I can guarantee that if you are invited for a lamb dinner at an Armenian home, you will most assuredly get lamb. Armenians do not use yearling and definitely not mutton. For all of the suffering that the Armenians have endured, their table is always open for company and guests. Lamb is the meat of choice, and how ever it is butchered, the results are always tasty, and from the section of the Old Country that my grandparents came from, you also knew that the lamb would be hot and spicy. Just like the wines that we were serving, which are grown on the mountainsides, lambs were also raised on the mountainsides. It is only natural that Noah’s Ark would land on Mount Ararat, one of the three famous mountains of Armenia and the people are hardy from the start, as they planted among other things; grapes and olives.
My Bride was making a Roast Lamb and the entire lamb was slit with X’s, just deep enough to stuff a clove of garlic in each X. As you can imagine a roast of lamb requires plenty of cloves, and when the meat is fully roasted the garlic has imparted its spiciness and that rich sweet roasted garlic is a wonderful by-product to enjoy as well. The lamb is roasted with root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnips and parsnips and they absorb the rich broth that the roasting produces from the meat. There was also Armenian Pilaf which is a staple in our house, almost for any dish, especially for the big parties and even the non-Armenians are upset when we don’t have it. For the uninitiated, it is browned egg noodles and rice steeped in chicken broth and butter, until all the broth and butter have been absorbed by the rice, and yes, my family has always made this with garlic as well. The recipe has been toned down a bit, from the early days of my youth, because there was so much butter used back then, that as a kid, I would scoop out left over pilaf from the refrigerator, put it on a plate and eat it cold, it was so rich, another factor of why I was a fat kid growing up.
Of course, besides the food, the focus was on the red wines that were furnished as samples by Storica Wines. We were going to serve the last two wines, which were both red, side by side for comparison. Both of the red wines were from Zulal Wines and the winery was founded by Aimee Keushguerian who learned winemaking from her father at Keush Winery. Zulal which is Armenian for pure was founded in 2017, and Aimee and her father are striving to identify some of the indigenous grapes that have survived on their own in Armenia. The winery is a mountain winery, and there are plenty of people that are always looking for mountain wines, because not only for the volcanic and limestone soil, but that the grapes have to struggle and stress to grow, and the grapes are smaller, and the winemakers have to work extra hard to prune the leaves, to allow just the right amount of sunlight on the grapes to allow them to ripen properly. The first wine that was poured was Zulal Wines Areni Classic Vayots Dzor 2019. Areni is one of the major wines of Armenia and is a thick-skinned varietal that grows in small tight bunches. The fruit is hand-harvested from the vineyards in Aghavnadzor from ungrafted vines that average from fifty to one-hundred years of age. This wine is fermented and aged in Stainless Steel to accentuate the bright red fruit character and nose. There were four-thousand cases produced of this wine. This was the first Armenian red wine, and their first tasting of Areni and thought it had a light nose, moderate tannins and a medium finish, a couple of people suggested that it reminded them of a light Pinot Noir. The second wine that we were serving side by side was Zulal Wines Areni Reserve Vayots Dzor 2018, but the fruit for this wine was from vineyards in Aghsafi. The Reserve wine was aged for twelve months in neutral oak barrels and three-thousand cases were produced. The winemaker suggests buying a case, and drinking half of the case when young and then finishing the case a decade later when it has mellowed. Once again, this was their first tasting of an Areni Reserve and they mentioned the deeper color of the wine, some thought the wine was like a Rioja and some thought it was like a Syrah, so we had split decision of the wine. The mention of dark berries and spices were mentioned and the wine had a nice finish. Five of the six, enjoyed the Reserve over the Classic, but it was a bigger wine. The food and the wine were enjoyed by all, and if any of the guests encounter an Armenian wine in their travels, they will have positive thoughts about the wines, just like the thoughts that they formed from the wines that we had from Storica.