How to make pesto-loaded lamb chops, and which wines to pair

Whip up a mint pesto to serve with lamb chops. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

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Whip up a mint pesto to serve with lamb chops. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Lamb isn’t exactly the type of meat to hang back in the shadows. You’re eating it because you like its assertive, gamey flavor — but what wine to pair? A tannic red with some acidity will hold up, says sommelier Nate Redner. Try any of his three recommendations below with one of our favorite recipes for lamb chops.

Make this: Mint Pesto Lamb Chops

With food processor motor running, drop in 1 clove garlic, buzzing to bits. Add 2 cups fresh mint leaves, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse a few times. With machine running, drizzle in 1/3 cup olive oil, making a thick pesto. Add 1/3 cup sliced almonds and 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese. Pulse a few times. Smooth half the pesto onto 8 single-cut lamb rib chops, about 1 pound, covering both sides. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Cook chops until crisp outside and just done inside, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with remaining pesto. Makes: 2 servings

Recipe by Leah Eskin

Drink this

Pairings by sommelier Nate Redner of Oyster Bah, as told to Michael Austin:

2009 Domaine Tempier Cabassaou, Bandol, France: This wine is composed of 95 percent mourvedre, 4 percent syrah and 1 percent cinsault, creating a highly structured wine with aromas of mulberry, blackberry, espresso, licorice and black pepper to complement the nutty mint pesto. There is a good bit of fat in both the lamb and pesto, so you’ll be happy to have the high tannin of mourvedre with acidity on the back end.

2014 Enfield Pretty Horses, California: Lush fruit and nuttiness characterize this wine. It’s made of mainly tempranillo with some graciano, which helps its tannic structure and fruit intensity. Floral notes of lavender and rosemary will complement the mint pesto while juicy cherry on the palate will match the lamb. The wine’s abundance of acidity will cut any fat that may linger from the chops. Be sure to give the wine a slight chill.

2013 Tami Frappato, Sicily, Italy: This red wine is light in body, and expresses aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries, sour red cherries and rose petals. Feta and lemon juice/zest provide a good bit of salt and acidity in the pesto, and they’ll be backed up by the tart red fruit character and slightly briny finish of the frappato. Also, the nuttiness in the pesto will be complemented by the floral component of the wine.