I recently made my first shepherd’s pie. Because I made it on the same day as the series finale of my favorite TV show, Lost, I kept referring to it as “Jack Shephard’s Pie,” a nod to the show’s main character.
Though I know that the traditional version is made with ground lamb (and there are plenty of recipes that substitute ground beef), I made mine with ground elk. I have a friend who’s a hunter, so I always have a stock of ground elk in the freezer. It’s incredibly lean and versatile meat, and I’ve used it in everything from Bolognese sauce to stuffed cabbage rolls. If you’ve never tried elk, it’s more similar to beef than venison, not very gamy and with the slightest hint of sweetness to it.
Even so, there’s enough of an earthy component that I knew I wanted to pair the dish with a Pinot Noir. It occurred to me that it would be funny to have a bottle of Elkhorn Peak, or Elk Cove or even Elke. Instead, I had a bottle of Beringer Pinot Noir Napa Valley 2007 ($20) around, and wow, it was a terrific pairing. The fragrant, floral notes of the wine mingled with the fresh rosemary and thyme in the dish, while the red fruit notes matched all the vegetables, tomato paste and meat flavors. The wine was also delicious on its own, with plenty of spice and herb details and a very smooth finish. I rated it 90 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Beringer Pinot Noir Napa Valley 2007 (89, $20).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Pinot Noir.