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  • Writer's pictureCarlos Sarmiento

Grilled Lemon-Rosemary Chicken & Saffron Rice with fried onions and 2020 Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

One of the wines that I often have the most difficult time in pairing, let alone finding a good quality type is Pinot Grigio.

That is, until now. I believe I have found THE one! Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in Italy.

About Pighin Wine Estates…

A 200-hectare estate in the Friuli Grave DOC area, previously owned by a noble family of Friuli, was just the beginning of the venture for brothers Luigi, Ercole and Fernando.

This was 1963. Following a decade of continued success and significant growth, a new modern winery, ageing rooms and corporate offices were built in Risano according to the design by internationally acclaimed architect Gino Valle.

In the same years the production was enlarged with the acquisition of 30 hectares of vineyards in the reputed Collio DOC, and a winery in Spessa di Capriva.

(Photo courtesy Pighin Wine Estates)

In 2004, Fernando Pighin, together with his wife Danila and his children, bought out the entire property. Today they manage the two estates with great passion and enthusiasm, and an adherence to the traditional values of the land.

Friuli, where the family have set new roots, is one of the most suitable white wine-growing regions in the world. It was already well-known in Roman times. The region is also a borderland inhabited by strong people forged by hard work in the farms and vineyards. Excellent bases on which craft quality wines.

(Photo courtesy Pighin Wine Estates)

About the Pinot Grigio grape….

Pinot Grigio, also known as Pinot Gris or Grauburgunder is a white grape variety whose origin dates back to the Middle Ages in the Burgundy region of France.

Considered by many to be a mutant clone of the pinot noir variety, it usually possesses a grayish-blue fruit, accounting for its name but the grapes can also have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance.

(Photo courtesy Pighin Wine Estates)

The word pinot is said to have been given to it because the grapes grow in small pine cone-shaped clusters. The wines produced from this grape also vary in color from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink.

Bringing it all together…

For this posting’s food pairing, I opted for a simplistic set of dishes where the wine can shin, and boy it did!

Keeping the ingredients as fresh and minimal as possible is the way to go and by giving it a Mediterranean-inspired spin, the Pinot Grigio will enhance all the flavors.

Let‘s get cooking!

Menu: Grilled lemon-rosemary chicken, saffron rice with fried onions and grilled pita bread.

Wine pairing: 2020 Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy)

Serves 4

Ingredients Chicken:

  • 4 medium sized chicken breasts (about 1/2 pound each)

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced

  • 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

  • Ground sage

  • Sea salt & cracked pepper

  • 1/4 cup extra Virgin olive oil

  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Half a lemon, thickly sliced for grilled garnish


  • 1 cup of jasmati rice

  • 1 1/2 cup of water

  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon of saffron diluted in 3 tablespoons of water

Fried onions for rice:

  • 3 medium sized yellow onions, thinly sliced, julienne style

  • 1/2 cup of olive oil


  • Pita bread (lightly toasted on the grill)

  • Extra Virgin olive oil with salt and pepper for dipping pita bread


Chicken marinade:

  • Place chicken breasts on a large deep dish or pyrex. Season lightly in both sides with salt, pepper, and sage.

  • In a mixing bowl, mix rosemary, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add olive oil and mix well.

  • Pour mixture on top and around chicken. Cover chicken dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate, marinating for 30-60 minutes.

Grilling chicken:

  • Heat grill to approximately 350 degrees F. Place chicken breast on grill (turning chicken 90 degrees after the first 4-5 minutes, so as to create cross-hatch grill marks). Turn chicken over and repeat. Chicken is ready when internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

  • Grill thick lemon slices until grill marks begin to appear. Turn over and repeat. Remove from grill once done and sage for garnishing.

Optional grilled pita bread:

  • Grill pita bread on low heat for about 2 minutes each side.


  • In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add diluted saffron, butter and stir.

  • Add rice, stir well. Cover pot with lid, reduce heat to to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

  • Remove pot from heat, fluff rice well and cover. Keep warm until serving.

Fried onions:

  • In a medium size frying pan, add olive oil and heat up on medium heat. once oil is hot, carefully add onions, separating them while stirring.

  • Continue to slowly stir, separating the onions as much as possible. Once they begin to brown on the edges, reduce heat to low. Cook for an additional 2-minutes. Remove onions from pan and plan them on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up an extra oil. Set onions aside. *If there is too much to cook all at once, cook onions in batches.

Serve it up!

These dishes always looks inviting when’s ever in platters, family style.

For the chicken, place breasts in the center of large plate and garnish them with the grilled lemon slices, maybe throw in a sprig or two of fresh rosemary.

For the rice, serve the rice in a large deep bowl and tip the center of it with the fried onions. Optional, lightly drizzle a little extra Virgin olive oil on top.

I highly recommend you accompany the dishes with some grilled pita bread and additional extra Virgin olive oil mixed with salt and pepper for dipping the bread.

Buon appetito! Enjoy!

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento) About the wine… The region of Collio is Friuli’s finest and is internationally recognized as one of the most suitable regions for growing white wine grapes.

Terraced rows of vines curve gracefully along a hillside to form a natural amphitheater and yield high-quality grapes.

The southern exposure ensures sunlight and the soil, known as “ponca”, consists of friable or easy to crumble marlstone that retains water and hydrates the vines.

At harvest, the grapes are handpicked and pressed in a state-of-the-art pneumatic press.

The must is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks (no oak is used), allowing the characteristics of the Pinot Grigio grape variety to show beautifully.

2020 Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy)

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

(Photo: Carlos Sarmiento)

Tasting notes:

Bright straw yellow with shades of amber. The aroma is fruity with delicate notes of banana, pineapple, and acacia blossoms. The wine is dry with great body and balance with an elegant, aromatic finish.


100% Pinot Grigio

Food pairing: Ideal with seafood, grilled fish, and white meat with sauce.


93 Points Record

92 Wine Review Online

Thank you to Kobrand Wine & Spirits For providing this unique Pinot Grigio wine. Grazie!

For more information, visit:

For finding and purchasing this wine, check out Kobrand Wine & Spirits’ retail locator from

Just click on the link and enter your zip code and local stores and restaurants that feature these wines will show up!


Decorative wine drip collar ring provided by:

(Special discount promo code: CFW15)

(Photo: Cristina Gottardi)

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