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Ohio wine, sheep industry bring Lamb Jam back home
Ohio Correspondent

HAMILTON, Ohio — At the Lamb Jam 2013, hosted by Hanover Winery, “foodies” had the perfect opportunity to taste wine paired with lamb prepared several different ways and to meet with the winery hosts, Butler County lamb producers and a chef – all in a delightful outdoor setting.

“The American Lamb Board has put these Lamb Jam events together throughout the country at big markets – Boston, Washington D.C., Seattle and San Francisco,” said Nick Forrest, past chair of the American Lamb Board and a Butler County lamb producer. “We’ve had producers in smaller areas who wanted to have a Lamb Jam in their state.”

Those Lamb Jams in the big markets cost $40,000-$50,000 to put on, he said. So, the Lamb Board put together a kit producers can request from its members to put on their own Lamb Jam. Colorful booth awnings, signage, a rack of pamphlets and even free samples from a Lamb Jam kit, were in place at the winery.
“Any producer has the opportunity to do their own Lamb Jam on a smaller scale in their community,” Forrest explained.

Producers from the Butler County Lamb and Wool Board – Melissa Ackerman, Danny Burkholder, Sam and Eggy Casey, Kathy Forrest, Debbie Roell and Ruthann Young – distributed food samples and talked with visitors.

“We can give our experiences on how we raise the lambs, we can answer questions about how they’re raised and do we eat lamb, and how we like to fix it,” Burkholder said.

“Overall, the lamb business is good. Lamb prices are a little soft right now. We’ve enjoyed a couple of really good years, but we’re not where we were 10 or 15 years ago when the prices were really bad. I think the outlook is positive.”

Guests were positive as they gathered around the cooking booth when Chef Debbie G. Goulding – executive chef at Kroger’s and president of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of Les Chefs de Cuisine – prepared, among other things, lamb chops and a roasted corn salad.

“We’re always promoting what is local, and all of the products that we used here on the table come from your local Kroger’s,” Goulding told them. “I love lamb. We are showing people not to be afraid of it, and how to prepare the lamb racks.

“Put a basic marinade or dry rub on it and them just throw it on the grill, cut it apart and eat it. It can’t be much easier.”

Hanover Winery, opened in 2008, has beautiful gardens and tables arranged around a pond. Owners Eddie and Beth McDonald offered a tasting of wines that paired well with lamb.

The couple have seen their business grow from having their wine placed in just a few retail locations, to the current 51 stores. They’ve gone from fermenting 800 gallons to approximately 10,000 a year. And they just won five medals at an international competition in New York. Their apple wine, a blend of seven Ohio grown apples, is popular.

They liked the idea of the Lamb Jam and supporting local businesses.

“Because of people supporting our local business, it has allowed us to place our products into a lot of different townships and other areas,” said Eddie. “It’s been really neat how people come out and tell us they’ve never been here before, and then they come back and come back, so we draw dollars into Hanover Township.”
For information on how to get a Lamb Jam kit, call Rae Maestas or Courtney Quinn at 866-327-5262 or email them at or courtney