How My Easter Lamb Recipe Was Inspired by California’s First Wine Influencers

The Easter Bunny is en route this Sunday, which means a food- and wine-filled day at home! I have hilarious childhood memories of sunny Easter Sundays with kids, going toe-to-toe on the egg hunt while parents, steeped in 70’s plaid and pastels, ignored us with their Ramos Gin Fizzes, Gallo Wine, and Coors Light in hand.   We ate jelly beans with abandon, sneaked downstairs to listen to Aerosmith, while parents laughed, talked, and drank.

These recollections inspired me to dig out a cookbook I bought in a used bookstore several years ago: Adventures in Wine Cookery, by California Winemakers. My goal is to find an Easter lamb recipe, preferably one that calls for wine. This book is a hoot. Published in 1965, it’s a solid look at California’s burgeoning wine industry at the time, and was surely influenced by Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s spiral-bound, flowing with sketches and quotes and some personal insight on pairings for each recipe. In itself, it is a great read while sipping a glass of wine.

One of its recipes, Lamb Rack Burgundy, seemed a great choice for my Easter meal. It’s from Mrs. Julius L. Jacobs, Wine Institute, San Francisco, whose husband was a wine writer and journalist. As I perused the recipe, I noticed it doesn’t denote the thickness of the lamp chops, so cooking time could be a gamble. And I giggled at “thread chops on long skewer to resemble rack of lamb” and “this simple treatment is not only delectable, but has great eye appeal as well.”

I’m officially skeptical, but especially of a decades-old recipe. My chops could end up raw or cement-hard, and my 10-year-old carnivore could care less about eye appeal. So instead, I’m going to grill my dinner so I can enjoy the Orange County sun and keep an eye on kids throwing elbows during the egg hunt. This recipe from Epicurious ensures I don’t kill my family with raw chops or bust a tooth on something that resembles lamb jerky.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Red Wine, Garlic, and Honey Glaze

(Makes four servings)

¾ cup dry red wine (I recommend a $10 to $15 Bordeaux—one you can sip while you grill!

¼ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (Hey! I have this in my garden!)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teapsoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

8 1-inch to 1 ¼-inch-thick loin lamb chops (about 2 ½ pounds total), fat well-trimmed

2 tablespoons honey

Mix first seven ingredients in large glass baking dish. Arrange lamb chops in single layer in dish, turning as you coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours, turning and basting often. (You can marinate a full day ahead too!) Prepare the barbecue on medium-high heat. Transfer lamb to plate. Mix honey into marinade. Grill lamb to desired doneness, turning and basting with marinade often, about about 10 minutes for medium-rare.

I’m pairing my grilled chops with Formaglini Vineyards La Quercia Block 2014 Pinot Noir ($49). This beautiful Willamette Valley pinot is from Santa Ana resident David de Lancellotti’s biodynamic farm in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, which produces unique Italian-style pinot. Find it at Wine Exchange in Santa Ana, or order direct from de Lancellotti at




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