If you have never tried a wine from Hanzell Vineyards, you have been missing out! This historic and iconic winery is located in Sonoma County, California and has been making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from estate grown fruit for over 55 years. Two weeks ago my husband and I had the great fortune to spend time with Zakk Murphy, an estate educator at Hanzell. He welcomed us to the beautiful property where the winery is located and then drove us high up into their vineyards located on the hillside of the Mayacamas mountain range, overlooking the valley of Sonoma. We chatted about the history of the winery which was started in 1957 by J.D. Zellerbach who found inspiration on his travels to Burgundy and subsequently became comitted to "produce wines equal to the best in the world". We learned about the Hanzell farming and winemaking philosophy of sustainability and respect for the land, all while tasting soon to be harvested grapes, right off the vine. After the driving tour, we headed back to the winery to taste the newly released, flagship Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both 2013s. These wines are made from grapes taken off older vines from the most esteemed vineyards and are complex and age-worthy. We also tasted the 2014 Hanzell Sebella Chardonnay. The name comes from a combination of the current owner's (Alexander de Brye) two children's names, Sebastian and Isabella. The Sebella Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are made mostly from grapes of the younger vines on their estate and have a wonderful freshness and minerality to them while still feeling slightly creamy and round on the palate. Zakk was nice enough to send us off into that beautiful, sunny California day with a bottle of the 2014 Hanzell Sebella Chardonnay.
Fast forward two weeks later and I am sitting in my backyard sipping and enjoying that wine! Earlier in the day I had decided to make a chicken, rice and caramelized onion dish, perfumed with the flavors of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. The Sebella chardonnay was sitting there cold in my fridge, calling out to me! I thought, this could be a perfect pairing. The flavor from the chicken skin, along with the vibrant seasonings would create a dish with a bit of spice and richness to it. This chardonnay, with it's stony minerality, racy acidity and bright citrus flavors would cut through all that. The wine also has a full-bodied, silky mouthfeel with a lingering finish of honey and tropical fruits which would not shy away from, but compliment the intense flavors in the dish.
If you are ever in Sonoma, California I highly recommend visiting Hanzell winery. In the meantime, perhaps you would like to pair their Sebella Chardonnay with my recipe below!
Chicken and Rice with Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves
Adapted from a verbal recipe by my friend, Sebastian Hampson
8 chicken thighs, with bone and skin, or 1 whole chicken, cut up
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cardamom
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cloves, ground
2 medium onions, chopped
1 & 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 & 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup craisins
2 tablespoons each of chopped cilantro, mint, dill, parsley (optional, whichever ones you prefer)
1 cup greek yoghurt mixed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (optional)
1) Place chicken in a large bowl, rub 2 tablespoons of the oil and the kosher salt all over the chicken. Mix together the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture all over the chicken. This can be done several hours beforehand or right at the last minute if you don't have time to wait.
2) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over high heat until shimmering. Add chicken and sauté until browned, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate.
3) Reduce heat to low and add onions to the pan. Sauté until deeply browned, stirring frequently, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in rice, chicken stock, craisins and 1 teaspoon salt. Return chicken and any juices to the pan. Cover and cook on a very low heat for 25 minutes.
4) Serve with herbs of your choice as well as a dollop of the yogurt/oil mixture per serving