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Virtual Navarra: Spicy Lamb Meatballs + Viña Zorzal Graciano 2018 #WorldWineTravel

Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles is hosting the World Wine Travel bloggers this month as we head, virtually, to Navarra. You can read her invitation here.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to jump in on our Twitter chat. We'll be gathering at 8am Pacific time on Saturday, September 25th. Just follow the hashtag #WorldWineTravel and be sure to add it to whatever you tweet so we can see here. Here's the #WorldWineTravel bloggers' virtual trip to Navarra. 
Back in April 2018 the #WinePW bloggers took another trip to Navarra and I shared Pacific Rock Crab Claws + 2016 Otazu Merlot Rosado. Navarra is a region best known for its annual Running of the Bulls - locally called Sanfermines - a festival that transforms Pamplona's narrow streets into the site of much revelry and rosado.

The region is also revered for its fresh products, including asparagus, piquillo peppers, artichokes, and sheep-milk cheeses such as Roncal and Idiazába. If I ever make it there, I hope I can wrangle an invitation to one of their sociedades gastronomicas, private gastronomy clubs.

Viña Zorzal Graciano 2018

As for me, I was able to get my hands on a bottle of Viña Zorzal Graciano 2018. Viña Zorzal is located in the Southern part of the Navarra DO, almost adjacent to the border of Rioja and it belongs to a larger winemaking house called Vinícola Corellana that was founded by Antonio Sanz in 1989. Sanz has always focused on environmental sustainability and embracing historical, indigenous grape varieties.

But it wasn't until Antonio's sons Xabier, Iñaki and Mikel joined the family business that vineyards became fully organic and a more dedicated program to historical grapes.

Graciano is a Spanish red wine grape that is grown primarily in Rioja and thrives in warm, arid areas. These grapes were grown in the village of Corella before being fermented in stainless steel before being aged in French oak barrels for nine months.

The Viña Zorzal poured a clear ruby color. On the nose, there were intense aromas of black fruits; I jotted down currant and blackberries. But it was the twist of black pepper and earthy cedar that made this wine intriguing. On the palate, the wine boasted soft tannins and a medium body. What a delicious Graciano!

Spicy Lamb Meatballs 

Earthy, minerally, and spicy wines always make me think of lamb. And, as the weather turns colder, braised meats and meatballs are a family favorite.

Ingredients makes approximately 18 meatballs

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon capers
  • Also needed: baking sheet, parchment paper, fresh herbs for garnish (I used fresh thyme)

  • 2 organic onions, peeled and cubed
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup wine (I used some leftover red)
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground salt, as needed
  • freshly ground pepper, as needed

About an hour before you want to cook - or longer if you need to - place the raisins and anchovies in a small container. Pour the vinegar over the top and let stand. When you're ready to cook, place the raisins, anchovies, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to break down the raisins.

Place the ground lamb in a mixing bowl along with the raisin mixture. Add the garlic and capers. Use your hands to mix everything together until well-incorporated.

Form meatballs and place them on the prepared baking sheet while you make the sauce.

In a large skillet, warm a glug or two of olive oil. Add in the onions and raisins. Cook until the onions and cook until they begin to soften and turn translucent.

Pour in the sauce and wine. Stir to combine and lay the slices of tomatoes over the top. Cover the pan and simmer until the meatballs are ready. Spoon the sauce into a blender or food processor and gently pulse to break up the larger pieces. Return the sauce to the pan and simmer until thickened slightly.

Stir in the aged balsamic vinegar. Drop the meatballs into the sauce. Simmer until frim and cooked. Turn to coat the meatballs with the thickened sauce.

I served the meatballs with roasted cauliflower and a crisp slaw of purple cabbage.

Well, that's a wrap on the Navarra event for the #WorldWineTravel bloggers. We will be back next month with Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog leading the discussion of Andalusia. Stay tuned.


  1. I too would love to go get an invitation to a sociedades gastronomica. Now, I'm trying to recall which other region had these private gastronomic societies. At any rate, your lamb meatball look and sound fantastic!

  2. I was thinking about those gastronomic societies like Martin. I remember seeing something about one on a wine documentary. They seem to be popular in Northern Spain.
    These meatballs sound delicious. Since I don't eat lamb, can you suggest another protein that would work?

    1. Robin, I think you can use any protein. Do you eat beef? Or even turkey? Either would work.

  3. I love this wine! I used to sell it and it was so good at the price point. I also couldn't agree with you more about braising more as the weather starts to get chilly. Sounds like an awesome combo.


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