Appellation: Rioja Crianza DOCa
Pairing: Lechazo
Sommelier: Sean Dolenuck, La Boutique del Vino


About the Sommelier: Sean Dolenuck is a professional Sommelier and restaurant specialist with La Boutique del Vino. He holds the Professional Sommelier Diploma from CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers) as well as a Diploma in Hotel and Restaurant management from SAIT (Calgary), and has been involved in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, specializing in fine dining. Sean has worked at some of the best restaurants in both Calgary and Winnipeg. His passion for wine and the hospitality industry moved him to Winnipeg for his sommelier studies, and that opened the door to his current position as a Manager of Licensee Sales with La Boutique del Vino.

He offers sommelier service including developing wine lists, marketing, training staff and management, cost controls and implementing sales strategies. Sean was awarded the Best Sommelier of Manitoba title for 2015 and 2016 and competed at the Best Sommelier of Canada competition in Toronto, in March 2015. In January Sean joined the CAPS Manitoba Executive Board as Vice President and looks forward to assisting and education both current and future Sommeliers.


About the Pairing: Rioja is home to the Tempranillo grape known for its upfront easy drinking and juicy red fruit profile.  Crianza is the designation taking Tempranillo to the next level with the addition of 12 months spent rest in oak barrels and some bottle aging to soften the tannin structure. 

Classic Crianza from producers such as Ontanon and Lopez de Haro is a perfect pairing for Lechazo (young lamb), which is traditionally roasted over vine cuttings.  The wines provide an excellent framework of bright strawberry, preserved cherry, and licorice flavours to match the crisp golden skin and delicate light gamey notes. There is balance to the refreshing acidity which complements the delicate creamy meat. The addition of Garnacha in the blend assists with the cinnamon and pepper spice and the 12 months in oak bring a smooth vanilla profile balanced with cedar and sweet tobacco which completes the smoky sensory experience of the lamb cooked over the vine cuttings.

Rioja Inspired Lamb Chops with Roasted Garlic Ajo

4 Servings

1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper, finely cracked
12 small lamb rib chops
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roasted, finely chopped
Pinch salt
1 egg yolk
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Patatas Fritas, to serve

Directions: In a bowl, combine rosemary, pimenton, sugar, salt and pepper. Rub olive oil over lamb chops. Dredge chops in spice mixture. Set a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Sear for 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness is achieved. Transfer to a plate to rest before serving. To make the roasted garlic ajo, place garlic, pinch salt, egg yolk, lemon juice and Dijon mustard in a bowl. Drop by drop, whisk in extra virgin olive oil.  Be careful not to add the oil too quickly as it won’t emulsify. The ajo should be rich and creamy. Serve lamb with roasted garlic ajo and patatas fritas (French fries).

*Cru by CAPS & the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers would like to thank and acknowledge the Rioja DOCs and other funding partners for supporting the production of this content.