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No lyin’ in winter: Pair a roast chicken with red wine

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The convergence of the Super Bowl and Groundhog Day might actually affirm winter is half dead. For those whose glass is half full, that means several more opportunities to ski, a football party to plan and even better clearance sales on winter gear than on December 26. The half-empty types would just as soon have all groundhogs (and weatherman?) annihilated – or perhaps wish similar ill will on the Super Bowl halftime show participants.

But Chicago Budget Wine Examiner – whose glass is usually graced with value-priced refills of any size – can empathize with both outlooks. And, there’s always a wine to suggest for those who scowl, smile or smirk.

One meal that can restore the aroma of the holidays (imagine: there was actually a portion of winter that was embraced), and add a therapeutic touch is a luscious roast chicken. Not quite the undertaking of roast turkey – and a terrific crown jewel for any Super Bowl party – a tasty yard bird can pluck the S.A.D. crowd from the ledge.

“Roast Chicken is often my go-to [choice] at a new restaurant,” says Sandeep Ghaey, owner of Vinic Wine Company in north-suburban Evanston. “I often find it a true reflection of the chef’s skill and style.”

Now, many people might think the white meat of poultry demands a white wine – which is usually chilled in CBWE’s house. But, even those with a sunny disposition would be nonplussed to drink an arctic blast of Sauvignon Blanc after removing their ski boots.

Actually, roast chicken is ideally served with a red wine – which doesn’t require a spell in the snow (or close proximity to the oven, either).

“Red wine pairing options are almost limitless,” Ghaey adds. “While a traditional pairing is always Pinot Noir, I like to mix it up a bit.”

Not all reds are roast-chicken-friendly; avoid the tannic Tannats and Cabernets. But, a nimble, fruit-forward varietal, such as Grenache/Garnacha, or the tried-and-true Pinot Noir, helps accentuate the flavors of the bird without beating it up. Some other obscure red varietals can be delightful, too – such as a lighter Bonarda, or even a Lemberger from Washington State. Downsize the bird a notch, and enjoy a slightly more flavorful Cornish Hen for a different twist (although this might be tedious for a Super Bowl party...).

Below are some suggestions:

La Granacha Cotes-du-Rhone Vieilles Vignes: Really, CBWE should be getting this one by the case, instead of wimping out with single-bottle purchases. An earthy, fruit-forward beauty – it’s a steal at $13. It features a complex aroma of cedar, spice and raspberry, with raspberry flavors continuing on the palate. The finish is dry and clean. Great with a classic, roasted bird, basted in butter/olive oil and thyme or parsley. A little bacon fat wouldn’t hurt either.

Two Mountains Lemberger, Washington State: “It has a lot of the appeal in that it’s light enough that it won’t clobber the chicken’s flavor,” Ghaey says, adding: “It has just a bit more heft to it and often expresses a nice herbiness that will pair with a traditional preparation at ease. It’s also a killer pairing for turkey, duck and Cornish Hen.” $16.

Terum Garnacha: Although it’s the “penny wine” of the group (under $10), there’s a supple, poultry-friendly character that’s usually more evident in wines far more expensive. It’s surprising complexity can pivot from a supermarket fryer to free-range birds – and even those with a little more game. $9.

The Crossings Pinot Noir: Originally, this New Zealand Pinot Noir was introduced to CBWE as a pairing with the little-big-mannish Olympia oyster. But the Burgundian quality of The Crossings’ effort from Awatere Valley, Marlborough, is really something special. Not inexpensive, but the French houses that charge twice as much should be quaking in their boots at the approach of this bright, taut and nimble Pinot from the South Island. Try it with a roast chicken and herbed mushrooms. $17.

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