Cooking to the Wine: Kabaj Rebula and Chicken with Mushroom Escabeche and Lentils (Or How Greg Began to Like Orange Wines) #WinePW

The first time I gave Greg an orange wine to try things did not go well. We were at DBGB in NYC and I picked a wine I thought was cool and that I also thought would pair well with their amazing sausages. It did pair well — I stand by that! — but Greg also said that “it smelled like a foot.” He had a point. I had thrown him in at the deep end of the orange wine pool.

It took a while before I got him to try another orange wine. He viewed them with skepticism for a very long time, but eventually, I got him to come back to give them another shot. Therefore, I fully appreciate that they’re not for everyone, they can be an acquired taste, and that the wrong one can really turn people off. The right one though will introduce you to a whole new world of different wine flavors!

One of the first times I can recall Greg really liking an orange wine was during a dinner party at our place with our friends Ron and John. One of them brought a bottle of Kabaj Rebula (I actually shared this experience very early on in the blog here) and that became one of the wines to really undo the damage I’d done with that first super funky-town orange wine.

I’ve since sold this wine often. Customers would come in curious for an introduction to this category of wines. My experience with Greg had taught me to ask people where they’d like to begin with these wines. There’s a full spectrum out there. In other words, do you want to wade into the orange wine pool gently, or do you just want to jump right in cannon-ball style?  If this bottle was in stock, I’d always offer it up as a favorite because it strikes a happy medium: It definitely gives you a good introduction to what orange wine is all about, but it’s still clean, elegant, and approachable.


Let’s take a step back. I realize I kinda got ahead of myself and you might be wondering what orange wine actually is. Orange or amber wines are also (and perhaps more accurately) referred to as skin-contact or skin-fermented whites. (There's a little bit of technical distinction for "skin-fermented" whites, but not going to dig into it now.)

They’re basically white wines that are made like red wines. Generally speaking, wines get their color from their skins, as the pulp and juice (with a few very rare exceptions) is always clear. Red wines are left in contact with the skins to get their hue, where the juice for white wines is generally pressed off straight away, so it stays relatively light in color. 

The juice for orange wines comes from white grapes, but it’s allowed to stay in contact with the skins for a few days or even months, and so develops a deeper hue than your average white wines. Rosé wines, by contrast, are made from red grapes but the juice is only left in contact with the skins briefly, and so they don’t develop a lot of color. I should note that you can make a white wine from red grapes as well if you press the juice right off and allow no contact with the skins. A common example of this can be found in Blanc de Noir ("white from black") sparkling wines.

Along with the deeper color, the juice for orange wines also extracts tannin and deeper flavor notes from the skins, so the wines also gain structural components similar to red wine – altogether, they often have very different flavor sensations than one might be used to. In addition, some orange wines are made in an oxidative style through which the gain nutty notes. In many areas where the style is traditional, the wines are often aged in qvevri (as is common in Georgia) or in amphora.  Depending on how long the wine spends in contact with skins and how it is made, orange wines can develop a whole range of flavors and come in many different styles that can range from just slightly more textured than your average white wine, to extremely bold with hints of exotic spices, deep fruits, nuts, and sometimes notes similar to sour beer. There are so many different versions out there nowadays, that it’s worth exploring a few options to get a sense of styles.


The Kabaj Winery is the product of a love story. French winemaker Jean Michel Morel met Katja Kabaj
(pronounced "Kah - bye") and they fell in love. Once married, they decided to start making and bottling their own wines, rather than selling off the grapes. They’re reputation for quality wines quickly grew.

They have 15 hectares of vineyards near the village of Dobrovo in Slovenia. All of the white wines they make see at least some skin contact and are aged in barrel for at least two years.

Map borrowed from Think Slovenia.

Slovenia is nearly landlocked except for a very tiny sliver, but the wine region of Goriska Brda (pronunciation here, sometime referred to as just Brda) in which Dobrovo is located sees climatic effects from the sea, as well as from the hilly terrain it’s surrounded by as it’s at the foot of Julian Alps. The area is really a continuum of the same terrain as Friuli-Venezia Giulia which is just on the other side of the border with Italy. The town of Gorsika (one of the two towns that give the region its name) is along this border are actually essentially cut in half by it, and my understanding is that quite a few wineries have vineyards on both sides.

It’s supposed to be a gorgeous area and I’ve heard the food and hospitality are wonderful. In addition to the winery, Kabaj also has rooms where you can stay and they serve delicious looking meals as well. We were actually considering potentially traveling to Slovenia as part of a big trip we were planning for this year, but sadly that will now have to wait of course. *SIGH* I’ll continue to dream away by clicking around their website, waiting for the day when we can all travel again.

Image borrowed from Kabaj's website.

In the meantime, drinking the wines is a nice way to help keep dreaming about it. Rebula (as it is known here, but aka Ribola and Ribolla Gialla) is typical of this region, as well as of Friuli-Venezia Giulia where it has been known since at least 1296. It’s the most widely planted grape of any color in Goriska Brda. You don’t see it much elsewhere, but it has devotees here in California. (We’ve previously explored one of those here.) It tends to show fruit notes of peach, citrus and apples, with light hints of flowers. In orange/skin-contact version, all of these become deeper. 

On the day we opened the Kabaj Rebula Goriska Brda 2015 Greg and I  picked up notes of dried yellow fruits, tangerine, marigolds, cloves, bruised apples, and floral notes that reminded me of the perfume Sunflowers that I used to wear in highschool. On the palate, there was orange peel, dried apricots, hay, dried flowers, white pepper, and light exotic spices. It was full bodied, with medium acid, and had a little bit of perceptible tannin. There is no mistaking that this is an orange/skin-contact wine as it pours out a beautiful copper color.

It’s definitely worth decanting this wine as it smoothes and rounds out quite a bit with air. The edges that are there when you first open it up soften up, relax, and the whole wine becomes more friendly.

Orange wines usually can stand up pretty well to more robust foods with lots of flavors, but there’s also a good amount of earthiness to them. I decided to play with these components of earth and spice and created a braised chicken thigh dish with lentils flavored with a wonderful mushroom escabeche. 

I discovered a recipe for Mushroom in Escabeche with Ham in José Andrés from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America at some point last year and we just fell in love with it. 

An escabeche is just a dish that’s been prepared in an acidic mixture, usually vinegar, and typically is flavored with either pimenton (Spanish paprika) or saffron. This preparation is also really a confit, as the mushrooms are cooked submerged in olive oil, which in turn preserves. I now make big batches of it to keep on hand as it lasts quite a long in the fridge – I can’t tell you exactly how long, but I’ve never had them go bad. It does use a lot of olive oil, but that oil becomes deliciously flavored and can be reused to make the next batch of mushrooms or in other cooking. 

It’s really easy and while it’s incredibly delicious served with jamón serrano as it’s presented in the book, I've taken to using it so many different ways. I love to use it to cook or top chicken, as I’ve done here, as well as pork and other vegetables. 


The food and wine made a beautiful match! The wine becomes even more elegant and picks up the notes the spice notes in the food, particularly the clove. The fruit also came out to play in lovely way that made the wine all the more friendly. Greg’s reaction: “F*cking Delicious!”


Orange wines are a good option for dishes where you’re not quite sure what to pair with them. Maybe the dish straddles lines of flavor and texture in ways that make it a little tricky –– well, these wines are basically straddling similar lines as well. They’re often great pairings for intensely flavored food with that use lots of spices, or that have earthy or fermented flavors: Moroccan Tagines, Ethiopian food, and Korean foods flavored with kimchi.

As for other wines to pair with this dish, deeper and full bodied white wines should work well here as well, or earthier rosés like this one. Light to medium reds would potentially be good partners as well; while the vinegar in the dish has the potential to make wine flavors turn sour, there isn’t too much and it should be somewhat balanced by the richness of the lentils.


I couldn’t find much of a tech sheet, but just a short snippet on their website.

Grape variety: 100% Rebula
Harvest: manual, the second part of September
Vinification: 30 days in 2,400 liter oak barrels
Aging/maturing: 24 months in 225-liter oak barrels (French oak) and an additional 6 months in bottle.
Alcohol content: 13%


The average price on this wine is $32, with about a $10 spread in prices. I believe I paid $29 for my bottle and I think that’s a Solid Value for a bottle that’s well made and provides a little bit of adventure from your dining table. 

chicken thigh, lentils, mushrooms
dinner, braise
Servings: 4 to 6

Chicken and Lentils with Mushroom Escabeche

Chicken and Lentils with Mushroom Escabeche

Prep Time: 10 MCooking Time: 60 MTotal Time: 70 M
I’ve since made several different versions of this dish. Sliced bell peppers or cauliflower florets also work well in the dish, in addition to or instead of the lentils. If not using the lentils, you will not need as much stock – ½ cup or 1 cup of chicken stock should do it.


  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs
  • Flour, for dusting
  • 12 to 16 oz (or roughly 1.5 to 2 cups) mushroom escabeche, recipe follows
  • 1 large shallot or small onion, minced
  • 1 cup of dried lentils (I used green here. Canned lentils should work as well)
  • 8 to 16 oz additional mushrooms (optional)
  • Ground clove,  pinch
  • Turmeric, pinch
  • Paprika, generous pinch 
  • 1 or 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 to 3 cups of chicken stock
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and dust liberally with flour.
  2. Heat a generous pour of the oil from the mushroom esacabeche in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken skin-side down and sear until golden brown (about 3 to 4 minutes), then flip and repeat on the second side. Transfer the chicken out of the pan and set aside.
  3. Deglaze the pan with some of the chicken stock or a little water. Add the shallots, season with a little salt, and sweat until soft. Add the lentils and toss in the oil. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and stir, followed by the additional mushrooms if using. Stir in the spices and season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Add the chicken back to the pan. Remove ⅔ of the mushrooms in the escabeche from their liquid and add to the pan (reserve the remaining mushrooms for garnish). Cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes over medium-low to low heat. Remove cover, then continue cooking for another 20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through and tender.
  5. Serve topped with the remaining mushrooms from the escabeche for garnish.

Did you make this recipe?
Tag @thesommstable on instagram and hashtag it #sommstable
Created using The Recipes Generator

mushroom, escabeche, confit
condiments, conservas
Servings: Varries
Adapted by:

Mushroom Escabeche (3 Methods)

Prep Time: 10 MCooking Time: 10 MTotal Time: 20 M
I first discovered this recipe in José Andrés’ book about a year ago and we loved it so much, I now make it fairly regularly in large batches. I’ve shared the recipe, essentially as it appears in his book first, for those who like more precise instruction. However, I’ve since started making it via a couple of other more lax, non-recipe style methods, which I’ve shared here as well. In the book, Andrés serves these mushrooms topped with jamón serrano as a tapa. I’ve since found countless other uses for it, including the chicken recipe above.


  • 3 cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (or more as desired)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprig fresh thyme (or more as desired)
  • 6 ounces fresh morel mushrooms, cleaned (Lots of different mushrooms will actually work in this preparation. I like to use a blend.)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp pimentón (Spanish sweet paprika. Or try a blend of sweet and smoked paprika for an alternative.)
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives


  1.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a low flame to 170°F degrees (measured with a candy thermometer). Split the garlic cloves open by placing them on a chopping board and pressing down hard with the base of your hand or with the flat side of a knife. Add the garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, and thyme to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, the salt, and the piménton. Cook for 5 minutes, maintaining the temperature at 170°F.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. Then add the vinegar and additional salt to taste. The mushroom will keep, covered in the refrigerator for weeks.
  3. When you’re ready to serve it, strain the mushroom from the oil and spoon them onto a plate and sprinkle with chives if using.

Note: I use the ingredients as a general guideline but tend to no longer be precise. I typically will use greater quantities of the herbs, particularly if I have extras that need to be used up. I also almost always use more mushrooms than indicated here, and I love to use a mix of different kinds. I will also often add a little black pepper and a little lemon peel if I happen to have some around.
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat to the point when you’re just starting to see little bubbles in the oil, then add the garlic and herbs. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Add as many mushrooms as happen to be on hand and/or that will fit in the pot, just ensuring that they’re fully submerged in the olive oil. Add the salt and pimentón, then cook for another 5 minutes over medium-low heat.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. Then add the vinegar and additional salt to taste. Add chives, if desired, when ready to serve.
  1. Preheat sous vide circulator to 170°F.
  2. Place all ingredients besides the vinegar and the green onions in a jar or food-grade plastic bag. You will not need as much olive oil for this method, just make sure all ingredients are fully coated. Seal the jar (or remove the air from the bag and seal it up), then submerge the jar in the water bath. Allow the mushrooms to cook for at least 1 hour.
  3.  Remove the mushrooms from the water and allow to cool. Open the jar and add the sherry vinegar and additional salt to taste, then store. Top with the chives (if using) when ready to serve.

Did you make this recipe?
Tag @thesommstable on instagram and hashtag it #sommstable
Created using The Recipes Generator

Photo credit on all the food pictures to Greg Hudson.


The rest of the Wine Pairing Weekend blogging group (#WinePW) is exploring skin-contact white wines this month, led by Martin of ENOFYLZ. Be sure to check out their posts for more adventures in orange.

Additional reading and source used for this post:
Wine Folly: Everything You Want to Know About Orange Wine 
Exotic Wine Travel – Kabaj and Movia: Slovenian Wines with Big Personalities 
The Oxford Companion to Wine via
Wine Grapes 

This post contains affiliate links, including these Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.



  1. Looks like I'm in for a treat when I can access my bottle. I'm loving the sound of this with you dish and the dish looks fantastic!

    1. Thanks so much Martin, and thanks again for hosting such a fun topic!

  2. definitely true- orange wines are not for everyone.. however, that can be said for almost anything in this world- wine or non wine. The trick is to not make a final judgement off of one experience. First impressions are often not the best impression

    1. I'm in 100% agreement and I think Greg's experience with them totally illustrates that. Thanks Lori!

  3. I like how you've pointed out that all orange wines are not equal. Beauty is definitely in the taste of the beholder. And Greg's reaction to your pairing says it all!

    1. Such a wide range and you're absolutely right about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Thanks Linda!

  4. I'm glad you found a wine that Greg likes, I haven't yet been successful with Julie. Even with the ones that whisper vs. shout, she just finds them unappealing.

    1. He's definitely come around to them quite a bit, although it took a long time. Still, I have not tried to give him anything as super funky as the first one again!

  5. Even if you can't travel to Slovenia right now, you can cook up a nice dish, open a bottle, and pretend! This particular wine sounds really lovely; going to have to find a bottle for myself.

  6. I have had that wine!! I knew nothing about it though, so I loved learning about the winery in this post (since I'm not one to research!). I think you killed it with the food pairing. Spot on with the flavors to match the orange wine and very creative too!!


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