It’s time for another food and wine pairing extravaganza from the #WinePW group. And if you’re a Merlot lover, you’ll love it! Because October is #MerlotMe month, each fortunate wineloving foodie received sample bottles of wine from a variety of California producers to swirl and sip. Our intent was to select a favorite dish that will bring out the best in the Merlot. By the looks of the pairings (see below), this delicious mission was accomplished!

Merlot is the second leading variety planted in California, the first being Cabernet Sauvignon.  Its grapes, lighter blue and black than those of Cabernet Sauvignon, have a thin skin with loose bunches of berries hanging from the vines. In general, dominant flavors include raspberry, black cherry, plum, chocolate, and cedar yet earth, herbal, and floral notes may be detected.  One of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux blends, Merlot from the Right Bank of Bordeaux (especially St. Emilion and Pomerol) helped boost its acclaimed international reputation. California vintners have found much success in their plantings and production of Merlot; each wine expresses distinct terroir as well as the winemaker’s style.

I received a sample bottle of 2015 J. Lohr Estates Los Osos Merlot($15), a woodsy blend of 91% Merlot and 9% Malbec. Paso Robles AVA is one of my favorite wine regions and has received international attention for its production of quality Bordeaux blends. This particular wine is from San Luis Obispo County; the grapes were harvested over a two-week period beginning in mid-September 2015. Vinification consisted of whole berry fermentation in stainless steel tanks and maturation for 12 months in the barrel with 22% new American oak from Missouri forests.

After aerating for thirty minutes, I noted intense aromas of black cherries, licorice, chocolate, touch of earth, and vanilla wafting from the glass. Luscious flavors included more rich chocolate, baking spice, black cherries, and juicy red fruit. With a round mouthfeel, food friendly acidity, and velvet tannins leading to a lingering finish, I craved each sip with bites of Savory Chicken with Mushrooms.

The chicken dish proved to be a fabulous complement to the 2015 J. Lohr Estates Los Osos Merlot. A snap to make, mushroom, garlic, and thyme aficionados will appreciate the combination of flavors atop the chicken breast. This recipe and Merlot pairing may be my newest go-to dinner…Just delicious.

Savory Chicken with Mushrooms

Savory Chicken and Mushrooms


  • 2 chicken breast halves, boneless, skin-on
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8oz fresh mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter


Step 1
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Step 2
Season chicken on all sides with salt and ground black pepper.
Step 3
Heat olive oil and garlic over medium high heat in an ovenproof skillet. Place chicken skin-side down in skillet and cook until browned - about 5 minutes.
Step 4
Turn chicken over. Stir mushrooms with a pinch of salt into skillet. Increase heat to high. Cook, stirring mushrooms occasionally, until mushrooms shrink slightly, about 5 minutes.
Step 5
Transfer skillet to the preheated oven and cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken breasts to a plate and loosely tent with foil. Set aside.
Step 6
Set skillet on the stove top over medium-high heat, cook and stir mushrooms until brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Pour water into the skillet and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan. Cook until water is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add thyme. Remove from heat.
Step 7
Stir in any accumulated juices from the chicken into the skillet. Stir butter into mushroom mixture, stirring constantly until butter is completely melted.
Step 8
Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mushroom sauce over chicken and serve.

Cheers! ~ Cindy

For more Merlot and food pairings, please check out the following articles from my talented #winePW colleagues!

Share this:


    • Cindy Rynning


      Honestly, this was a terrific pairing-and so easy to make!! Consider it a new weeknight supper idea! Thanks, Nicole.

  1. Reply

    I have not tried a Merlot from the Paso Robles region, look forward to trying J. Lohr Merlot with your Chicken and Mushrooms. Cheers!

  2. Reply

    I am loving the stuff coming out J Lohr and find it fascinating that they work in Paso and Monterey, two places that impress me consistently. As always, I want to come to your dinner party! Hope to see you soon. Great post, Cindy!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *