Now that it is officially New Year’s Resolution season, I am glad to be able to write about a relatively light and healthy meal. I have not made an actual resolution, but common sense tells me that I cannot continue to gorge myself on highly caloric feasts and treats like I did during the holidays. While this month’s grilled chicken shawarma recipe provides a tasty step toward more healthful eating, I don’t think we should go overboard and deprive ourselves of too many things that are delicious and satisfying. Therefore, the addition of Chardonnay to the meal makes for a pleasurable return to sensible eating. Pairing this chicken with a balanced, high quality Chardonnay will certainly help to ease the pain of shedding the “holiday heft”.
Chardonnay is a very versatile white grape and this versatility has led Chardonnay to become our region’s most widely planted wine grape varietal – a distinction which it has held for quite some time. The grape’s popularity and adaptability has led to a very wide array of Chardonnay styles being produced, ranging from light, crisp versions devoid of any influence from oak barrels on through to very rich, robust and oak backed “butter bombs”. You may hear other terms such bright, tart, floral, citrus, vanilla, stone fruit, tropical, melon, honey, toast and marshmallow used to describe the flavors and aromas along the spectrum of wines made with this malleable grape.
Chardonnay grapes are the backbone of the renowned White Burgundy wines from France, as well as being a major component (and sometimes the only grape varietal) used in Champagne. Aside from Europe, distinctive bottlings of Chardonnay are also produced in South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and of course, California. Indeed, some of the finest versions in the world come from right here in Sonoma County with many of the most famous coming from the Carneros, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Petaluma Gap AVAs. Our local examples are typically more full-bodied than the offerings from France, but as I alluded to earlier, there is a very wide range of styles available from our local vintners. I would recommend a more balanced, middle-of-the-road style of local Chardonnay for this month’s recipe in order to meld with the warm spice flavors from the shawarma seasoning and to have enough acid to marry with the richness of the yogurt and olive oil. You’ll also want enough body and substance to be there as your palate works its way through the various flavors and textures of the bread, dairy, vegetable and protein stages of each bite of this delicious, healthy meal.
Start your year off right with a light and delicious meal enriched by the presence of a bottle of world-class, local Chardonnay. Cheers!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or www.JamesFamilyCellars.com