Yes, I'd Rather Drink Bila-Haut French Rosé Than Go to the Fair.

A Review Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Pays d’Oc Rosé 2014 by Michel Chapoutier: Or, Why I’d rather drink French Rosé than go to the Iowa State Fair.

So, I turned Mr. Sportcoat earlier today and said, “You know. There’s only one day left of the Iowa State Fair. Maybe we should go tonight.”

Scene from the Iowa State Fair.

Scene from the Iowa State Fair.

He said, “To tell you the truth, I’d rather sit on the balcony, have a nice meal, drink some wine, then finish that Jean-Luc Godard film we started last night.”

Une Femme Mariée: It's Godard, so there's not much of a plot. But irresistible cinematography. See a clip here:

Une Femme Mariée (1964): It’s Godard, so there’s not much of a plot. But irresistible cinematography. Check out a promo clip (though be advised this makes it seem more racy than it really is).

We both laughed, knowing all too well how utterly snobbish that sounded.

Nevertheless, we couldn’t drag ourselves to the fairgrounds for overpriced food on a stick. Yes, there are some other draws (the lights at night are spectacular), but having been 10 years in a row, I think we’ll skip a year. We’ll drink some wine, eat some Sockeye Salmon, and listen to the swell of the late-summer locusts; later, as they go silent, we’ll listen to the tree toads and crickets. And then we’ll go inside and finish up that Godard film.

Bila-Haut Rosé by Michel Chapoutier, from the Pays d'Oc.

Bila-Haut Rosé by Michel Chapoutier, from the Pays d’Oc.

So, what’s to drink? A spectacular late-summer night calls for a spectacular wine:

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Pays d’Oc Rosé 2014 by Michel Chapoutier.

There are wine writers who will tell you to drink Rosé all year—and certainly, you can. But it will never taste better than right now. And in my mind, there are no better rosés than South-of-France rosés. This one is extraordinarily bright, fresh, and fruity, with that great combo of zippy red berries and citrusy appeal that I love in a French rosé.

It’s not super bone-dry, so if you’re looking for a rosé that drinks like a Tavel, this won’t be your wine. But I adored it, because (as I’ve probably said before!), I love some fruit in my pink wines. After all, if there aren’t any berries in my rosé, I might as well be drinking a white!

More details: It’s a blend of Cinsault and Grenache, and has a nice body for a summery wine. Alcohol by volume: 13% (I prefer a little less, but this is by no means a bruiser).

Disclosure: As is often the case with wine writers, I was sent this wine for review purposes. However, as always, I would never recommend a wine that I wouldn’t buy myself, and indeed, I plan to head out to buy some soon–before summer is truly over. It costs a very reasonable $13-ish a bottle.


Print Friendly

How to Cook Lamb Leg Steaks Provençal (Tranche de Gigot d'Agneau Provençale)

Sliced Lamb Leg Steaks Provençal (Gigot d'Agneau Provençal).

Sliced Lamb Leg Steaks Provençal (Gigot d’Agneau Provençal).

Here’s how to cook lamb leg steaks–a great, quick-cooking cut of lamb that’s less expensive than chops, but infinitely more tender than long-braising cuts.

When I was in my little vacation apartment in France recently, cooking up my all-time-favorite cut of lamb—tranche de gigot d’agneau (lamb leg steak), I lamented that I have never in my life found this cut back home in Des Moines.

Less expensive (and much more meaty) than a lamb chop, and infinitely more tender than a lamb arm steak, the lamb leg steak is a big-flavored, everyday-priced, quick-cooking option for lamb lovers.

Trouble is, until now, I could never find it back home in Amerique Profonde.

Well, sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Recently, when I went to Whole Foods, I was chatting about lamb at the meat counter, and I asked the meat pro if they ever had lamb leg steaks.

“I can cut them for you,” he said, pointing to a gorgeous whole leg of lamb he had in the case. He gladly (and expertly) sliced two steaks from that behemoth cut. I was trilled—especially when I found the flavor of these New Zealand steaks every bit as good as anything I had bought in France.

See my recipe, below, for how I cooked them. Note that the butcher told me they’re also a great grilling cut. I don’t have a recipe, but I bet if you marinated them in a vinaigrette with Herbes de Provence, then simply grilled them, they’d be divine.

Aren't they lovely?

Aren’t they lovely? Lamb leg steaks come from the lamb leg roast. They’re a great choice when you don’t have the time (or the crowd around your table) for a whole lamb leg roast.

Other posts you might like:

How to cook lamb shoulder chops (these are best for braising)
A great any-night French red wine (to serve with these lamb leg steaks).
• How to cook Magret de Canard (another specialty cut I love!)

How to Cook Lamb Leg Steaks Provençal (Tranche de Gigot d'Agneau Provençale)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Don’t confuse lamb leg steaks with lamb shoulder or arm steaks—the latter are too tough for the quick-cooking method here.
  • 1 10-ounce lamb leg steak, about ¾-inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the steak in hot oil over medium to medium-high heat until desired doneness (about 7 minutes for medium), turning once halfway through cooking time. Remove from pan; sprinkle with parsley, and cover with foil.
  2. Add the shallot and herbes de Provence to the pan and cook a few seconds; add the white wine and boil until reduced by half. Swirl in the butter and continue cooking until the sauce reaches desired consistency.
  3. Divide the steak in half and place each half on a serving plate. Pour sauce over the chops and serve.


Print Friendly

A Great Everyday French Wine for Great Any-Night French Food

Tastes like the great everyday reds I enjoy in France. Suggested retail price; $13. Yay.

Tastes like the great everyday reds I enjoy in France. Suggested retail price; $13. Bravo.

I’ve found it! The any-night-priced French red wine that tastes like the any-night reds I get in France all the time.

Every time I stay for a stretch of time in France, I’m amazed at how much I love the inexpensive, everyday red wines there. Once back in Amerique profonde, I get really annoyed at how hard it is to find similar French bottles.

In fact, I have the exact same problem with French wines in America that I have with French food in America. You can find fabulous—I mean, truly wonderful—gastronomy at French-inspired restaurants all across America. But it’s really hard to find those joyful, inspired, fresh+simple Tuesday night-priced dinners that you find at little bistros all across France. As I’ve said a million times, Everyday France is what I love most.

When it comes to wine, sure, you can find great French wines here. But they generally beat the heck out of a $20 bill (and usually more). Even on this current (and inspired!) list of “Delightful Rhône Values” from the Wine Spectator, two-thirds of the bottles are over $20.

Not only that, but every single wine on that list that’s priced under $20 is white.

Where are the good, any-night-priced French reds? I’m not finding fault Wine Spectator (whose tastes I generally agree with!). I’m just sayin’ that everyday priced French reds are really, really hard to come by in the USA.

And please don’t get me wrong: I’m not looking for a $15 vin de France red that tastes like a $50 of Pomerol. I’m not looking for $15 red wine that makes me swoon. On a Tuesday night, I’m not looking for a bottle to fawn over.

I’m simply looking for a $15 red wine that does what the 6€ red wines in France do: complement my cooking in a way that feels time-honored, natural, and right. I don’t want a high-alcohol, palate-fatiguing New World bottle. I like a little fruit, earth, and spice, and I love a bright finish. That’s my kind of wine.

If that’s your kind of wine, too, then I have a recommendation: Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Reserve Red Wine (2013). Suggested Retail Price: $13. It’s a GSM—that is, it’s made from Grenache (70%), Syrah (25%), and Mourvèdre (5%).

I was thrilled to find this on my “to taste” shelf when I got home from France—the winery had sent it to me for review in May, and I had not gotten around to reviewing it yet. The timing of my tasting could not have been better. I was entirely looking for something exactly like this bottle.

Here are my notes: “A wine with character, but not an over-abundance of it. Subtle ripe black fruit, with muted black pepper and spice; earthy, with a delightful ‘thwack’ on the finish.” (That thwack of course, is the brightness that comes with a little acidity, which makes so many Everyday French wines so perfect with food).

As a bonus, it’s 13% alcohol. That’s a lot lower than those 14.5% heavy-hitters that I have on my shelf—bottles that I just can’t seem to get excited about this summer.

What about you? Have you found any good-value French reds this summer? Do tell!

Disclosure: I was sent this wine free of charge for review purposes. I have not been compensated by the winery in any other way. Please keep mind mind that I would never recommend a wine that I would not purchase myself. In fact, I like this wine so much that, indeed, I’m ordering six bottles from my wine seller.



Print Friendly