Pairing Burgers & Wine: Research with Devison Vintners and Canvasback Winery

Extra time in the kitchen this past year has allowed me time to conduct several informal pairing studies of how wines pair with different versions of a few everyday favorite foods. With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, it seems like the perfect time to share my very scientific findings on pairing the first of these: Burgers!

Studies were conducted with homemade burgers, burgers ordered in from restaurants, and burgers made during cookouts with our quarantine pod at the Culinary Cabin. Towards the end of last year, I had the chance to participate in a virtual event that greatly accelerated my research, so today we’ll focus on this experiment, and I’ll share further conclusions in my next post.

Washington State Wines via O'Donnell Lane PR invited me to join a tasting with Devison Vintners and Canvasback Winery. The extra fun component of this tasting was that all of the participants were sent two burgers to enjoy alongside the wines – a bistro-style burger and a good fast-food burger. (I fully believe there are tiers in the world of fast-food burgers.) I received a bacon burger from The Cook and Her Farmer in Swan’s Market here in Oakland, and a classic Five Guys cheeseburger.  

Each winery sent two wines as samples to experiment with and the results were not always exactly what one would expect. Let’s take a look at the wines and how they paired with the burgers. 

Map courtesy of

Note: While the wines were provided as media samples along with the burgers, all opinions are my own and no other compensation was received. Click the wine's name for more technical details on a specific bottle.

Devison Vintners

Peter and Kelsey Devison are the husband and wife team behind Devison Vintners in Walla Walla. Both have had long careers in wine, and between the two of them, they’ve touched most areas of the industry. Peter, who joined the virtual event, had already long been a head winemaker in Washington state for many years when he and Kelsey decided to start their own winery. For her part, Kelsey Malm Devison had spent her time on the sales, marketing, and import side of things. Devison makes small-lot, minimal intervention wines aimed at showcasing Washington’s terroir. They source fruit from growers throughout Washington as well as Oregon with whom they have longstanding relationships.

Devison Vintners Rosé Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2019

Blend: 75% Mourvèdre; 25% Grenache   | Price: $24 (for the current release 2020 bottling)

The grapes in this wine come from the same vineyard as Above the Flood, which we’ll take a look at next. It’s inspired by the Provençal style, but definitely shows Washington character with riper fruit notes. The wine is made via native fermentation in concrete and neutral French oak. It’s then aged on the lees for 5 months and bottled unfined. 

Tasting Notes: Bright strawberries, cherries, and peaches draw you in on the nose and continue on the palate where they gained a tangy quality as they mixed with the lightly creamy mouthfeel created by the lees. 

Pairing: This wine was the surprise MVP of the day. It matched solidly well with both the bacon burger and the cheeseburger. More cherry notes in wine came out when sipped alongside the Five Guys cheeseburger. I don’t think I’d ever really considered rosé as an ideal pairing option for burgers, but it does feed into my evolving belief that rosés are among the most versatile food-pairing wines. This version’s round fruit character helped it to play nicely with tricky elements like ketchup, which can throw off some wines because of its sweetness. 

Greg and I later enjoyed the rest of this bottle with fish poached in a savory Japanese-inspired broth with enoki mushrooms and greens, and it worked beautifully in that combination as well.

Devison Vintners Above the Flood Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley  2018

Blend: 55% Grenache; 37% Syrah; 8% Mourvèdre | Price: $49 

The grapes for both of these Devison wines come from Boushey Vineyards, which are located in Yakima Valley on the southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Mountains. The vineyards are planted on several sites within a two-mile radius but are generally south-facing slopes at elevations varying between 700 to 1200 feet. The oldest vines were planted in 1980 and the youngest were planted in 2003. The wine is made via native fermentation and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. 

Tasting Notes: Sweet raspberry candy notes hit on the nose, along with hints of spice, cocoa, and vanilla. Berries in all colors – red, black, and blue were all here – continued on the palate along with smoke, spice, singed herbs, with a light hit of pepper on the finish. I’m a sucker for a GSM blend, so it’s not a big surprise that this was my favorite wine on its own.

Pairings: This wine worked solidly well with the Five Guys burgers, but it just sang with the bistro burger from The Cook and Her Farmer. This wine absolutely loved the bacon! The smoky notes in both curled around each other like the coils in a plume of smoke. Magical.

Despite the ripe fruit quality of the wine, you might not want to have it with any super spicy or sweet sauces. We later tried the rest of this bottle with pork belly in gochujang. In that case, the sauce diminished the wine’s fruit character and resulted in a pairing that was just okay.

Canvasback Winery

Canvasback is part of the Duckhorn family of wines, and their first winery outside of California. (We’ve explored wines from Duckhorn several times on this blog, but specifically in a burger pairing here.) Inspired by the quality and character of Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State, and particularly from Red Mountain, the winery specializes in Cabs with a structured style, although they do make wines from a few other grapes. Canvasback’s winemaker Brian Rudin, who is a Washington native with years of experience working at some of the state’s most esteemed wineries, joined us for the virtual event.

Like most of the Duckhorn family of wines, Canvasback’s name is inspired by the birds. In this case, the waterfowl in question is the Canvasback duck, which is native to the Pacific Flyway and is pictured on the labels. 

Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2017

Blend: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 2% Mourvedre, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Syrah | Price: $42 

Red Mountain  is still a fairly young appellation, having gained its AVA status in 2001, nonetheless, it has earned itself a reputation for quality and is particularly renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the easternmost subsection of Yakima Valley and is graced with ideal southwest-facing slopes that give the grapes lots of time in the sun. Big swings between the day and nighttime temperature swings provide the conditions for steady ripening that allow the grapes to maintain acidity while developing intense flavors. Canvasback sources their grapes from growers with whom they maintain close relationships. 

Tasting Notes: Friendly black cherry and red plum notes greeted me on the nose. More red fruit notes jumped in on the palate, along with clove, cocoa, vanilla, and a sprinkle of thyme on the finish. The fruit was rich and concentrated while maintaining bright acidity and the tannins were smooth. 

Pairing: This was my favorite wine with the Five Guys burger. The fruit was ripe enough to stand up against the sweetness in the ketchup and it matched the richness of the burger nicely, while the acidity in the wine kept everything lifted so that my palate wasn’t being dragged down by the weight of the food and the big red wine. We finished this bottle that evening with the rest of the burgers after the event, so I don’t have additional pairings for you on this one. 

Canvasback Grand Passage Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2017

Blend: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot | Price: $84

The grapes for this wine are sourced from selected blocks in Quintessence Vineyard, a site with loamy soils that sits at an elevation of 661-1,106 feet. This wine sees about twice as much new oak in comparison to the Red Mountain, which speaks to this wine’s more intense structure. 

Tasting Notes: Red berries, rose petals, and light pepper draw you in on the nose, but then the fruit becomes more dark and intense on the palate with black cherries and plums joining the party. Baking spices, chocolate, and vanilla accent the fruit, while licorice, bay leaves, and pencil lead add complexity. This is a much more structured wine than the Red Mountain, and while the tannins were already fairly supple, the wine would benefit from further aging.

Pairing: The wine worked solidly well with both burgers. I thought the sweetness of the ketchup in the Five Guys burger would challenge the wine, the fruit held up better than expected, although it did narrow the fruit a bit. On the other hand, the fruit came out more with the bacon in the burger from A Girl and her Farmers in a nice way. It was fun to try this high-low combo, but I think the wine’s structure hurt it a bit since the more intense tannic grip seemed to want something more full-on meaty to tame it. Both burgers made for good pairings with the wine, but I think there is a higher calling for this elegant and structured wine. I still have the rest of the bottle since I used my Coravin to pour myself the taste for the event, so will explore further pairings and report back.

This was such a fun virtual tasting and really furthered my very scientific research on burger pairings. I will be back soon with more analysis into the field of burger and wine pairings. Thanks so much to Washington State Wine and O'Donnell Lane for the invitation! 

This post contains affiliate links, including these Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.



Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!