What to DRINK With That – Grilled Bison Striploin + Watermelon Salad

from left: Dave Smith, David Tremblay, Ernest Sargent


DRINK editor Treve Ring asks local wine experts how they would approach pairing dishes and flavours. This month’s challenge is to match wine to local summer grilling: Grilled Bison Strip Loin, fava beans, braised red beets, juniper jus and Watermelon Salad, feta, arugula, olive oil.


Our Experts:

Dave Smith (DS)
Buyer, Everything Wine

Dave began his journey down the vinous path twelve years ago after taking a life-changing wine course with the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California.  Over the years he has gone from managing boutique wine stores to his current role as buyer for Everything Wine, the largest private wine retailer in BC. Years of professional study and work in a retail environment give Dave a unique perspective and understanding of today’s wine drinker. His passion for wine has taken him to most major wine regions around the globe – a perk of his job that has instilled a deep appreciation of the work that goes into producing this beautiful product.

Ernest Sargent (ES)
Sommelier & Educator

After receiving his International Sommelier Guild certification in 2006 and his Spanish Wine Educator certification in 2008 Ernest found his true vocation in the retail wine world working at both private and government stores. He can currently be found working part time for the BCLDB and leading the popular wine seminars at C-One in Victoria – whenever he can break away from his surveying career that actually pays the bills (and for his cellar).

David Tremblay (DT)
Sommelier, Shangri-La Vancouver

In 2000 David Tremblay moved to the Okanagan Valley and began to discover his love for wine. He enrolled in classes with the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) and then moved to Vancouver, where he successfully completed the Sommelier Diploma Program. Having worked in the food and beverage industry since his teenage years, David has lived across Canada, working alongside some of Canada’s most respected chefs. He continued that path at Vancouver’s Shangri-La Hotel and MARKET by Jean-Georges restaurant in February 2010. Whenever time permits, David returns to the Okanagan Valley and also travels to other regions (notably France) to meet and taste with winemakers.


What to DRINK with:

Grilled Bison Strip loin, fava beans, braised red beets, juniper jus

DS – This was an interesting experiment and after considering 7 or 8 different wines, it all came down to 3.  A California Cabernet would make an interesting match but the astringency of the tannins in the Cabernet would be a bit pronounced due to the lack of fattiness in this meat.  So it would be decent choice to be sure but know what you’re getting.  An Aussie Grenache would also show well.  The soft, decadent fruits of the Grenache allow the flavours of the meat to blend with the wine.  In the end though this versatile meat will find an amazing match in a Tuscan Red.  The Sangiovese base offers the perfect balance of structure and fruit to allow the Bison to express itself.

ES – To me this just cries out for a big gamey red with good tannic structure, plush texture and some red fruit flavours. The first wine that springs to mind is a good vintage of Chateauneuf du Pape (CdP).  A CdP has sufficient tannins to tame the Bison and fava beans but also has bright fruit flavours along with some garrigue (earthy and herbal) elements that will work well with the beets and juniper jus.  A New World alternative would be a BC Cabernet Franc from a warmer vintage – all the same features of the CdP and you can celebrate local. In addition, both of these wines have the richness/roundness to smooth the texturally lean edge of the Bison.

DT – Hands down, Syrah. The earthiness of the beets and fava beans instantly draw me to the Rhone Valley. The structure and meatiness of a Saint-Joseph or a Cornas would support the heartiness of Bison. Aromas of pepper, lavender, blackberries, leather and smoke would compliment the grilled flavours of the meat. These wines often show roasted herbs and garrigue that would shine through alongside the juniper jus. An example with a little bottle age would be a bonus – but if a current release is what’s available, having the time and vessel to decant the wine would be beneficial. If New World wines are more your taste, I would gravitate to a coastal California Syrah, say from Paso Robles or from the north coast’s Mendocino County area. Another consideration would be venturing south of the equator and getting into a Syrah from Chile’s Casablanca.


BONUS: Watermelon Salad, feta, arugula, olive oil

DS – This is not the easiest pairing but if you persevere you will be rewarded! The sweetness of the watermelon can quickly strip away the fruit of wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and even simple sparkling wine leaving a fairly acidic and bland pairing. We tried multiple wines a hot sunny weekend in an attempt to find the right match and the hands-down winner was Moscato.  The sweetness and liveliness of the Moscato complemented the juicy sweetness of the watermelon.

ES – I have to go with a rosé – after all, what says Summer more than a beautiful glass of pink? I recommend a Grenache based rosé with its peppery accent to harmonize with the arugula. In addition, this wine has enough acidity to work with the feta and the refreshing flavour in the chilled wine matches the freshness of the watermelon.  Another winner would be a Gruner Veltliner – back to the spice (in this case, white pepper) for the arugula and the wine’s bracing mineral freshness with its acidic kick will work seamlessly with the rest of the salad components.

DT – Watermelon packs a fresh punch but it’s light and I wouldn’t want to impose upon it with oak presence. There are so many ways you could go with this one, and more than a few white wines come to mind – but a light-bodied dry rosé would be my pick. Perhaps a Garanacha rosado from Spain’s Navarra region – or a Grenache based rosé blend from either Provence or the Languedoc in southern France. Light pink in colour with bright raspberry and strawberry on the nose, one of these rosés would complement the fresh, delicate flavours of this dish, without being too much.



Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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