Letters from Lodi

An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.

Randy Caparoso
March 16, 2012 | Randy Caparoso

For chicken cooked in wine: bountiful Lodi whites to choose from

Spring on the brink in Michael-David Winery's garden

stirs the spring, happiness
bursts through the earth like a plant…
- Pablo Neruda

‘Tis the season of transition, here at the end of winter and the start of spring.  At the table, our taste for red wines goes from heavier (like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah) to lighter (like Garnacha, Primitivo or lighter Zinfandels); or better yet, directly into cool, refreshing white wines.

In the kitchen we start to make changes, too – from red meats to whites, from cooked vegetables to salads.  Here’s an idea for an ideal transitional dish:  coq au vin blanc – a classic French inspired stew of chicken, onions and mushrooms, cooked in lighter white wine rather than a dark, heavy red.

The good life at Abundance Vineyards

The good thing about chicken cooked in white wine?  It not only goes great with white wine, it is extremely versatile with almost any type of white wine.  When matched with Lodi grown white wines retaining tiny bits of residual sugar, for instance, the sweetness imparted by the onions in dish’s broth becomes all the more delicious.  For example:

  • The ever-popular, tropical scented Ironstone Obsession Lodi Symphony ($8)
  • Or the lush, exotically fruity Abundance Lodi Bountiful Blanc ($14)

Which makes white wines with fruity aromas, but tasting pretty much dry on the palate, possibly even better.  Perfect examples:

  • The peachy, mildly musk spiced Loredona Lodi Viognier ($10)
  • The flowery and lemon scented St. Jorge Lodi Verdelho ($18)
  • The citrusy fresh and flinty Bokisch Terra Alta Vineyard Clements Hills Albariño ($16)
  • The downright musky, mineral laced Uvaggio Lodi Moscato Secco ($16)
  • The green melon, grass and grapefruit nuanced LangeTwins Lodi Sauvignon Blanc ($13)
  • Or else the salaciously fruit forward, peach pie-like Michael-David Lodi Seven Heavenly Chards ($14)

Perhaps the best wines of all for chicken cooked in white wine?  Bone dry whites with aromas veering more towards earthy, stony or minerally qualities, rather than perfumey fruit, which brings out the wonderfully earthy tastes imparted by the mushrooms, bacon and garlic in the dish.  Ideally,

  • The moderately weighted, smoothly dry Uvaggio Lodi Vermentino ($14)
  • The stone, lemon and lavender scented Grands Amis Lodi Pinot Grigio ($15)
  • Or the elegantly understated, crisp yet creamy textured The Lucas Estate Lodi Chardonnay ($33)


… so many wonderful Lodi grown choices for this tried-and-true spring dish.  Our version:

Rihana’s Coq au Vin Blanc

8 pieces chicken thighs (mostly) and legs (or one 5 lb. chicken, cut in serving pieces)
24-30 pearl onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 oz. bacon strips or slab, squared or cubed
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 bottle (750 ML) white wine (preferably same or similar to what you are drinking)
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 medium carrots, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6-8 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock or broth

Feathered friend at Phillips Farms

Cut off root end of each pearl onion and make an “x” with knife in its place. Bring 2-3 cups water to boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove onions from pot, allow to cool, and peel (onions should slide right out of skin). Set aside.

Blanch bacon briefly in boiling water; drain, and dice or cube. Fry to render fat; remove meat and set aside, and save fat for frying.

Sprinkle chicken pieces on all sides with salt and ground pepper. Place chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large (1-2 gallon) sealable plastic bag along with flour; shake to coat chicken completely. Remove chicken from bag, and fry in bacon fat, just until crust is crisp. Set chicken pieces aside.

In same pan, add pearl onions to fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, sautéing until lightly brown (approximately 8-10 minutes). Remove onions from pan and set aside. Transfer chicken into a 7-8 quart enameled cast (like Le Creuset) or cast iron Dutch oven.

Add mushrooms to the same 12 inch sauté pan, adding 1 tbsp. butter if needed, and sauté until liquid is released (approximately 5 minutes). Store onions, mushrooms and bacon in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pour off remaining fat and deglaze pan with approximately 1 cup of wine. Pour this into Dutch oven along with chicken stock, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Add all of the remaining wine. Preheat oven to 325° F.

Place chicken in oven and cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.

Once chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place in oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a sieve and degrease (discard carrots, celery, thyme, garlic and bay leaf). Return the sauce to a pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3 (depending on how much liquid you began with, this should take 20-45 minutes).

When sauce has thickened, add pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon, and cook another 15 minutes or until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary; remove from heat, add the chicken and serve.

Serve from Dutch oven with either long grained white rice or lightly buttered egg noodles. (note:  if sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together, starting with 1 tbsp. each; whisk this in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, and repeat if necessary).

Michael-David Winery, March 2012



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