Read Between the Wines – 2014 Rooster Hill Estate Gewurztraminer and Garlic Chicken with Orzo Noodles

Everyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite things to do is drink a good bottle of wine, but I’m not a wine snob (no, really I’m not!).  Wine doesn’t have to be $50 a bottle to be absolutely delicious.  As a matter of fact, I love trying out wines that are under $15 a bottle.  When I find one that’s exceptional, I feel like I’ve discovered a gem and I can’t wait to share it with the world.  I also try to pay attention to the style of wines my friends like to drink, so that I can make sure to have their favorites on hand when we get together.  For example, I know that Amber likes sweet wines like Moscato, Larry’s favorite is a dry Bordeaux, Livia prefers Champagne, and Kathy enjoys a good Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  When I discover a wine that I know one of my friends will love, I feel like I’m giving them a gift when I introduce it to them.  It’s great to compare their first tastings to mine, to see what flavors their palettes pick up.

Because of this need to share, my friend Melanie suggested I write some periodic posts about the really good wines that I drink, so I can convey my obsession to the world! I thought that if I’m going to discuss good wines, I should also pair them with good recipes; I know many people will only drink wine in combination with a meal.  My husband is one of these people, so for my first wine/ meal pairing, I decided to review one of my husband’s favorite dishes, along with a wine from one of our favorite wineries.

First, the wine…. 

My husband and I love visiting the Finger Lakes of Central New York.  Not only is the scenery beautiful, but the lakes are home to some of the country’s best wineries, breweries, and distilleries.  If you are in New York State for business or pleasure and you are a wine lover, you have to taste in the Finger Lakes!  One of the wineries we love to visit is Rooster Hill Vineyards which is on Keuka Lake in Penn Yan, New York. Their wines are frequently reviewed in Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast , and have won awards for both their reds and whites.  One of these award-winners is their 2014 Estate Gewurztraminer.  It recently won the Silver Medal at the 2016 Finger Lakes International, and it’s only $17.99 per bottle.  An awesome price for a wine this good!  Many people are afraid to try Gewurztraminer because it is often referred to as “spicy.”  In reality, many Gewurztraminers have hints of ginger, and this is what the palette picks up.  This wine is no exception.  The bouquet presents pear and floral notes, with traces of citrus.  There are suggestions of ginger when the wine first hits my taste buds, but the finish is smooth and slightly creamy.  Gewurztraminers are often recommended to be served with spicy Thai and Szechuan dishes because they balance out the heat.  This wine definitely balanced the strength of the garlic in the orzo.  Rooster Hill’s 2014 Estate Gewurztraminer is a great place to start if you have never tried this style of wine before and want a nice bottle of wine to go with a spicy meal.  You can order it directly from the winery, but it is also sold at many retail wine stores.…and now the food!

I need to start out by saying that if you love garlic, this is the recipe for you!  The other nice thing about it is it’s really easy to make.  I get tired of making the same old thing week after week.  This recipe switches things up a bit, using orzo instead of the typical spaghetti noodle I would usually turn to while making dinner on a weeknight.  Cooking the orzo in chicken broth gives it a nice flavor as well.  To make this recipe even easier, I use the precooked chicken strips so I only have to heat them up in the garlic/red pepper/oil mixture.  I also buy the prewashed baby spinach to save myself another step.  This meal cooks up in about 15 minutes, which is perfect when I’m tired from shuttling my teenagers around town for their after school activities. This recipe serves a family of four, but it’s very easy to double for a bigger family.  Plus, when you plate it and put grated parmesan on top, it looks like a dish you would get in a five star restaurant!

I hope you enjoy both the wine and the meal, and feel free to let me know your impressions of both.

Cheers and bon appetit!

Recipe adapted from

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts – cut into bite-size pieces
salt (or chicken bouillon) to taste
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. (I usually cook mine in chicken stock, it isn’t necessary, but it definitely gives some added flavor.) Add orzo pasta, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the garlic and red pepper 1 minute, until garlic is golden brown. Stir in chicken, season with salt, and cook 2 to 5 minutes, until lightly browned and juices run clear. Reduce heat to medium, and mix in the cooked orzo. Place spinach in the skillet. Continue cooking 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.