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June 23, 2021
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The Perfect Pairing

Jeff James
Sauvignon Blanc and Baked Parmesan Chicken
April 23, 2021

Healthy eating… baked chicken breast… Sorry, I think I just dozed off. After all, this combination has been boring dieters and disappointing palates for decades. Let’s see if we can’t come up with a way to make this mix a little more interesting. Step one, add the breading, parsley and oregano called for in the recipe. Step two, add the Parmesan CHEESE in the recipe… now we’re getting somewhere. Step three, add some of your own favorite low-calorie herbs and spices; I chose fresh garlic and red pepper flakes, and I can also imagine that Dijon mustard, coriander seed, chopped olives or capers would all be good additions. Step four, pair this dish with a high-quality, locally produced Sauvignon Blanc. Step aside Doctor so-and-so, Malibu, Cave man, Keto, etc., I think I might just be starting the latest diet fad!

Sauvignon Blanc is a widely planted white grape, with excellent wines being produced from vineyards in France, New Zealand and Australia, Chile, South Africa and California. Here in our home state, some of the very best examples of this varietal come from the Dry Creek Valley, Chalk Hill, Napa Valley and Lake County. This versatile grape can produce a wide range of wines, depending on where the grapes are grown and how the juice is handled in the winery. Sauvignon Blanc wines can be produced with or without the use of oak or other wood inputs. Those fermented and/or aged in oak barrels will show more richness and body than wines which have not had any exposure to wood, and Sauvignon Blanc which has been vinified in stainless steel or concrete tanks will typically exhibit more fresh crispness, bright acidity and expressive fruit. 

Though chicken breast can sometimes turn out dry due to its natural lack of fat, this month’s preparation should thwart much of that risk through the coating and the cheese, and the acidity and fruitiness in the wine will help to overcome that propensity. The versatility of Sauvignon Blanc can also combine nicely with many different variations of this recipe. Skip the bread coating and bake the chicken in cream of mushroom soup, no problem. Add some diced tomatoes and green chilies, that’ll work. The wine can easily hold up to some spice, some umami, some saltiness. Let your imagination go wild, and most importantly, pick up a couple of bottles from different local producers and do a comparative tasting. One style, one site, one price point might go perfectly with this version of Baked Parmesan Chicken and the other bottle might just inspire your next version of this healthy dish. 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