The 7 Best Wine Pairings For Wild Game

  • Anna Roberts
 
Photo by Anna Monette Roberts / Arrowood
 
Arrowood winemaker Kristina Shideler knows a thing or two about pairing wine with wild game. Her husband, Anthony, is an avid hunter and home cook, after all. As a family, they feel passionately about eating seasonally, protein included. She told us in an interview, "A lot of the animals sourced for local game are super localized. Throughout the year, we're eating pretty seasonally. I may be eating a lot of venison this time around and through the winter. Then, there's a jackrabbit season and a turkey season. My husband goes fishing up in Alaska for halibut and salmon."
 
Of course, there is a slight barrier to entry. "Most of this is hunted, so you need to know someone who hunts," Kristina added. That said, don’t let it stop you from experimenting with different types of meat. She advised, "If you don't have access to wild game you could always get something domesticated. For instance, venison you can find in select butcher shops. If not, the same cut of beef can be substituted. For jackrabbit, you can find rabbit. Halibuts and salmon don't have to be wild-caught from your own hands. You can find them at a supermarket. Wild turkey would be the one that I would say is the most texturally different, but you could sub it with dark meat turkey."
 
Photo by Anna Monette Roberts / Arrowood
 
Beyond sourcing, flavor can be a deterrent for some. Kristina seeks to disprove common stereotypes. "A lot of people think that wild game takes on a gamey flavor. In my experience, it doesn't have to be that way at all; it's all in how you prepare it. So wild game preparations take a lot longer, but it's extremely rewarding. It's leaner; it has interesting flavors and textures. It's a whole other culinary world," she gushed. If actual recipes are what may hold you back from experimenting with wild game, Kristina has shared some of her family’s favorites to get you started, along with her preferred wine pairings. "When you are cooking with wild game, the preparation is much longer. It involves brining with different spices and slow-cooking," she said. "All but one of these recipes are from a local Northern Californian hunter and chef,  Hank Shaw." 
 
However, if you still can’t access the exact protein called for, don’t let it stop you from making the recipes and trying the wine. "From my understanding, all of these wild game recipes were actually adaptations from other recipes. I think Hank even writes some alternative proteins for these recipes so it's accessible for people," Kristina offered. Below find her tasting notes for the recipes and the wines.  
 

2017 Carneros Chardonnay

 
Photo by Anna Monette Roberts / Arrowood

Pair It With: Halibut or Salmon
Recipe to Try: Blackened Halibut from Healthy Recipes
 
"This new discovery for how to prepare fish could be made with any wild variety. Coat the fillets with a bunch of herbs and cook it in a way where it blackens on each side. That's done in Southern Creole food, but you can do it in a less spicy way that's still really delicious. I think Chardonnay pairs well with anything herbed."
 

2017 Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc 

Photo by Holly A. Heyser
 
Pair It With: Halibut
Recipe to Try: Halibut Puttanesca from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
 
"That Italian recipe features wild-caught halibut with tomatoes and olives. It's briny, savory, and fresh. Paired with Sauvignon Blanc, all that acid goes well together. Again, any wild-caught fish could be used. It's summery to me, but you could pair it with some crusty bread for the winter too."
 

2017 Saralee's Vineyard Viognier

Photo by Holly A. Heyser
 
Pair It With: Jack Rabbit 
Recipe to Try: Classic Hasenpfeffer With Semolina Dumplings from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
 
"One of my favorites is juniper used with jack rabbit. Jack rabbit is actually a dark meat, unlike domesticated rabbit, which is considered white meat. The juniper and all those spices make the Viognier just pop. Any aromatic white would be good with that, but I paired it with Viognier because it's one of those dishes that pairs well with the rabbit texturally. It's a fun pairing."
 

Knights Valley Malbec

Photo by Holly A. Heyser
 
Pair It With: Wild Turkey
Recipe to Try: Turkey Tamales With Pumpkin from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
 
"This is another example of darker meat. You think 'Turkey and Malbec, how does that work?' Well, wild turkey has a completely different texture. It's a lot darker. This comfort food dish has a lot of clove and other Christmas spices. Those complement the fruit of the Malbec. "
 

2017 Alexander Valley Cabernet

Photo by Holly A. Heyser
 
Pair It With: Venison
Recipe to Try: Classic Jaegerschnitzel from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
 
"Backstrap is always the best cut of meat and is the first cut that you usually eat, no matter what type of animal. This has a simple preparation. I chose Alexander Valley Cabernet, because it's classic and lighter bodied. We're not pairing this with a rib-eye. With leaner meat, you don't want to pull out your biggest Cabernet."
 

Prowess Proprietary Red

Photo by Holly A. Heyser
 
Pair It With: Venison
Recipe to Try: Venison Barbacoa from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
 
"This slow-cooked venison has a lot of savoriness to it and goes well with the Proprietary Red." 
 

2014 Réserve Spéciale Cabernet Sauvignon

Photo by Holly A. Heyser
 
Pair It With: Venison 
Recipe to Try: Braised Shanks from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
 
"Another favorite and one of the more decadent pairings is the Réserve Spéciale with the braised shanks. Shanks are the lower part of the leg of the animal. It requires a slow-cook. All of the marrow and some of the connective tissues melt and make it extremely rich and texturally really nice. That's a decadent, rich treat."