Pheasants in the Vineyard
On Saturday morning, after my co-hosting duties on FAN Outdoors radio were complete, I drove over to Haskell’s in downtown Minneapolis for a wine tutorial with Beau Farrell. The Farrell family has owned Haskell’s for more than four decades. In that time, Haskell’s has become Minnesota’s wine experts. Additionally, the Farrell’s are a hunting family with a fondness for yellow Labs, duck blinds, pheasant fields and matching the perfect vintage with wild game. In other words, they’re my kind of folks!
My goal for the morning was to learn how to pair wild game with the right variety of wine. Beau was up for the challenge and started off by explaining four basic principles about wine pairing.
First, wild game is difficult for most people to match with wine because folks are accustomed to beef or chicken; or white meat with white wines and read meat with red wines. That basic principle doesn’t always hold true anymore; especially, when dealing with wild game meats.
Second, as with any meat, how you prepare the dish (marinades, sauces, spices, etc) has a big impact on how the wine will compliment the food.
Third, the goal of pairing any wine with a meal is to find “balance.” In Beau’s words, “you don’t want one to over-power the other. You want the wine to compliment the meal.”
And lastly, Beau advised me to remember two rudimentary rules of thumb; “opposites attract” and “likes attract likes.” In other words, a big bold venison steak pairs well with a similarly big and bold red. In contrast, a hot & spicy dish often marries well with its cool & sweet wine counterpart.
So for this exercise, I picked six of my favorite wild game recipes and asked Beau’s assistance in pairing the perfect wine to match the meat. We wound up selecting two options for each dish. All of the wines selected are part of Haskell’s Summer Sale which runs through September 6th, 2010.
1) Duck Rumaki (appetizer): Cube a couple duck breasts, marinate them in boysenberry pancake syrup, wrap each piece around a water chestnut, and then wrap it in bacon holding the combo together by a tooth pick. Throw these tasty appetizers on the grill till the bacon is crispy.
- Wine Pairing Option 1: #627850 –N/V Centenaire Brut $12.99/bottle
~A Non-Vintage dry French sparkling wine such as Centenaire Brut will serve two purposes here. It serves as a great starter, or welcoming wine to any party or dinner, and it will compliment the duck & bacon quite well. It is very crisp and has a small amount of yeast.
- Wine Pairing Option 2: #612544 –2009 La Forge Viognier $12.99/bottle
~This Viognier (VEE-OH-NAY) is a grape from the Languedoc. La Forge Estate makes excellent wine. This wine will dazzle you with flavors of peach, apricot and vanilla. The wine finishes with a mineral component that will serve the appetizer quite well.
- Wine Pairing: #603958 -2003 Vereinigte Hospitien Scharzhofberger Riesling Spatlese $17.49/per bottle.
~This Riesling is from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, which is a river valley in western Germany. Spatlese indicates a medium amount of sugar in the Riesling. Simply put, a spicy dish is complimented best with a sweet wine, hence the rule of thumb, opposites attract.
3) Roasted Quail: With bobwhite quail’s delicate white meat, Beau recommended quail be treated similarly to chicken when pairing with wine. A good medium to light bodied red wine should suffice.
- Wine Pairing Option 1: #625150 -2007 Chateau de la Chaize Brouilly $9.99/bottle
~Brouilly is a small town in the region of Beaujolais. Beaujolais, which is Beau’s actual name shortened, is a region in France that grows the Gamay grape. They produce mild and fruity red wines that are light to medium to bold in body. Serve this red wine slightly chilled.
*(Each November another Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau, is released to celebrate the year’s harvest. They say if you drink a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau within the year it is produced, you will have good luck the following year. Stay tuned for the Beaujolais Nouveau release in November during hunting season).
- Wine Pairing Option 2: #552328 -2007 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee $44.99/bottle
~Domaine Serene is a great vineyard situated in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Ken & Grace Evenstad, previously from Minnesota, have built a top notch vineyard there. They have taken on some of the finest Pinot Noir wine regions in the world and won. Not only famous for great Pinot Noir, the Willamette Valley is the birthplace to pheasants in America. That’s right; pheasants were first introduced to the United States in 1881 by Owen Denny, the U.S. Ambassador to China at the time.
4) Grilled Pheasant Breast: My question to Beau; “What is the best wine for a classic grilled pheasant entre?” His answer; “Pheasant just screams the Rhone Valley in Southern France.”
- Wine Pairing Option 1: #625854 -2007 Cotes-du-Rhone “Les Trois Couronnes” $11.99/bottle
~A great value in the current wine world is just about anything from the Cote-du-Rhone region. The “Les Trois Courronnes” or “3 Crowns” is primarily made from the Grenache grape. It is 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah.
- Wine Pairing Option 2: #625672 -2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘Les Amadous’ $29.99
~Another gem from the Rhone Valley. It’s a very hearty, big red wine that goes well with a variety of pheasant preparations. 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah
5) Venison Steak: A tender venison back strap lightly seasoned with garlic and pepper is my favorite meal on the planet.
- Wine Pairing Option 1: #625944 -2006 Chateau Malmaison $19.99/bottle
~Chateau Malmaison is from the Medoc Region in Bordeaux, France and features the region’s classic blend of Cabernet and Merlot creating aromas of blackberry and raspberry jam. This wine is 80% Merlot & 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. On the palate, the wine is full bodied with very soft tannins. Great finish. 90 point rating from Wine Spectator. Also, #84 out of TOP 100 wines of 2009.
- Wine Pairing Option 2: #610001 -2006 Aguaribay Malbec $8.99/bottle
~Argentina’s famed wine regions are geographically situated for some ideal growing conditions. High elevations, Pacific climate, long hot sunny days followed by cool nights create some great everyday drinking wines. Malbec marries well with garlic & peppered steak. It has a spicy element to it. Likes attract likes.
6) Classic Cream of Mushroom Pheasant over Mashed Potatoes: Every pheasant mom’s favorite crock pot creation.
- Wine Pairing Option 1: #610304 -2007 Cotes du Rhone Rasteau “Les Peyrieres” $12.99/bottle
~This little wine is the perfect vino to compliment mom’s hearty pheasant meal on a chilly autumn day. The wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, & 10% Mourvedre. A very versatile wine that has great structure and balance.
- Wine Pairing Option 2: #611500 -2004 Savigny Les Beaune “Le Village” Villamont $29.99/bottle
~100% Pinot Noir from Savigny Les Beaune, Burgundy. This is an amazing wine with elegance and good structure and has lots of ripe red fruit on the nose, such as strawberry and cranberry. Nice round edges and a solid backbone. A classic meant to compliment a classic dish.
Do you have a favorite wild game meal you’ve been searching to pair with the perfect wine? Do you have any other random wine questions? Email Haskell’s Beau Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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