Cooking to the Wine: Brendan Stater-West Saumur Les Chapaudaises and Chicken Thighs with Apples and Onions #Winophiles

Chenin Blanc is one of those grapes with a serious range. Much like Riesling, Chenin can produce an amazing array of styles, from dry, crisp, and super minerally, to lusciously complex dessert wines, to beautiful bubblies, and everything in between. It all depends on where it’s grown and how its made.

It’s really a very fun grape. It tends to show flavors of apples, peaches, sometimes a bit of melon, and various types of citrus. The colors and condition of those fruits flavors will vary depending on the climate and how it’s handled. In addition to these fruit notes, Chenin can also show a variety of more intriguing notes like hay, mushrooms, beeswax, lanolin, and often a lactic component like cheese rind or yogurt. You might also find herbs, flowers, stones, and interesting spices notes like ginger or saffron. I compared it a bit to Riesling above, and also like Riesling, this grape tends to have naturally high acidity, the ability to age well, and its susceptible to botrytis, which opens up a whole additional world of interesting flavors. However, unlike Riesling, Chenin Blanc also takes well to oak, much like Chardonnay, which adds even more possibilities!

Map courtesy of

Its home is in France’s Loire Valley, where its first mention was as early as 845, and that’s where we’re going today. Here, it often goes by the name Pineau or Pineau de la Loire. We’ve explored Chenin from the Loire before, but last time we looked at a bubbly version from Vouvray. Today we’re moving along the Loire River a bit, to Saumur.
The Loire Valley is a long skinny region that follows its namesake river (France’s longest BTW) from pretty much the center of the country to the Atlantic Ocean. Given the length of the region, there’s are a lot of different climates and terroirs (See here for a little more info). It’s one of my favorite wine regions in France for the sheer diversity in the area and the food-friendliness of the wines. Chenin Blanc is no exception!

It’s one of the star grapes of the subregions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur (along with its red counterpart, Cabernet Franc). Anjou-Saumur is the second subregion in from the coast, so it still feel the effects of the Atlantic ocean, but not as intensely as Pay Nantais, which is right up against it. Saumur is at the eastern end of the subregion, which is close to the midpoint of the Loire, so it’s perhaps not surprising that it’s the heart of the region’s wine business.

Saumur basically sits on a big mound of Loire’s famous tuffeau soil, a soft, calcareous limestone that can be chalky to sandy. These soils dates back to the Cretaceous Era, 79 to 150 million years ago, and were formed when the Loire Valley was under an ancient sea, so you can find the fossilized seashells. You can probably guess that it adds to the minerality of the wines, and it allows for excellent drainage. It’s also the stone that was used to build many of the Loire’s gorgeous chateaux, and cellars were often built in the spots that had been quarried and hollowed out.

The AOC/AOP makes red, white, rosé, as well as sparkling wines, for which it is probably best known for. When it comes to Chenin, Saumur makes the full range of styles, but today’s is a super crisp, minerally example that’s ideal for summertime. 


I’ve actually had today’s wine and pairing waiting in the wings for quite a while. I opened this bottle of Brendan Stater-West Saumur Les Chapaudaises 2015, way back in the spring of 2018. The French Winophiles blogging group is exploring the Loire Valley this month, giving me an excuse to share it. (I have a few pairings like this, that I made a while back and are slowly materializing as posts.) 

I really love the winemaker’s story as it plays out a lot of wine geek fantasies. Brendan Stater-West is an ex-pat from Oregon who moved to Paris to be an English teacher. One of his co-workers got him hooked on wine, so much so that he ended up switching professions. He decided to go to school to study wine, and then started out working on the retail side of things. While working at a wine store, he was introduced to the wines of the famed vigneron, Romain Guiberteau, and fell in love.

During his years in France, Stater-West also met, fell in love with, and married a French woman, Eventually, the two moved to Saumur, where he was determined to get a job working with Guiberteau. He says: “I therefore harassed Romain Guiberteau and other winemakers in the area for a month, when finally, Romain gave in and accepted to take me under his wing as an apprentice. I enrolled in a BTS Viti-Oeno program and worked full-time at the domaine.”

All the hard work and determination paid off because Guiberteau eventually helped him establish his domaine by leasing him one hectare of a vineyard called Les Chapaudaises, which happened to be right next to one of Guiberteau’s most famous vineyards.

His luck continued when he met a family of winemakers with no heirs who had an old cellar. They wanted it to be active again. He bought it and went about restoring the tuffeau cave and making it his own. In 2015, he launched his own line, making this wine his inaugural vintage!

I was really impressed with the elegance and complexity of this wine. One the nose, I picked up notes of honeycomb, golden apples, peaches, lemon, and flowers. The round, golden aromas became more tart and fresh on the palate with crunchy green apples and citrus, along with savory herbs, wooly lanolin, savory umami undercurrent, chalky mineral notes, with beeswax notes and lees adding to the texture before coming to a dry, crisp finish. It was medium-bodied, with medium+ acidity.

While the wine was lovely when we had, I think it could’ve aged much longer and would’ve gained complexity. 


This wine had a lot of complexity and interesting flavors that bounced between savory and lightly sweet fruit notes. I wanted to play will combining a few of them and started with an idea of apples and onions. The rounder and more textured notes in the wine seemed like they’d work well with the toasted flavors of a light seared meat like pork, or in this case chicken thighs. I had no doubts it would also work with green and herbal flavors like kale and thyme, and I also thought I work in some spice with a hint of warming nutmeg. I ended up with a one-pan dish combining all of these elements, then added some goat cheese at the end, which I love with sauteed kale and also thought would be a natural fit for this wine. 

The resulting pairing as prepared was good, but the dish as prepared would’ve been even better for a riper New World Chenin Blanc, like you might find in South Africa, or slightly off-dry version from the Loire.  With this particular wine, the success of the pairing depended a bit on the composition of the bite. It was a fun combo in that it brought out different aspects of the wine at different times, sometimes resonating with the nutmeg, at others showcasing the wine’s minerality. It also worked quite well with the chicken and the goat cheese. However, overall, the wine worked best alongside bites with more of the greens and other savory components and less apple, as the sweetness of the fruit challenged the wine’s acidity.

The pairing with this wine could’ve been taken from good to very good/excellent with a few easy tweaks. First off, I used gold apples, but tart green varieties would’ve worked better with the wine’s bright acidity. Additionally, I was trying to bring out the golden apple aspects of the wine by cooking the apples a bit more, but ultimately their sweetness complicated matters a little too much. I suspect if I had just cooked the apples less or if I’d sliced them up more finely and quickly tossed them in with the greens as they were coming out of the pan, the apples would’ve been more harmonious with the pairing all the way through.

In the recipe below I give the option to add them at a couple of different points to suit your tastes or your Chenin Blanc. With riper, New World and off-dry styles of Chenin try gold apples and cook them longer. With crisper styles like this one, use green apples and cook them less or not at all.

I also poured the wine a little too cold, and it worked much better with the food as it warmed up, got air, and opened up to show off more of the orchard fruit, spice, and texture of the wine, as opposed to the minerality and citrus notes, which are highlighted when the wine is colder. I’d recommend pulling the wine out first of the fridge a little bit before you intend to drink it (maybe 15 to 20 minutes)  and let it warm up just a bit to showcase the widest range of flavors. 


The minerality of this wine really reminded me of Chablis, which probably isn’t surprising since the ancient seashells in the tuffeau are reminiscent of the Kimmeridgian soils in Chablis. So much like Chablis, I can see this wine matching beautifully with oysters and other light seafood.

The Loire Valley Wines website also recommends wines from Saumur with cheeses like Comté, Cantal and Beaufort, as well as fish chowder, and soufflés. 


Here are a few more details taken from the tech sheet. (You can also find lots more info here. )

Location: Bizay, near Brézé, Loire Valley
Viticulture: Lutte raisonnée, organic methods (For an explanation of these farming methods, see here.)
Vinification: Light decanting of lees, indigenous yeast alcoholic fermentation in older oak barrels, no malo, 18 months aging total, unfined, light filtration.
Alc: 12.5%


I can’t recall how much I paid for this wine, since it’s been a couple of years, however, the average price across all vintages is $39. That isn’t inexpensive, but it’s a very elegant example that carefully and thoughtfully made, and I think it has the capacity to age quite well. I’d love to see where it goes. All of that together makes this an Attainable Indulgence. 

Chicken thighs, one-pan
Servings: 5 to 6
Adapted by: Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Chicken Thighs with Apples, Onions, Kale, and Goat Cheese

Chicken Thighs with Apples, Onions, Kale, and Goat Cheese

Prep Time: 15 MCooking Time: 40 MTotal Time: 55 M
An easy one-dish meal. See notes for a few potential adaptations.


  • 5 to 6 chicken thighs (I used boneless chicken thighs on this occasion. Bone-in thighs will require about 10 minutes extra of cooking time. See notes.)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 to 2 gold or green apple(s), sliced
  • 3 to 4 sprigs of thyme,
  • 1 bunch of kale (or 1 bag), chopped
  • Olive oil, 2 Tbsp or as needed
  • Apple Cider Vinegar, ¼ cup or as needed
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 4-oz log of goat cheese, sliced into rounds or crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat a generous pour of oil (at least 2 Tbsp) in a large pan on the stove until it is shimmering. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add to the pan skin-side down and sear for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip the chicken over and sear on the second side for about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a separate plate.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and deglaze the pan with the apple cider vinegar, making sure to scrape up any browned bits. Add the sliced onions and sauté or until they’re beginning to soften. If you prefer softer, more cooked apples, add them to the pan now, then return the chicken to the pan, nestling the thigh in between the apples and onions. Add the thyme sprigs to the pan, sprinkle with the pinch of nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes
  4. After about 10 minutes, check to see if the pan has gone dry. If needed add another splash of apple cider vinegar. If you prefer less cooked apples, add them to the pan now, along with the kale, cover, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, or until the kale has wilted and turned dark green and the chicken thighs have reached an internal temperature of 165°F.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven, test the vegetables for seasoning, and adjust as needed. Serve chicken thighs on a bed of the vegetables with rounds of goat cheese on the side or crumbled on top.


If using bone-in thighs, add the chicken thighs in right after the onions have begun to soften, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes before adding the apples.
If preparing this during the summer and you can’t stand the idea of turning on the oven, have no fear. This whole recipe can also be prepared on the stove-top. Simply maintain over medium to medium-high heat on the stovetop and cover once you add the kale. I tend to like the even temperatures the oven provides, but both methods work well. If you prefer a more tart flavor from the apples, you can also slice them more finely, and toss them with the greens a the very end.
Did you make this recipe?
Tag @thesommstable on instagram and hashtag it #sommstable
Created using The Recipes Generator

Be sure to check out the rest of the offerings from the French Winophiles. This month is being hosted by Jill Barth over at L'Occasion. If you love the Loire Valley and happen to see this post early enough, feel free to join our Twitter Chat at 8am Pacific Time/11am Eastern Time on Saturday, August 15, 2020. Just follow the hashtag #Winophiles – everyone is invited!

Additional sources used for this post: 

Loire Valley Wines 
The Oxford Companion via  
Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours 
The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition 

  This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, from which I might earn a commission at no cost to you.



  1. Saumur is one of those places I never know how to pronounce correctly but I would make it my mission to learn if I could my hands on this wine! What a great story. And this recipe is going on my list, thank you!

    1. You make a good point -- I'll try to make sure to add a pronunciation key. Thanks so much Andrea!

  2. Brendan's story is a wine geeks dream! How fantastic to taste his inaugural vintage. You will be able to really see the progressions of his wines through the years from the very beginning.
    I love that you swapped out chicken thighs for the pork in your recipe. We are not pork chop people, but I do love chicken thighs and this would add so much more fat and flavor to the dish.
    Your experience of finding things after that would have made the pairing better is so familiar to me. I think I need a Coravin so I can taste the wine to determine my pairings and then shop!
    I do have a couple of South African Chenins in my fridge right now. Maybe...

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed his story too! I'm not sure what you mean re. pork, but hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it with those South African Chenins!

  3. Really appreciate your pairing insights! I enjoy crisp Loire wine but do find I need to be especially careful to find the right food.

  4. Moral of the story: persistence! Looks like the hero of your story found his perfect place, and we wine lovers are the beneficiaries. Also loved your pairing and am setting aside the recipe for my next grocery shopping trip.

    1. It is indeed a great argument in favor of persistence and not taking no for an answer. Thanks Lauren!

  5. Love your great intro on Chenin Blanc...the possibility of this grape. Can't believe what this grape, tastewise, is capable of hay, mushrooms, beeswax, lanolin, and often a lactic component like cheese rind or yogurt!

    1. Yes, it's a pretty fascinating grape. Thanks Pinny!

  6. When I think of Saumur, I think of Cab Franc, but your bottles sounds fantastic. I love your detailed notes about the the pairing. Cheers Nicole!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. And interestingly, it's probably best known for it's sparkling wines. Thanks Martin!

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post. Brendan Stater-West's inspiring testament to following your passion, your tasting notes re: how the wine and the food went together, how you would change the pairing, all of it! Also, I learnt something new: pairing kale with goat cheese.


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!