The cold, wet and short days we’ve been experiencing lately really call for warm roasted foods with deep and comforting flavors. Foods that fit this description are often enhanced when accompanied by a wine that has enough body and structure to prop up the food without overpowering it. The moderate body, ample fruit and bright acidity of a fine Sangiovese will have that effect on this month’s recipe while also adding to the warmth that the dish and your oven will bring to your home.
Sangiovese grapes originated in Italy, and indeed, are the most widely planted wine grape in that country. Argentina, Chile and Australia also have acreage dedicated to this versatile grape. Sangiovese has been grown in California since the 1800s when Italian immigrants planted them to bring a little taste of their motherland to their new home. Sonoma and Napa Counties, as well as the Sierra foothills have been producing Sangiovese grapes in varying quantities ever since then. The central coast of California and Washington state are now growing an increasing amount of the varietal and starting to make some highly rated wines as a result.
While you don’t necessarily think of chicken on its own as a deeply flavorful meat, the version presented in this recipe does pack in quite a bit for your taste buds to explore. The bone-in, skin-on thighs are naturally more flavorful than breast meat and the harissa, spices, onion and marinara sauce really add some additional layers of flavors to the dish. I would suggest adding a head of garlic to the roasting pan to provide another comforting treat to your meal. Sangiovese, with its naturally high acidity and moderate to elevated tannins can stand up to the food’s complexity and the intriguing fruit flavors in the wine are very good at bringing out additional nuances. The fruit profile of Sangiovese often tends toward cherry and plum and red berries while the aromas and ancillary flavors often bring to mind leather, tobacco and herbs. This meal will taste great with a glass of water, but will be exponentially better with a nice glass of Sangiovese.
Embrace the season by turning the oven on and filling your home with wonderful aromas, filling your plate with hearty seasonal foods, then launch it to the next level by filling your glass with a delicious and local Sangiovese. 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@JamesFamilyCellers.com or 707-548-2294. Visit their website at www.JamesFamilyCellers.com