Chardonnay and Chicken Showdown: Chile vs. California (#WinePW #PourOrganic)

Roast chicken is one of my favorite comfort foods and Chardonnay is my favorite pairing to go with it. Two affordable, organic versions from Bonterra in California and Cono Sur in Chile go head to head to see which works best in this showdown.

The wines in today's post were provided as media samples. Note that no other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. 

We all have our favorite comfort foods we run to when we need the food equivalent of a hug . . . or maybe just because. I think wine lovers often extend this idea to the whole meal –– the food, plus the go-to wine pairing that you know will just work. In my book, roasted chicken and Chardonnay are one such dynamic duo. They’re besties. 

I love that roast chicken can be a dinner party centerpiece, but it’s also an extremely practical everyday dinner. It allows me to make a simple dinner one night that yields dividends for days afterward via the leftovers that I use a hundred different ways. This utilitarian side to the dish makes me love it all the more because it makes my life easier, so it’s on pretty regular rotation in our house. As such, I get to try a lot of different wines with it (I mention quite a few here), and depending on the seasoning and sides, many different things can work solidly well. Nonetheless, Chardonnay is my favorite overall match. I’ll also say that I think this is a particularly good case for oaked, buttery, and/or riper styles, which aren’t typically my preference. This is their time to shine. 

This is doubly true if the accompanying sides include slightly sweet root vegetables or winter squashes. A riper fruit profile stands up to sweetness without turning bitter, and the spice notes coming from oak complement the toasty notes from the mallard reactions on the chicken, as well as the flavors in sweeter vegetables like butternut squash. 

Years ago now, I had an experience that solidified Chardonnay’s reign in this domain. I was working on a story while still at Wine Spectator that included a roast chicken dinner. The night we made said dinner to shoot it, several wine professionals were invited to this dinner, and we’d pulled a few different bottles we thought would pair nicely. Many contenders we wine geeks love to champion were thrown into the ring. In the end, though, one by one we all had to begrudgingly hand the pairing win to an oaked California Chardonnay from a large grocery store brand. (Not a big wine geek favorite.) The experience really checked my snobby side. Every wine has its place, and Chardonnay dominates here. Although I admit that I still try to up the game by looking for more elegant versions of the style. (It’s really funny to think about how huffy we all were about having to hand the win over this wine.)

Moving on from the anecdotal tangent now . . . 

I thought it would be fun to have another little roast chicken and wine showdown, but this time it’s a battle between Chardonnays. It’s a battle between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Cono Sur's Organic Chardonnay will be representing Chile, and Bonterra's Chardonnay will be representing California. Both are similar in quality and price point –– and I’m happy to say, it’s a price point suitable for every day.

I fully believe in trying to buy the most conscientiously produced products that fit into our budget. I think that’s extra important for things we eat all the time, so when it comes to chicken, I try to buy organic or heirloom versions whenever I can. Similarly, I try to shop for organic produce and/or at the farmers market as much as my budget allows. I think it only makes sense to extend this same principle to the wines we buy. While I’m not dogmatic about a particular philosophy, I try to buy wines that are conscientiously and sustainably made because it’s better for both us and the planet. (I think/hope that’s represented on this blog as a whole.) After all, we put a lot of wine in our bodies around here. What’s nice about the two wines today is that they show that sustainably made wines – both wines are made with organic grapes– can be both affordable and widely available. We’ll get to know them better in a moment. 

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

The two wines were paired alongside a very simply prepared spatchcock roast chicken. You can find my general recipe here, although this version was even simpler in that I seasoned it only with salt and pepper. (I didn’t rub butter and herbs under the skin as I did in the previous recipe.) 

I did throw some lemon slices, oregano, celery, and onions in the pan with the chicken to add flavor to the jus, since I’d been planning to make a pan sauce to accompany the chicken. You can find the recipe for the sauce at the end. You can certainly skip the sauce and just serve the chicken with that delicious jus on the side, or you can roast vegetables in the drippings, which is also delicious, but I find that making a sauce elevates the meal and makes everything feel more elegant and decadent in one move. It really classes up the joint. 

To accompany my chicken, I roasted some butternut squash at 425°F in olive oil with salt, pepper, along with a pinch of chile pepper, and oregano until the squash was cooked through and starting to brown and caramelize. I also had some previously roasted rosemary potatoes on hand, so I decided to serve those alongside as well. 

The Chardonnays

Both of the wines paired really well overall with our chicken dinner. Both were pretty classic representations of Chardonnay and solid values at their price points, especially when you consider that both are made with grapes that are certified organic, although one saw contact and one saw little or no oak contact. By this token, one was riper and richer, and the other was a little sleeker and showed more minerality. Greg and I agreed that both wines got even better with the food, as is the case with really good pairings. However, the differences in the wines meant that they each worked a little better with different aspects of the food. That said, this is mostly splitting hairs, and while interesting to experience from a wine geek perspective, you’re really good to go with either one.

Let’s take a closer look at our two contenders.

Bonterra Chardonnay California 2020

SRP: $ 14 Alcohol: 13.5%

Bonterra has been organically farming their vineyards for over 30 years, since 1987. They do also source grapes from other vineyards, but all of the grapes that go into their wines are certified organic. They also have three estate vineyards that are certified biodynamic, and they strive to make sustainable choices at all levels, using sheep instead of tractors to manage weeds and exclusively running on green power – they’re certified Zero Waste and Carbon Neutral. They’re a Certified B Corp, and as such are committed to supporting their community and are giving back through educational outreach, in addition to being committed to sustainability. They have also helped many of their farming partners to convert to organic farming. 

You can read more about their commitments and initiatives on their website here and here.

Winemaking: Grapes from throughout California including a large portion from their own organically-farmed estate vineyards in Mendocino. They ferment 70% of the juice in a combination of French and American oak, which is allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation for richness and spice. The remaining 30% is fermented in stainless steel to preserve the crisp fresh fruit flavors. Most of the wine is aged in previously-used or neutral oak to allow fresh fruit characteristics to shine through. New oak was used for 15% of the wine to give the wine a vanilla note.

Info is taken from the tech sheet for this wine. For additional information, see here.

Tasting Notes: A ripe style of Chardonnay with notes of pineapple, melon, vanilla, apple, peach, and honeysuckle on the nose. The same notes continued on the palate with vanilla cream, as well as lemon. It made me think of spiced pineapple with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of vanilla whipped cream on top. It was medium+ in body with a luscious mouthfeel but had the acidity to back it up.

How it Worked: This definitely had the riper fruit profile of the two wines. On its own, Greg felt it was too oaky for his taste. I agreed that the oak was more prominent on this wine, but felt it was well integrated with the fuller body and the ripe fruit notes. We both agreed it was the winner with bites that involved more butternut squash and integrated with those flavors beautifully. Definitely, a great choice when there are flavors on your plate that have a touch of sweetness. 

I’ve previously taken a look at one of their Merlots in this post. 

Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay Chile 2020

SRP: $ 11.99 Alcohol: 13.5%

Cono Sur is a subsidiary of Concha y Toro, which was my gateway into Chilean wines. Casillero del Diablo was a go-to for Greg and me for years in our 20s. They were established with the goal of targeting the fine wine export market in Chile, and they see quality, innovation, and sustainability as the pillars of going after their goal. They farm over 700 acres organically and were Chile’s first winery to receive organic certification. At present, 83% of their energy needs are supplied by solar panels and have implemented methods to reduce their water usage, with 27% drop since 2015. They’re also a Certified B Corp and so strive for sustainability, as well as well-being for their workers and community. Today’s wine is also certified vegan. 

Greater detail about their commitments to sustainability and community are laid out on their website here and here.

Winemaking: I don’t have the details on the 2020 vintage, but past vintages have consisted of certified organic grapes from a mix of cool-climate regions that are fairly close to the ocean. The 2019 vintage aged for 6 to 12 months in stainless steel tanks. (5% of the wine was aged in barrel in 2017, so we can probably guess that if the wine saw barrel time in 2020, it was likely a very little bit.)

You can find information on the 2017 vintage here. 

Tasting Notes: Lemon, green and gold apples, white peach, and vanilla blossom on both the nose and on the palate. A stony note joined in on the finish as well. It was also medium + in body, but a touch less full than the Bonterra, with a fruit profile that was ripe (although a little less by comparison), but also a little more crisp and bright. 

How it Worked: Greg definitely preferred this wine on its own. I probably did as well as I thought the touch of minerality gave this wine a little extra elegance. However, I also thought that aspects of the flavors were less integrated. We both agreed that this wine took the win with bites with rosemary potatoes. This a very good option if you want a Chardonnay for roast chicken, as it has a good amount of ripe fruit character, but you prefer unoaked styles.

Leftover Makeover: Chicken & Butternut Squash White Pizza

Since we had wine and chicken leftover from our first dinner, a few days later we brought them together again. I decided to shred up the chicken breast, crispy chicken skin, and butternut squash and used it to top a sourdough pizza. I made a béchamel with a little Parmesan cheese and mixed it with some of the pan sauce I’d made and used that for the pizza sauce. The result tasted like pizza and chicken pot pie had a very tasty baby. The wines worked similarly well with this round, with the Bonterra working a little better with bites with butternut squash, and the Cono Sur working slightly better with bites without, however, the results were even closer this time. 

sauce, pan sauce
Servings: varies
By: Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Basic Pan Sauce

Basic Pan Sauce

Prep Time: 5 MinCooking Time: 15 MinTotal Time: 20 Min
This is a non-recipe with the basics for how to make a pan sauce. It can easily be varied a million ways using different herbs, spices, and other flavorings. I shared an earlier version of the sauce here.


  • 1-2 Tbsp butter 
  • 2 Tbsp flour 
  • OR you can also use Wondra Flour in place of the butter and flour
  • ½ to ¾ quart chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon or wine
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste


  1. Transfer the drippings from the pan to a separate container and set aside, straining out any blackened bits.
  2. Wipe out any remaining really black bits from the pan—brown bits are a good thing, but black scorched bits will turn the sauce bitter. Return the pan to the stove, then deglaze pan with wine (if using) or a couple of tablespoons of water or chicken stock. Add the butter to the pan and melt over medium heat, then add the flour. Stir to incorporate and create a roux, then cook until starting to smell lightly toasted. (Note: If the chicken cooking fat is still in good condition, you can also use some that for the roux in place of some of the butter.) Alternatively, if using Wondra Flour, make a slurry according to package instructions, then gradually add to the sauce after the stock in the next step.
  3. Gradually whisk in the chicken stock along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the lemon juice. Once the chicken drippings have settled, skim off and discard the majority of the fat, then add to the sauce. (You can also add in any juices that may have accumulated from the resting chicken. roast chicken.) Cook the sauce until it reduces and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Once thickened, adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, lemon juice, or wine as desired. Remove from heat, then swirl in any additional herbs, if using. A little extra pat of butter added at this point can also help smooth over any harsh edges and can create a creamier, more luxurious mouthfeel.
Did you make this recipe?
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The rest of the Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) blogging group is exploring pairings with organic wines this month, hosted by Gwendolyn of Wine Predator. Check out the rest of their posts here:



  1. That pizza made with the leftover chicken and squash has me wanting to run into the kitchen. I think roast chicken is going to be on my menu very soon. I haven't opened the Cono Sur Chard yet but was pleased with their Sauv Blanc.

    1. Thanks Wendy! The pizza was a very tasty thing to look forward after the chicken.

  2. I love this 'showdown' idea. AND, crispy chicken skin on pizza?!! You are a genius. I can't wait to try that though leftover crispy skin is a rarity; that's usually the first thing that goes.

    1. Thanks Camilla! I can absolutely see the chicken skin going quick when there's more than two people partaking. Here my thought was to use it kind of in the place of bacon.

  3. I love a good head to head show down. Well done and written Nicole!

    1. BTW. While grilled spatchcock chicken makes a regular appearance on our table in the summer, I'd never made roasted spatchcock...until last night. It turned out great. Thanks for the inspiration!

    2. That's so great to hear! And if I had a grill, I'd absolutely be trying that out as well!

  4. I am so with you on the roasted chicken and oaked chard! When eating out, I knew that I could go with a Chard, that was likely to be oaky and less expensive to pair with a rich chicken dish. It was my go to pairing if the wine list was less than interesting because I knew the match would be lovely.
    I will be trying your recipe, both for the chicken (with the butter!) and butternut too, so I can make that leftover pizza!

    1. That's a really great tip for ordering out with an uninteresting list. Let me know how things turn out. Thanks Robin!

  5. Chicken's my comfort food, too, and I totally agree on Chard for pairing. I've long claimed not to be a fan of the oaked style, but every time I have one that's buttery and well made like this Bonterra, I eat my words!

    1. It's so funny, I feel that way about Cali Cabs and steak! Same deal -- I kind of wanna write it off, and then I have to eat my words.

  6. The roast chicken is superb, Nicole! Fantastic pizza idea, too!


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