has a spicy, lively profile, with plenty of acidity. Sultry tannins push back against the ripeness. It is the perfect red for Italian dishes that are crusty with cheese or slathered in olive oil.

Gustave Lorentz 2009 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France -$20

Aromas of melon and lime zest fill the senses. A lush offering in the mouth is layered and complex, blooming in the glass as it warms. Melon hard candy, yellow apples, mineral hints of lanolin, and touches of lemon zest create a portrait of refreshment. The wine lingers in the mouth with a zippy tangerine tone.

Clink, Clink, Salute!

{Feature photo by Andrew Fung used under CC Attribution 3.0}

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