person holding plate of two grilled fish fillets

Chardonnay Friendly Marinade and Rub Recipes

It’s my favorite time of year for firing up the grill at Jordan (and at home). The longer days and warmer temperatures in Sonoma County often call for a glass of crisp white wine–so I’ve compiled some tips and tricks to make the best chardonnay-friendly rub and marinade recipes that are quick and delicious. Leave us a comment below with any suggestions you find while trying these tips at home.

Tips for Chardonnay Friendly Rubs and Marinades

hands pinching at herbs next to a plate with lemon zest and ingredients in a pot

Soften the Acidity

When crafting chardonnay-enhancing rubs and marinades for Jordan recipes, I start by playing off the wine’s food-friendly acidity. The trick is to incorporate subtle acidic elements that don’t trample the citrus notes in the chardonnay—such as using citrus zest or sumac instead of lemon juice. A little squeeze of lemon never hurts, but always make sure the acidity in the preparation isn’t too flashy for the wine. If its an older chardonnay, use preserved lemon for the citrus or a citrus powder. Too much acidity can strip an older chardonnay, so the acid element in the food has to be very delicate. Sometimes, I’ll add citric acid powder for a little zing, or a bit of malic acid powder, which mirrors the acid formed in the chardonnay during malolactic fermentation. It’s a subtle commonality, but it makes for a more seamless pairing. One of my go-to wet rubs for chicken or pork actually includes Jordan Chardonnay, along with dehydrated citrus zest, house-made marmalade, orange juice, fresh herbs, Jordan Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Aleppo chili flakes. With the dehydrated citrus zest, you get a nice, bright citrus flavor without acid.

four spice blends in glass jars on white surface

Blend in Exotic Spices

Most dry rubs begin with classic ingredients—sugar, salt, pepper, dry mustard and garlic powder—and chefs tend to branch out from there. I love to bring unexpected, exotic spices, such as sumac, black sesame, fennel pollen and turmeric, into dry rubs for an intriguing chardonnay pairing. Spicy when raw, fennel takes on a soft, almost-sweet flavor once it’s dried and pulverized, which complements the stone fruits in chardonnay. Sumac and turmeric’s citrusy notes mirror the wine’s lemony zest. This year, I worked with World Spice Merchants to create a chardonnay-friendly dry rub for poultry and fish that combines sumac, black sesame, dill, Korean chili, turmeric, fennel seed, basil, lemon zest and Hawaiian sea salt. I wanted to create a spice blend that makes it easier for our fans to enjoy an enhanced chardonnay food pairing recipe at home when they’re short on time or ingredients. Sometimes the only directions you want to follow after a long day is pat dry, season and grill.

overhead grill with two fish and flames

Match to Meats

While the best matches for cabernet sauvignon—namely steaks, brisket and other hardy cuts of beef—can easily withstand the rigors of open-flame cooking, chardonnay-friendly proteins need more careful handling. Delicate cuts tend to fall apart on the grill, and their subtle flavors can be overwhelmed by smoke and char. Therefore, it’s best to opt for lean white meats, such as chicken and pork, along with firm varieties of seafood, such as cod, salmon and lobster. For pork and chicken, I prefer to make a Sonoma-Mediterranean Rub that matches beautifully with Jordan Chardonnay. The combination features preserved lemon purée, Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, dried Greek oregano, dried mint, cumin, sumac and citric acid. When preparing fish for the grill—typically a firm-flesh fish like a kajiki or halibut—make a quick-cure mixture that includes Meyer lemon, sugar, salt, fresh thyme, lemongrass and black pepper. After applying the rub and placing basil leaves and lemon slices onto the fish, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to marinate. The citrus helps firm up the fish, while the salt and sugar draw out some of the water, concentrating the flavor and giving the fish an attractive shine and translucency. It’s going to look pretty and taste even better.

Go Easy on the Pepper

There are more than 600 different varieties of pepper in the world, and many of them play the role of villain in chardonnay food pairings. The excessive heat found in black pepper and most chilis will throw chardonnay off-balance; it elevates the alcohol in the wine and overpowers any subtle fruit notes and aromas in the wine. Aleppo pepper flakes, however, offer a mild flavor that is almost fruity, without the strong heat. Unless the wine already has sugar or spice, like a riesling, then the fruit is the only aspect of the chili you are trying to bring into the pairing. That’s why I love Aleppo. It brings the fruit, not the heat, to my rubs and marinades.

Jordan Winery 2018 Chardonnay next to a pear and a green apple

Find the Flowers

Many white wines, including chardonnay, are defined by floral aromas—including honeysuckle, orange blossom, lavender and even carnation. Incorporating floral elements in a marinade or rub—for example, freshly ground coriander from India—can elevate the floral elements in chardonnay. Jordan Chardonnay has aromas of citrus and apple blossoms, jasmine and honeysuckle, and combining the floral taste of a spice with the floral aromas of the wine brings another dimension to pairings that goes beyond the fruit notes wines are defined by.

Give it Some Sugar

Dry rubs need a little sweetness for balance and contrast, but that doesn’t mean cooks should reach for the box of C&H or Domino. Rather than simply adding granulated sugar to rubs and marinades, use sweetening elements that add character to the mix. A complex sugar, like a marmalade or fresh jam, is going to elevate the brightness in the wine’s citrus component.

Add the Fresh Herbs

Over the years, I have developed an arsenal of secret weapons when it comes to food pairing. Many of those are fresh herbs. While herbs are used in cooking to complement the dried herb notes in cabernet sauvignon, they play a different role in the chardonnay pairing. For chicken marinades to pair with Jordan Chardonnay, I like to use chopped fresh herbs. Crisp chardonnays have a subtle grassiness, similar to what you find in Sancerre, so dill, tarragon, lemon thyme and maybe even basil complement those notes.

brushing two fish with marinade over the grill

Chardonnay-Friendly Rubs and Marinades Recipes

Chardonnay Wet Rub

Finding a chardonnay-enhancing wet rub for chicken can be difficult but I’ve created a unique, Jordan-centric recipe that makes for a seamless pairing. It combines many of the suggestions mentioned above. The dehydrated citrus zest and a touch of fruity Aleppo pepper add a vibrant yet delicate flavor that matches the brightness of Jordan Chardonnay.

View the recipe >>

Quick-Cure Fish Marinade

When I prepare fish for the grill, I like to bring a refreshing and delicate touch to the marinade with ingredients like citrus and coriander. This quick, 15-minute fish marinade recipe is ideal with a crisp glass of Jordan Chardonnay.

View the recipe >>

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About the Author

Growing up in Hawaii, Todd Knoll developed a strong connection to the land and the ocean at an early age. As executive chef at Jordan Winery, he grows hundreds of heirloom vegetables, fruits and herbs, cooks hors d’oeuvres and meals for guests, makes olive oil, and tends to the estate’s honeybees and chickens. A visual artist at heart, Chef Knoll spends his free time with his son and wife, Nitsa Knoll, exploring the diverse terrain of Sonoma County with camera and pencil in hand, capturing moments in nature to inspire his next recipe.

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