Here's a scenario: You’ve got a hankering for roast chicken, either from your favorite takeout, a restaurant, or from your own oven.
Mine would be Judy Rodger’s justly famous bird with bread and arugula salad from her masterful “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant.”
The beautiful thing about roast chicken is that it pairs with both red and white wines. Nothing too intense and certainly no reds with massive tannins. But other than that, wine choices can cover a broad spectrum.
Here are some reds to break out for that golden-skinned chicken. (Use Wine-Searcher to find wine shops near you carrying these bottles.)
Delicious and peppery
2010 Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc (California): Lang & Reed’s 2010 Cabernet Franc has it all — a gorgeous red-violet color, beautiful texture, a taste of cherries, forest and smoke. This one, an assemblage of four vineyards from Lake County to Napa Valley, is refined and subtle, with ripe tannins and a lovely finish. From $19 to $23.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2012 Le Paradis Chinon or 2011 Charles Joguet “Les Petites Roches” Chinon.
Delicate and ready to drink now
2012 McKinlay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (Oregon): A pretty Pinot Noir from a small family winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley tasting of bright, juicy cherries and gentle spices. McKinlay’s 2012 Pinot Noir is silky and balanced, ready to drink now, or to tuck away for a rainy day. Winemaker Matt Kinney works with native yeasts and has a very light touch with oak. He also bottles unfined and unfiltered. About $20.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2012 Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
Fresh and vivid
2011 David Sterza Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso (Veneto, Italy): When Sterza inherited the family estate in 1998 he opted not to sell the grapes as his family had done for generations, but to make and bottle his own wine. Good move: Sterza is producing terrific Amarone and Valpolicella, both great values. Fresh and vivid, his Valpolicella tastes of ripe dark berries, earth and smoke. About $20.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2009 Masi Campofiorin or 2009 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso.
2010 J. Christopher Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Oregon): The winery founded by guitarist Jay Somers really found its focus when German winemaker Ernie Loosen (Dr. Loosen) became a partner a few years ago. Made from grapes grown in four of the Willamette Valley’s AVAs -- Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity Hills -- J. Christopher’s 2010 is silky and nuanced, tasting of plums, blueberries and forest. An elegant expression of Oregon Pinot Noir. From $27 to $30.
If you can’t find this one, look for one of the winery’s single-vineyard bottlings or 2011 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
2011 Jean Foillard Morgon "Côte de Py" (Beaujolais, France): I could drink a bottle of this Morgon “Côte de Py” from Jean Foillard every week with the greatest of pleasure. It’s soft and unctuous, tasting of prunes and dried cherries. A voluptuous cru Beaujolais made with painstaking care. The organically farmed vines from the famed “Côte de Py” range from 10 all the way up to 90 years of age. A very serious Gamay. From $32 to $39.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2012 Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon or 2012 Domaine Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon “Côte de Py.”
2012 Stolpman Vineyards La Cuadrilla Ballard Canyon red wine (Central Coast, California): A deep garnet in color, this Rhone-style wine tastes of juicy dark berries and sun-baked herbs. It has a beautiful balance, even an elegance that belies its $20 price tag. The best thing? The profits all go to Stolpman Vineyard’s vineyard crew.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2009 or 2010 Larner Vineyard Samsara Grenache Santa Ynez Valley or Villa San-Juliette "Fat Monk" Pinot Noir.
Young and supple
2010 Cune Rioja Crianza (Rioja, Spain): A classic young Rioja from one of the region’s historic estates. Aromatic, easy-drinking and supple, with just the right weight for a roast chicken. One of Spain’s great values. About $10.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2005 López de Hereda Viña Cubillo Crianza or 2008 Luis Cañas Rioja Crianza.
Inexpensive but vibrant
2008 Allegrini “Palazzo della Torre” Veronese (Veneto, Italy): Allegrini’s “Palazzo della Torre” has long been a favorite of mine for its depth and complexity. The fruit is ripe and vibrant accented with sweet spices, licorice, chocolate and tobacco. Pay attention to how this Valpolicella develops in the glass, opening up and showing new layers over an evening. About $15.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2009 Masi Campofiorin.
All around geniality
2011 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France): Still run by the Geoffray family, which purchased the estate at the end of the 19th century, Château Thivin has vineyards planted with mostly 50-year-old Gamay vines, one reason their wines have such character. With its bright fruit, luscious texture and all around geniality, Thivin’s Côte de Brouilly goes down very easy. About $23.
If you can’t find this one, look for 2011 Georges DuBoeuf Château de Nervers Brouilly.
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