Which Wine with Roast Chicken?

With a houseful of guests over the holidays, I thought a nice roast chicken dinner would be easy, pretty, and a healthy choice in advance of all the rich foods ahead.  I picked out two very nice wines to serve with the chicken, I was curious to see if one would prove to be a better match.

Two lovely wines, which one was the best match?

Two lovely wines, which one was the best match?

Since we would be seven people at dinner, we needed a couple of chickens and plenty of vegetables to roast with the birds.  The major ingredients for our dinner are shown below.  The squash didn’t make the cut.  I would like to have included it, but there simply wasn’t enough room in the pans!

Ingredients for a one pan roast chicken

Ingredients for a one pan roast chicken

The chicken preparation is pretty easy.  The herbs are chopped, mixed with garlic and a bit of oil, then stuffed between the breast and the skin of the birds.  The cavities are stuffed with quartered fresh lemons.  The chicken that results is moist and well infused with herb flavor.  Nice!

Herbs between the skin and breast, cavity stuffed with lemon

Herbs between the skin and breast, cavity stuffed with lemon

The chicken sits on a bed of all the other vegetables after they have been quartered.  The preparation couldn’t be much simpler.  Now, to the oven.

Stuffed chicken ready for the oven

Stuffed chicken ready for the oven

Considering the red wine for dinner, I knew we should stay with a light to medium bodied red wine.  Choices included Pinot Noir, Grenache, or a Rhone blend on the lighter side.  Many Cotes du Rhones would fit the bill here, you would just need to find one that is not too ripe and rich.  

Gramercy Cellars Olsen Vineyard Grenache 2010 ($42)
Color is a medium garnet red, translucent
Nose: Strawberries and a bit of pepper.  Typical Grenache, bright and aromatic.
Mouth: Fruity, lively, not too tannic. A very nice moderate body red wine.  If you want to have a red wine with a roast chicken, this Grenache is a good choice.

Grenache: a nice choice for a roast bird

Gramercy Cellars Grenache: a nice choice for a roast bird

Choosing a white wine for this meal was a bit of a challenge.  We’re well into winter in Minnesota, and we’re eating hearty foods; not a time for whites as lean and crisp as Sauvignon Blanc.  Perhaps a Chardonnay?  One problem with Chardonnay for this meal: you need something full bodied, but not oaky.  We have been trying some American versions of Rhone white wines this fall and winter, and having good success.  We decided to try a wine from a winery new to us, Two Shepherds.  I became acquainted with Two Shepherds during my brief visit to Sonoma in November, I’ll add a writeup from my visit soon.

Two Shepherds Viognier (Saralee’s Vineyard) 2011 ($24)
Eye: Warm yellow a bit cloudy (unfiltered, good!)
Nose: A bit of grapefruit & limestone, even a touch of bitterness in there somewhere (which was very nice!).
Mouth: Rich mouthfeel with good acidity.  Nice winter white.

Viognier: rich mouthfeel without a trace of oak

Two Shepherds Viognier: rich mouthfeel without a trace of oak

Which wine?
This was a tough one to write up; both wines were very nice.  They both fit the food friendly criteria perfectly.  I love Grenache based wines, especially when they show the bright strawberry/pepper side of the grape.  Both wines were very nice with the roast chicken. In the end, I thought the Two Shepherds Viognier was a slightly better match.  It was rich and full bodied, but it still had very good acidity and no oak overtones to interfere with the food.  If I were only considering a red wine, the Gramercy Cellars Grenache would be a great pick.  However, I found the red fruit flavors in the wine weren’t really reflected in the roast chicken or the vegetables.  The Two Shepherds Viognier was perfect.

Two Shepherds Viognier was a better choice with the roast chicken

Two Shepherds Viognier was a better choice with the roast chicken

Recipe – Roast Chicken with Winter Vegetables – serves 4

Preheat the oven to 425° F

  • Start with 1 broiler/fryer chicken

Chop spices, mix with oil and make a paste with the following to stuff between the skin and the breast:

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Stuff the cavity of the chicken with

  • 1 lemon, cut into pieces

Cut the following into quarters or wedges, surround the chicken in the roasting pan

  • 8 small red potatoes
  • 8 or more brussels sprouts
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/3 cup calamata olives

Total roasting time is typically around 1 hour, you want the temperature in the inner part of the chicken breast to be about 180°F

You can adjust this recipe a variety of ways; include vegetables of the season, and ones you particularly like.  I don’t think I have ever prepared this the same way twice!

8 Responses to “Which Wine with Roast Chicken?”
  1. vinoinlove says:

    I’ll remember that recipe for the next time when I cook Chicken! Looks delicious 🙂

  2. Wow, Jeff – this looks wonderful. Next time you visit (come barrel taste!) come to the house and cook! 🙂 Glad you liked the Viognier – i think its a unique Viognier, and a great winter white as well. Sadly its all sold out so cherish any left! cheers from Two Shepherds!

    • William, thanks so much! We will definitely take you up on the offer to barrel taste on our next trip. Cooking would be a real treat; if you ever find yourself in Minneapolis, give us a call!

  3. Really great approach to the reviews–I like the juxtaposition of the two wines essentially competing for the best pairing–great job!

  4. cylimon says:

    We didn’t get a chance to try the Viognier on our last visit because as William said, it’s all sold out. His other wines were spectacular though. I could imagine most of them being a good match for the chicken actually!

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