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March, 2022

vine pruning


California has plenty of rock star vintners but not as many vineyard workers names make it into the limelight. The skilled people who prune the vines in January and February are unsung superheroes. They often work long hours in chilly weather, and make critical pruning calls that affect wine quality for the duration of each vintage . To celebrate these workers and showcase their skills, some wine regions like Alexander Valley and Napa Valley stage pruning competitions. Expert judges determine the winners based on speed, precision and decision making; some contests have men’s and women’s divisions. These competitions reminds us how important good pruning is to what ends up in the bottle. 

The Pour

Zinfandel prefers a warm growing region to achieve its full flavor potential. Most growers say the variety needs to ripen completely and reach a high Brix (a measure of sugar content) to develop its personality. Some of the most sought-after California Zins come from vineyards planted 50 years ago or more the so-called old-vine Zinfandels that collectors seek. Ask a merchant to recommend one to experience the character that comes out of those gnarled and resilient vines. Amador County, Lodi, Paso Robles and Temecula Valley are all warm AVAs where California Zinfandel thrives. 

The Recipe

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas, Carrots and Lemon

Cumin, garlic and lemon give this dish its irresistible scent. The lemon slices will be soft and delicious when the chicken is done, but some diners may prefer to set them aside. Use this recipe as a template, varying it according to season. In summer, replace the carrots with sweet peppers. In winter, try mushrooms or artichoke hearts in place of the carrots. 

Wine suggestion: California Zinfandel or California Pinot Noir

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas, Carrots and Lemon


Spice rub: 

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin


  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, about 2 pounds (900 g) 
  • 1 can (15 oz/425 g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
  • ½ pound (225 g) carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal 
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced from stem to root 
  • 1 small lemon, halved lengthwise (quartered lengthwise if large), then sliced 
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/3 cup (10 g) coarsely chopped cilantro, plus a few whole leaves for garnish 

Serves 4


In a small bowl, combine the spice rub ingredients. Sprinkle all over the chicken and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a 9 x 12-inch (23 x 30 cm) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, combine the chickpeas, carrots, red onion, lemon, garlic, cumin, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to mix, then arrange in the baking sheet in an even layer. Arrange the chicken thighs on top, not touching, and drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil on top of each one. 

Bake on a center rack for 40 minutes. With tongs, set the chicken aside on a plate. Add the chopped cilantro to the vegetables and stir to mix and moisten everything with the chicken juices. Remake the bed of vegetables and replace the chicken on top. Bake for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes to allow the chicken juices to settle. Tilt the sheet pan and spoon some of the juices over the chicken. 

Transfer to a serving platter or to individual dinner plates and garnish with cilantro leaves.  


Wine Institute is an association of California wineries and affiliated businesses from the beautiful and diverse wine regions throughout the state. Wine Institute works to create an environment where the wine community can flourish and contribute in a positive fashion to our nation, state and local communities. For information please contact