Game birds and poultry naturally pair well with pinot noir—squab, quail, chicken, pheasant, turkey, and whatever may have been captured on a recent hunt.
Squab is a great eating bird, but for some reason, Americans give the pigeon a bad rap. It probably has something to do with Central Park in New York City. A squab is a young pigeon that has never flown. They are rich and meaty with a distinctively squabby flavor, and make for good eating. The residents of Dijon (also famous for their mustard) trapped them during Nazi occupation in their town square, and then ate them with pinot noir. Most squabs in America are raised in South Carolina—by the descedants of the gentleman who was responsible for the carrier pigeons in WW1!
For poultry; a simple roast chicken—or Turkey at Thanksgiving—simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs; pinot noir is a solid pairing. When dining out and you’re enjoying a poultry dish, you can almost never go wrong with pinot.
Two classic dishes that pair well with pinot noir.
Coq au Vin, “rooster in wine,” is a traditional peasant dish of Burgundy. It is essentially vegetables, mushrooms, and whatever random chicken cuts around roasted and braised with red wine and herbs. Naturally, since Burgundy is the motherland of pinot noir, pinot is drunk with this dish. This writer prefers a rustic style that is earthy and seductive. The more dirt you taste the better. Volnay is a good commune to look for in the Côte de Beaune of Burgundy. If you like a soft-fruit style with notes of cherry and plum, look for a Nuit St. George.
Duck à l’Orange is a French dish popularized in the 1960’s most likely by the influences of Julia Child, the Pekin Ducks raised on Long Island, and emergence of Haute Cuisine in Manhattan—Lutèce, Four Seasons, more specifically. The orange sauce, Sauce Bigarade, which usually has an addition of sugar, is the origin for the modern day gastrique sauce that is prevalent in modern day restaurant menus. (Sweet and sour sauce is another theory.) Naturally, pinot noir is the perfect match for it—its acidity cuts through the rich sweet sauce. A powerful style of pinot with good fruit and some muscle works best. The commune of Pommard in Burgundy or the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara County provide a good source for these pinots.