The Willamette Valley in Oregon has become one of the most popular and celebrated places for winemaking in the country in the last few decades. With ideal climate and growing conditions both long-established and newer wineries – about 700 of them – offer varietals mostly centered around Pinot grapes. This produces some of the world’s best Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines. I must admit that I am still a wine newbie and in the middle of a process where others are well ahead of me with their knowledge. But I was lucky enough to discover Iris Vineyards and learn about their fruit-forward wines that are easily drinkable and pair well with chef-created food. I am also pleased to share this recipe from Iris Vineyards that pairs well with wine.
Oregon natives Richard Boyles and Pamela Frye started Iris in 2001, under the original name of Iris Hill. Their estate has grown to 870 acres on the southern area of the valley, near their hometown of Eugene. Because of the higher elevation terrain of the vineyards, the grapes can have a longer growing season than many of the other wineries in the area.
Wine Tasting with Iris Vineyards
On a recent online tasting, I learned about both Iris Vineyards’ Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wines. The winery sent some participants and me a bottle of the first varietal, while others received the second. The Pinot Gris was slightly acidic with the taste of apples and citrus – just as I would expect a fruit-forward wine to have. I’m usually a Chardonnay drinker, but this wine could become my new favorite.
As I try wines and learn how to appreciate them as an accompaniment to food, I realize how much they bring out the subtleties of flavors, and vice versa. That is one of the great joys of discovering the ideal combination of wine and cuisine together.
Wine Food Pairing
With the Iris Vineyards’ Pinot Gris, the best pairings center on salmon, halibut, shrimp, swordfish, polenta and risotto. With the fish in particular, the full-bodied nature of both salmon and halibut counterbalances the fruitiness of the wine well. That’s the discovery I made when my family and I dined on grilled salmon with couscous, and I opened the bottle of Pinot Gris to drink with it.
Although I didn’t try the Pinot Noir that other participants chose, I could easily see how this would be the perfect combination with a heartier meal, such as pork, some chicken dishes or lamb. In fact, the vineyard was kind enough to share the following recipe with me: Braised Lamb Shanks with Peppers.
Braised Lamb Shanks With Peppers
- YIELD 4 to 6 servings
- TIME 3 hours
- 4 small-to-medium lamb shanks (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), excess fat and silver skin removed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 large green bell pepper, cored, ribs removed, cut in 1/2-inch strips
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored, ribs removed, cut in 1/2-inch strips
- 4 small yellow onions (about 1 pound), peeled and quartered vertically
- 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 teaspoon dill seed, crushed in a mortar
- 1 teaspoon paprika, preferably Hungarian
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- Pat dry lamb shanks. In a heavy casserole or Dutch oven that will hold all the shanks, heat oil on medium-high. Add lamb shanks and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove to a platter. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Add bell peppers and onions to the pan. Sauté, stirring, until the vegetables wilt and just begin to color, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, dill seed, paprika and cinnamon. Stir. Add stock and wine. Bring to a simmer. Stir in tomato paste and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice. Return lamb shanks to the pot along with any juices on the platter. Cover them with a piece of parchment or waxed paper, cover pot with lid, reduce heat to very low and cook about 2 hours, basting the shanks occasionally and turning them at least once until the meat is very tender when pierced with a knife.
- Remove shanks from the pot. Increase heat to medium and reduce sauce by about a third, about 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Return shanks to the pot, baste and reheat. Serve directly from the casserole or transfer to a serving dish. Strew with fresh dill before serving.
- Iris Vineyards
- Willamette Valley Wineries Association
- Travel Oregon
- Visit Eugene, Oregon
- On our site: We love Oregon and have many more articles for share!
- On our site: More recipes!
-Photos as credited. Cover photo courtesy of Iris Vineyards.