Our spring this year skipped over the typical two weeks of mid 60's weather and seems to have jumped straight to high 70's. I prefer an actual spring, but when life gives you summer weather, grill. And so one warm evening last week I made lamb kabobs. I rubbed each chink of lamb in olive oil and then dredged each piece in a spice mix that I ground in the mortar and pestle - coriander, cumin, dried red chilis, and salt. Wedges of onion to bookend the lamb, et voila. One trick, aside from the mandatory hardwood grilling, is to soak the bamboo skewers in hot water for a few hours. This allows them to sit without burning on the hot grill.
Sear the kabobs for a few minutes directly over the hot coals, turning to make sure that every surface gets its turn. Then rotate the grill rack and cook over indirect heat for another, let's say 10 minutes, but that's up to you and your personal taste. Let the meat rest for another 10 minutes and serve with whatever you like. On that evening we went with very simple green salad and rice that I topped with a quick blend of chopped fresh green garlic, white vinegar, and good olive oil.
It would be very difficult to go wrong here, picking a wine. I know there a few chili flakes, but still, I think this is one of those drink-anything-you-want dishes. Would Beaujolais be good? It would be amazing. Would Riesling be wrong? Why would it be? Certainly a light-bodied Loire Cabernet Franc would be beautiful (I was thinking specifically of the lightly chilled and delicious 2007 Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny, $15, Louis/Dressner Selections, but I didn't have any in the house because I am a fool).
Perhaps in an attempt to relive some of the recent glory of Northern Rhône Syrah with steak, I opened a 2008 Pierre Gonon Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche Les Iles Feray, $17, Imported by Fruit of the Vines, Inc. This wine is so different from the 2007 version, which required at least an hour in the decanter to stop smelling like burning rubber tire, and was always edgy and a bit volatile even when drinking well. The 2008 is immediately lovely, round and accessible, fleshy and earthy, very well balanced, and with a resounding mineral twang on the finish. It handled the spices perfectly - it is made from very young vines and although nicely structured, it is not a tannic wine.
And this particular wine with this particular dinner on this particular evening with my particular wife was a good reminder that although a Verset Cornas or a Chave Hermitage is certainly a better wine, a Gonon VdP made from young vines in St. Joseph has its place too, and can bring the same degree of pleasure as its more illustrious cousins.