“Dad taught me about passion. I want to keep that alive and spread that passion that he had.”
Passionate is how Page Knudsen Cowles, Partner and Managing Director of Knudsen Vineyards, describes her late father, Cal Knudsen, founder of Knudsen Vineyards — one of the Willamette Valley’s most known and treasured vineyards. Cal Knudsen was among the first pioneers to plant vineyards in Oregon in the early 1970’s, and the first in the state to plant at a large scale (large by Oregon that is, while most were planting 2-3 acres at a time, Cal was planting 20-30).
Though the name Knudsen has become nearly synonymous with some of the best sparkling wine to come out of the state (up until recently all of the fruit from 130 acre vineyard went exclusively to Argyle Winery), Knudsen’s second generation has decided to start their own label — making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — to honor the pioneering spirit of their late parents, Cal and Julia Lee Knudsen.
I had the pleasure of having lunch with Page Knudsen Cowles last fall to learn about this new project and taste the stunning first release, their 2012 Pinot Noir. See the full story and background on Knudsen Vineyards here.
What struck me then, and what still resonates with me now, is Knudsen Cowles’ (and her siblings) mission to keep their father’s passion alive by starting their own wine label. I should also mention that neither Page nor her siblings/business partners live in the state of Oregon. They could have easily just left things the way they were (as vineyard owners who provided fruit for some of the best bubbly in the state). But they chose otherwise. Now, as I mentioned in this piece, most of the fruit from Knudsen Vineyard still goes to Argyle for their sparkling wines, but they keep back enough fruit to make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for their Knudsen Vineyards label.
It really is a passion project. And Page is at the helm of sharing their story. A woman who not only exudes her father’s passion, but does so with grace and elegance.
I was smitten by their first release when I tried it — their 2012 Pinot Noir — so you can imagine my excitement when I received a bottle of their 2013 Chardonnay, their second wine to be released and first Chardonnay. The wine, released last month, was produced in very small quantity (only 100 cases for sale). The grapes come from a 20-year-old vineyard block, and Nate Klostermann, who has been the Head Winemaker of Argyle Winery since March 2013, vinifies the wine.
To honor what I had expected to be an elegant example of Oregon Chardonnay (or at least my hopes were high), we decided to make a roasted chicken to pair (one of my favorite pairings for a good Chard).
Traeger Roasted Chicken
Only y’all know we don’t cook our food conventionally, so we had to go and smoke the whole chicken. But I didn’t want a heavy smoke flavor to compete with what could have been delicate flavors in the wine, so instead of using The Beast, we decided to cook the chicken in our Traeger pellet smoker, (a smoker that allows us to use a higher heat yet still get a slight smoke influence, versus an offset smoker that would have resulted in a much “smokier” flavor).
Our Traeger also has a high heat setting, so we can set it to the same temperature we would roast a chicken in a conventional oven (in our case, we set it to 375 degrees). Cooking our chicken by this method allows for just a touch of smoke influence and more importantly, contributed to that insanely juicy, tender, and flavorful meat that you can achieve from a smoker. Yum!
I’m not kidding; cooking your chicken this way produces ridiculously delicious results. Be warned. If you’re cooking for more than two adults and two preschoolers you may want to double the recipe (or find a much larger bird). Traeger roasted chicken = uncontrollable urge to go back for seconds and thirds and… well you get it.
Prepping a Whole Chicken for the Traeger
All we do is coat the chicken with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt, fresh ground pepper, and rosemary salt (optional), then stuff the cavity of the bird with cut up lemon quarters, half a garlic bulb, and half of an onion.
Put the bird, breast side up, on the smoker for approximately 45 minutes at a high heat (375 degrees), or until the internal temp of the bird reaches 165 degrees. Boom.
We served it alongside some roasted veggies (potatoes, carrots, fennel, onions) that we cooked in the oven. Heaven.
If you don’t have a smoker you can just roast your chicken in the oven. My culinary shero, and fantasy BFF, Ina Garten, has quite literally the Perfect Roast Chicken recipe that has never failed me (pre-smoker days). If you don’t have a smoker, just use her tried and true oven roasted method. Da bomb.
Leftover Traeger Smoked Chicken Recipes
If you happen to double or triple this recipe and end up with leftover smoked chicken, here are a couple recipes that are fantastic:
Traeger Roasted Chicken
- 1, 4-5 lb whole roasting chicken we used organic, and find that organic birds can be on the smaller side
- Extra virgin olive oil for coating
- Kosher salt
- Rosemary salt optional
- Fresh ground pepper
- 3 sprigs thyme
- ½ white onion halved
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 lemon quartered
- Preheat smoker to 375 degrees.
- Remove giblets from chicken, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Coat bird with olive oil, salt(s), pepper and also include seasoning inside the cavity.
- Stuff the thyme, onion, garlic, and lemon into the cavity.
- Optional: I tie down the legs and wings to keep them close to breast and avoid drying out.
- Place on smoker at 375 until internal temperature reads 165 degrees (this could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour).
- Remove from smoker and let stand losely covered in foil for 20 minutes allowing juices to redistribute.
- Slice and serve.
Wine Pairing for Traeger Roasted Chicken
Knudsen Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Oregon ~ $45
Hot diggidy damn this wine was a seeeeeamless pairing with the juicy roasted chicken (and yes, I had to add four extra “e”s for eeeemphasis). The aromas coming from the glass were fresh and clean, with a mix of crisp lemon, lemon peel, and baked apples. The mouth had layers of flavors, but predominately more fresh citrus, which lead to a sweet mandarin orange, some mild peach, along with this great tartness that came across on a few sips, which then led to a savory finish. What I loved most was that great savoriness that was left on the tongue after each sip.
The wine was barrel fermented for six months, predominantly in older French oak barrels (35% new oak). This gave the wine just enough wood for some structure and those savory notes, but left it overall fresh, refreshing, and clean.
The lemon that we stuffed into the cavity of the chicken slowly seeped into the meat giving it juiciness and rich flavor, which, when paired with the wine, really brought out the wines bright lemony notes. The veggies were sweet and tender, but the wine really lightened up the richness that those roasted veggies provided to the meal.
This is a special wine. If not just because of its delicious flavors and impeccable partner for our Traeger Smoke-Roasted Chicken, but also because of the folks who made it. There is history here. There is a legacy that gets to live on. And this is just the beginning. As the very first Chardonnay produced under the Knudsen Vineyards label, I believe this is the first of many great things to come.
Like I mentioned, only 100 cases of the wine are for sale, so it won’t last long. Currently the wine can be purchased here.
For more on Knudsen Vineyards and their Pinot Noir, see Knudsen Vineyards — from vineyard to bottle.
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