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The Best Wine to Pair with Salmon

The Best Wine to Pair with Salmon

If you’re anything like me, salmon is on your plate more often than any other variety of seafood. Whether it’s roasted, seared, or grilled, it makes for an easy and feel-good weeknight meal.

But what should you drink with it? The traditional rule of white wine with fish is probably what comes to mind, but salmon is meatier in flavor and texture than other fish like cod and tilapia, which makes it somewhat of an outlier.

With that in mind, I think your best bet with salmon is Pinot Noir—and here’s why.

WHITE WINE IS NOT THE BEST CHOICE FOR SALMON

The reason white wine is a classic pairing with seafood is that it’s generally lighter-bodied than red wine, so it doesn’t overpower the fish. Also, just like the common practice of squeezing lemon juice over your freshly cooked seafood, higher acidity in white wine tends to compliment it.

But pink-hued fillets like salmon, while still relatively mild in flavor, are buttery, rich-tasting, and have a more pronounced “fishiness” than extra-mild fish like tilapia, flounder, or sole. Salmon is also a firmer, meatier fish, with a moist and tender texture, rather than a delicately flaky one.

Both of these factors mean salmon can break with tradition and pair with a red wine instead of a white one.

PAIR SALMON WITH PINOT NOIR!

Since salmon is bolder in flavor and texture, it actually stands up well to red wine! The type of red wine is key, though: A big, heavy-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon will indeed overpower salmon, but a light-bodied red will not.

That’s why Pinot Noir is such a perfect fit! It has more acidity than most other red wines to complement the fish and cut through its richness. Plus, its fruity, earthy notes work well with salmon’s buttery, extra-savory flavor.

WHAT KINDS OF PINOT NOIR TO PAIR WITH SALMON

Do all kinds of Pinor Noir pair well with all kinds of salmon? Yes and no.

As a whole, Pinot Noir pairs well with just about every kind of cooked salmon, regardless of the variety or how it’s prepared. It works well with smoked salmon, too—be it hot smoked or cold smoked (aka lox).

What’s important to keep in mind, however, is just how wide-ranging bottles of Pinot Noir are, and how certain bottles pair better with certain preparations or types of salmon than others.

  • Farmed salmon tends to be lighter in flavor than wild salmon, so a bottle of Pinot Noir that’s more delicate in style is best. Look to regions with cooler climates, like Oregon, France, and Germany for this style.
  • Wild salmon pairs nicely with Pinots that come from warmer climates and lean more toward medium-bodied, such as bottles from California and Australia.
  • Smoked salmon is a nice complement to a Pinot Noir that’s more earthy than fruity. You’ll find a good selection of this style from France and even northern Italy, where they’re called Pinot Nero.

Various sauces and spices also play a roll. A cream sauce is better with a lighter-bodied Pinot while a tomato-based sauce is nice with a fuller, more fruit-forward bottle. Similarly, the bolder the spices you sprinkle on your salmon, the more well-suited a bolder Pinot Noir is.

At the end of the day, though, there’s no need to get too flustered about picking out the perfect bottle. Pick up a bottle or two at your local wine shop that sparks your interest and just have fun experimenting! Even if it’s not that absolute perfect match, I can assure you it will be a pretty great one.

5 Great (and Affordable!) Pinot Noirs to Try

  • Josh Cellars Pinot Noir, California, $12.97
  • Rainstorm Pinot Noir, Oregon, $14.99
  • Rickshaw Pinot Noir, California, $16.99
  • Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir, Australia, $18.99
  • Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir, France, $19.99

SALMON RECIPES TO MAKE NOW

  • Grilled Salmon with Cucumber Mango Salsa
  • Easy Grilled Salmon
  • Slow Roasted Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze
  • Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables
  • Sheet Pan Salmon with Broccoli and Miso Butter

6 Best Wines Perfect for Pairing with Salmon

Planning for a salmon meal tonight? But the dinner would be absolutely incomplete without a lovely wine. Wine, if wrongly paired, can be held responsible for spoiling your evening. Tastessence guides you with 6 best wines to be paired with a variety of salmon recipes.

Planning for a salmon meal tonight? But the dinner would be absolutely incomplete without a lovely wine. Wine, if wrongly paired, can be held responsible for spoiling your evening. Tastessence guides you with 6 best wines to be paired with a variety of salmon recipes.

Long-gone Norms

Rule 1 : Red wine pairs best with meat, and white wine accompanies fish and poultry really well.
Rule 2 : Dismiss Rule One.

Such norms are no doubt helpful, but they are only a derivation of people’s own experiences. It’s time to outdo that by experiencing your own “wow” moment.

Usually, wine-food pairings go with the technique of either pairing contrasting flavors together, or complementing the flavors. As a rule of thumb, white meat (fish and poultry) goes best with white wine, and red meat (beef and richer dishes) goes with red wine. But when it comes to salmon, things differ a bit. Salmon is heavier than white fish, and hence, it doesn’t fall under white meat. It is lighter than red meat. Salmon steaks, patties, or filets project a nice pink color. And if we talk of salmon’s flavor, it has a very strong flavor, which can overpower other flavors easily. Therefore, a light-bodied wine won’t work here.

Salmon has a versatile personality it can be baked, soaked, grilled, blackened, or poached. It is also important to consider the side dishes, ingredients of the main meal, and sauces dished with salmon, before pairing it with a wine.

Grouping salmon with a perfect wine will enhance the meal from good to best. But having salmon with a wrong wine can ruin the entire dinner. So let’s have a keen look at the best wines to be paired with salmon, its burgers, and steaks.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a red wine with moderately low tannin content. Its light red, fruity flavor serves as a perfect counterpart to salmon’s strong flavor. Sineann family of Pinot Noirs can be taken with grilled salmon. Choose the one that is somewhat fruity and not too dry.

Flavor Profile: Earthy flavor, imparts a rich taste

Best Paired With: Salmon teriyaki, Blackened salmon

Coupling Suggestions: Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir

Grilled Salmon with light tomato sauce, asparagus, and capers on the side.

Chardonnay

Hands down. Unoaked Chardonnay totally wins it all. Despite being one of the most popular wines and the best-selling wine of US, it is actually tedious to pair it with food. But it holds a high place when it comes to wine pairings with salmon. This white wine amazingly complements with buttery, creamy salmons.

Flavor Profile: Citrus fruit flavors, imparts buttery characteristics

Best Paired With: Salmon en croute, Salmon potpie, Salmon fishcakes

Coupling Suggestions: Good quality, oak-aged Chardonnay

Salmon with a hollandaise or beurre blanc sauce.

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

Pinot Gris is also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy. Its spicy full-bodied wine, Alsatian style, is most apt for salmon. Most seafood blend well with this white wine. Pinot Grigio has a mildly floral aroma, with pear and peach flavors, giving a citrus taste. Owing to its somewhat oily texture, it can even hold strong against oily salmon.

Flavor Profile: Refreshing citrus flavor

Best Paired With: Poached salmon with mayonnaise

Coupling Suggestions: Salmon with yogurt, or minced in lemon-based sauces is best coupled with Oregon or Alsatian-style Pinot Gris.

Sauvignon Blanc

This is a dry white wine with a slightly acidic flavor and aggressive smell. It is dosed with herbs like dill, and produces citrus flavor tones. Choose the one that isn’t too fruity.

Flavor Profile: Grassy to melon or tropical fruit flavors

Best Paired With: Baked salmon rolls

Coupling Suggestions: Loire Valley Sancerre’s herbaceous qualities suit best with salmon cooked with herbs.

Rosé Wine

It can be called a close cousin of red wine. It is pinkish in color. The vigor, color, and fizz of this wine matches with that of salmon. Its acidity can endure even the oily, fleshy fish. Its amazing red wine-like flavors incorporate a balance of flavors and acidity with salmon.

Flavor Profile: Sweet, cherry-raspberry flavor

Best Paired With: Grilled, smoked, poached salmons

Coupling Suggestions: (i) Bourgogne

tender grilled salmon (ii) Raw salmon such as salmon sashimi or tartare with sparkling rosé wine.

Riesling

Riesling is a crisp, highly acidic, white grape variety wine. It has a lower alcohol content. So, if you’re thinking of having spiced salmon, Riesling is the best fit that goes without searing your taste buds. White Riesling, or popularly called Johannisberg Riesling, harmonizes with the salmon palate.

Flavor Profile: Spicy flavor, fruity and aromatic wine

Best Paired With: Tandoori salmon

Coupling Suggestions: Salmon made with Indian spices complement very well with this wine’s acidic flavor.

Zinfandel, Beaujolais, and Grenache are some more options to try with salmon. All we would say is, experiment and try different wines who knows, you might find a better pairing.


When plain salmon is roasted slowly, it cooks to a soft and delicate texture. A more steak-like way of preparing it gives it a dry and flaky feel and makes it mealy. Generally, well-prepared plain salmon has a soft grain that is somewhat mushy.

For this type of wine with salmon dish, get a bottle of oak-aged white wine. Time-aged white wine would also be fine. These have that robust lemon with notes of brûlée or nuts that add to the texture of the fish. If you want something richer, then you can always get a Californian Central Coast Chardonnay, Spanish white Rioja-aged, Australian Chardonnay or a Chardonnay/Trebbiano from Sicily. These are some of the rich whites that have a taste that will integrate well with the taste of the salmon to give a great overall taste.

Ever wonder about the contents of that white wine you love so much? Check out “How Many Calories in a Bottle of White Wine” for more.

In this case, you also have the choice for more subtle pairings. Wines with subtle herbal notes are a great choice. Pick between wines such as a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc or a type of Chardonnay.

A Note On Red wine with Salmon

You won’t miss a red wine to pair with steak-like white meat such as salmon. The trick is to find a wine with low tannin to avoid the metallic taste you get when you pair with full-bodied reds. A Pinot Noir would be a great choice in this case. The fruity raspberry and strawberry notes, as well as the earthy undertones all, work to balance the flavor of the fish. From baked to smoked, grilled or pan-seared salmon, you can never go wrong with a light Pinot Noir with light tannin. One example of this kind of pairing is the Valpolicella blend, which is mainly the Corvina grape. There are also other choices such as Prieto Picudo (Spain), Beaujolais (French) and Lambrusco (Italian).

Matching your pairings to the sauce and method of preparation. If you’re thinking of cooking with that bottle of wine, check out “What is Cooking Wine?” for tips on how to cook with your wine.


Best Wine With Salmon – Top Varietals

Chardonnay

As you might have guessed Chardonnay is without a doubt one of salmon’s best friends. Chardonnay is also incredibly easy to find, just like salmon. Now we’re talkin’! As a wine, Chardonnay can vary in sight, smell, taste, and in its overall mouthfeel depending on a variety of factors.

Even Chardonnay grapes that are grown just a few miles apart from each other can taste remarkably different! That is the power of not only differences in winemaking styles but, more importantly, the terroir: the soil composition, exposure to sunlight, moisture, temperature fluctuations, everything.

This variation in growing conditions yields a host of unique styles of any wine, Chardonnay included, which in turn presents the consumer with a vast ocean of options.

As is the case with any food & wine pairing, one of the factors to be taken seriously is how the food itself is prepared. This distinction will dictate not only what type of wine to select, but also what type of flavor profile to seek out.

When it comes to Chardonnay, the line in the sand, if you will, that separates drinkers of this varietal is whether the wine has been exposed to oak during the aging process. When wine has been stored in oak barrels for aging purposes, the wood can dramatically affect the wine’s flavor profile.

Oak imparts notes of vanilla, cream, spice, and caramel and can give the mouthfeel a buttery, suave texture, all of which either attracts or repulses wine consumers. As is the case with spirits like Bourbon, oak can be the driving force behind how the Bourbon will taste by the time it’s bottled.

If you prefer Chardonnay that is full-bodied, silky, buttery and, therefore, oaked then you will certainly have no issue with finding a suitable bottle at almost any place that sells and/or serves wine, especially here in the United States.

This style of Chardonnay I just described goes perfect with salmon and compliments it perfectly. The oftentimes rich and round flavor profile that is characteristic of big, oaked Chardonnay stacks up nicely with the rich, oily nature of salmon, thus making for a delicious union.

Chardonnay Suggestions:

All of these wines are available for Purchase on Wine.com

Viognier

Now this is a varietal I’ve not yet discussed here on Own the Grill. Hailing from Southern France, this grape, like Chardonnay, can be used to make an oaked wine as well as an unoaked wine – and the differences can be just as bewildering!

Viognier can range from being delicate, citrusy, refreshing, and almost watery, all the way to creamy and bold. Viognier as a wine is far more challenging to find as it’s oftentimes overshadowed by more well-known varietals such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, so knowing where to procure a Viognier is key.

In terms of price, few Viognier selections command an elevated price point – most are quite affordable and offer a good quality-to-price ratio (QPR). Viognier is also incredibly easy to drink as most expressions are delicate on the palate and can be paired with a variety of cuisines.

With salmon, Viognier can truly shine when the fish is simply prepared with lemon and sage and done up either in the oven or on the stovetop. In this fashion, the fresh, tantalizing citrus on the fish can complement the delightful subtleties of a Viognier, which oftentimes exhibits notes of flowers, tropical fruits, and citrus.

However, while pairing Viognier with a more graceful presentation of salmon is a lovely way to dip your toes in the Viognier pool, it is certainly worth exploring more full-bodied and richer expressions of this varietal.

As you explore the spectrum of sight, taste, and mouthfeel of Viognier, feel free to change up your salmon recipes to match the seemingly unending variations of this beautiful varietal.

All of these wines are available for Purchase on Wine.com

White Rhône Blends

With this next section I’m going to break from tradition and forego suggesting a specific varietal and instead suggest a blend. Not just any blend, mind you. No what we’re going to discuss next is the style of white blend common to a region of France known as the Rhône Valley.

There are a multitude of grapes grown across the Northern and Southern sections of this highly regarded winegrowing region – from Syrah to Grenache to lesser known varietals such as Carignan and Mourvèdre – but today we’ll only be discussing the handful of grapes used most often in Rhône white blends.

Enter Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and yes, Viognier. These varietals, and a few more, are on constant rotation in the Rhône Valley and together they make for quite a presentation.

All white blends from the Rhône Valley don’t have to use each of these varietals at the same time, as some blends completely ignore one varietal (or two) in exchange for another, but generally speaking one will find a relatively equal representation of each of these varietals when exploring the region.

The grape varietals that go into a white Rhône blend can oftentimes exude similar characteristics to that of Chardonnay, and that goes for not only the blends themselves but also for single-variety expressions.

Wines that are 100% Roussanne or 100% Marsanne can exhibit notes of dried citrus fruits, brioche, beeswax, and honey just like a great many Chardonnays can. Not only can the flavor profile be similar, but the mouth feel – the density, the texture, the acidity – can also.

For the sake of finding a wine to pair with salmon, however, one would be far better off seeking out a blend rather than a single-varietal white wine from the Rhône Valley as the latter can be a bit tricky to locate.

But who are we kidding? We’ve not even discussed how well these blends pair with salmon! As I’ve mentioned already, the oily, somewhat rich component of salmon effects how well it plays with wine and also dictates exactly what wines it likes to be paired with.

More often than not white blends from the Rhône Valley offer complexity, density, and robustness – enough so to handle salmon that’s been served with rich, creamy sauces. This is truly where things can start getting interesting (and fun).

In my opinion salmon is oftentimes not given the time of day by whoever is cooking it. Simplistic and bland presentations seem to be commonplace, unfortunately, with little thought or creativity devoted to turning this fish into an exceptional dish.

If you’re feeling adventurous and would rather stick with the good – but common – preparations of salmon I’d encourage you to select a white blend from Rhône to aid you in your discovery.

Cooking and serving salmon in rich, decadent, creamy sauces can not only tantalize the palate but can also expand your horizons when paired with a suave, rich blend from this region. Time to get creative!

All of these wines are available for Purchase on Wine.com

Sauvignon Blanc

This widely loved varietal is versatile, refreshing, easily found, and can be quite budget-friendly. Now that’s a combination! In addition to these positive attributes, it’s also worth noting that a great many high-end producers make Sauvignon Blanc that’s reasonably priced, as well.

That being said, this is a really fun varietal to explore premium producers with whose other wines – like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay – may be a bit more expensive. Sauvignon Blanc can also vary drastically in how it smells and tastes depending on what part of the world the grapes were grown.

For instance, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand is renowned for exhibiting exotic notes of freshly-cut grass, river rocks, river rocks, and even cat pee (yikes!), while Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, France can taste more refined and sophisticated with subdued notes of citrus, wax, and brioche.

Sauvignon Blanc from Napa, on the other hand, can oftentimes showcase more zesty and energetic notes of tropical fruits, citrus, and herbs. The diverse spectrum of smell and taste is profound and is a remarkable experience to behold.

When it comes to pairing Sauvignon Blanc with salmon, however, I’m of the accord to choose both a delicate yet expressive wine to match a simply-prepared dish. If the wine showcases too many exotic, unique notes, then the fish will be overpowered.

This is, interestingly enough, a positive attribute of Sauvignon Blanc. It can be paired with salads loaded with zesty fruits and savory nuts and can also be paired with oily, rich fish and a multitude of things in between.

For the purposes of this discussion, however, we’ll relegate ourselves to more traditional expressions of Sauvignon Blanc and leave the exotic interpretations for another day. One particular preparation of salmon this varietal pairs well with – especially Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc – is when fresh citrus and garden-fresh herbs are involved.

While Chardonnay and white blends from the Rhône Valley are best saved for more robust recipes, Sauvignon Blanc is fresh and energetic enough to compliment seasonal herbs from the garden. When I envision pairing salmon with Sauvignon Blanc, I oftentimes picture backyard grill sessions during the summer.

Patio lights, friends, the sound of sizzling meat, the clink of wine glasses, crisp evening air, and maybe some bocce ball or croquet. In my mind this is the ideal environment that Sauvignon Blanc can shine in.

Sauvignon Blanc Suggestions

All of these wines are available for Purchase on Wine.com


Which Wine Goes with Salmon?

Salmon is one of the most versatile fish there is to prepare. Rich, fatty, flaky, and full of flavor there are countless ways to make salmon. Grilled, smoked, sashimi, chowders, cream sauces, etc. Different preparations call for different wines.

The great thing about pairing wine with salmon is you can play around with different styles of wine to get the perfect pairing.

Pick Out Fresh Salmon

The key to all great cuisine- fresh ingredients. While not all of us are lucky enough to live next to local salmon runs, there are still ways to get (semi) fresh salmon that has not been frozen.

Support your local farmer’s market to get fresh ingredients for the rest of the dish.

Check out this salmon buying guide to help you choose a great fillet!

General Rule for Pairing Wine with Salmon

Full-bodied white wines are an excellent go-to wine pairing for salmon. Although what you pair with the salmon also depends on preparation and side dishes.

You can pair with sparkling wines, light-bodied white wines, roses, and even light red wines.

Already have the wine?

Already have the perfect bottle of wine that you have been dying to open? Prepare your salmon around your favorite wines. Salmon can go with so many different wines.

Sparkling Wine

Try a Brut Champagne or Cava with salmon cakes or a grilled salmon fillet with roasted potatoes. Remember that sparkling wine isn’t just for celebrations (although everything is more fun with bubbly), it can also be paired with so many great foods.

Light-bodied White Wine

There are many great salmon dishes for those who enjoy a refreshing and cool Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, or the often forgotten but delicious Vermentino.

Try pairing with sashimi, salmon ceviche, or poached salmon with a fatty sauce.

Full-bodied White Wine

There are other great full white wines other than Chardonnay. Although, a buttery Chardonnay will be a great match for practically every salmon dish.

Try Semillon or a Viognier. Pair with salmon and hollandaise sauce, salmon fish cakes, or a grilled salmon pasta dish.

Sweet White Wine

Got a sweet tooth? Pair with a spicy Cajun-style salmon or Tandoori salmon. The sweetness of the wine will help cut through the spice of the dish.

Rose is a great choice for pairing with appetizers. It is so versatile and pairs with so many great appetizer plates. Try with smoked salmon spread and crackers or a teriyaki salmon dish.

Light Red Wine

Pinot Noir and Gamay lovers unite! There are great pairings for those who enjoy a glass of light red wine.

Pair with grilled, blackened, or BBQ salmon. The acidity from the wine will help ease the fat of the dish but the tannins won’t overwhelm the lightness of the dish.

Ready to start cooking?

The key to pairing wine and food is to pair with the whole flavor of the dish, not just the main ingredient.

Pair wine with salmon based on how to cook it and the sauces you put on it.

Grilled, Blackened, or BBQ’d

A classic way to cook salmon. Pair with a Rose or Gamay if the salmon is served with a rich side dish like risotto. For lighter grilled salmon dishes, pair with a bold white wine like Viognier.

Smoked Salmon

A rich way to prepare salmon and a great addition to any appetizer plate. Pair with any rose. For those who prefer white, pair with a Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis.

A crisp white wine like Gruner Veltliner or Vermentino will pair well with sashimi. These wines will also go with other raw fish dishes.

Salad with Grilled Salmon

A light salmon salad pairs well with a crisp white wine. Pair with Albarino or Pinot Gris. These wines will go with a salmon salad that has a lighter vinegarette dressing or a creamy dressing.

Salmon Cakes

Even better than crab cakes…salmon cakes. Salmon cakes also make a great appetizer dish but can be made into a main entree. They are great over potatoes or risotto. Pair with a rich Chardonnay or Roussane.

Salmon Chowder

A great alternative to clam chowder. Make with chunks of potato and top with paprika. Salmon chowder is a rich and creamy chowder that is perfect for any winter evening. Pair with Champagne or Cava.

Sauce it up

The sauce makes everything better. For those who want to spice up their salmon dish, try adding a homemade sauce to it.

While these sauces compliment salmon, they can be rich. Be sure to pair with the flavor of the sauce rather than focusing on the salmon.

Cream Sauce

Hollandaise or a creamy dill sauce is great over a fresh piece of grilled salmon. Pair with Chardonnay, Roussanne, or Soave.

Lemon Cream Sauce

For an all-around classic dish, use a lemon cream sauce. Pair with a buttery Chardonnay. The creaminess of the Chardonnay will pair well with the acidic lemon flavors.

Teriyaki or Maple Sauce

Sweeter sauces like teriyaki or maple call for an acidic and crisp white. Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris will help cut through the sweetness of the dish and cleanse your palate.

Cajun Style or Spicy Sauce

For those who like a little kick of flavor, try pairing with a slightly sweet wine. Off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer will help cut through the spice of the dish.

Expand your horizons and explore different salmon dishes and wine pairings.

With thousands of delicious recipes to choose from with just as many wines, you will never run out of new salmon and wine pairings to choose from.

What is your favorite salmon dish? Which wine do you like to pair with that dish?

Salmon isn’t the only fish that is best paired with wine. Check out these other fish and wine pairings.


Salmon and Wine are Simply Meant to Be Together

Salmon are perhaps the most visually striking of the world’s fish. Sleek and silvery, they are aquatic vertebrates of grace and beauty with buttery and succulent flesh. It’s no wonder that foodies have long considered salmon as one of the ocean’s great natural delicacies.

As its name implies, it’s neither red-fleshed nor white, making it an exceptionally accommodating wine companion. Depending on the preparation, salmon dishes can be paired with a spectrum of wines, including Champagne, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

I have been cooking salmon for 25 years and I must have 100 plus recipes for it in my head. While there are several factors that can affect what wine goes best with salmon, you can’t go wrong if you choose a bottle that stands up to the strong flavor of the fish without overpowering it.

Salmon, unlike most foods, has the uncanny ability to be matched to wine by texture — either complementary or in counterpoint — as well as by its saucing.

Salmon also lends itself to assertive adornments. Bright, acidic sauces – those made with lemon, capers, tomatoes and fruit – work well because they cut through some of the fish’s inherent richness. Salmon’s luxuriant qualities can be heightened with marinades and sauces that include brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, hot peppers and sesame oil that enhances salmon without overwhelming its intrinsic flavor. Cooking methods broaden its range – it can be served smoked, poached, grilled, steamed or baked, the list of possibilities for salmon is quite long.

Personal Preference
Wine pairings are also a matter of personal preference. While a certain white wine may be best suited to your meal, you may prefer to drink red wines. Your taste preferences are just as important as any other factor.

If you like your everyday red or white wine, don’t worry about trying to match the food you are eating with that particular wine. What matters most is that you like how your wine tastes. Not every meal requires the perfect match with a wine. With a little research, you can find a wine you love that is perfect for your meal.

Wine Recommendations for Salmon
Depending on the flavors of your meal, one of these wines could be an excellent choice:

Chardonnay Pair this richer white wine with buttered salmon. Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine that is full of flavor. A plain white fish would be completely overshadowed by this powerful white wine, but when served with buttered salmon, the Chardonnay only further complements the creamy flavor of the fish, making it one of the best wine pairings for salmon.

Riesling ths crisp, acidic wine pairs best with the richer flavor of salmon. A good Riesling will also give off a citrus lime flavor that complements salmon. It also pairs well with spicier cuisine, so if you want to try cooking up a more exotic-flavored salmon recipe you might want to pair the concoction with a glass of Riesling.

Pinot Grigio is wonderful with most seafood, including salmon. This light white wine is best with salmon that doesn’t have a strong sauce, and it is excellent with lemon-based sauces. This white wine carries a more succulent flavor like the Riesling with hints of pear and peach. Pinot Grigio is a full-bodied wine that could overpower white fish or shellfish but pairs very well with salmon, particularly smoked salmon. It also goes well with various side dishes.

Sauvignon Blanc is also a great white wine for lighter salmon dishes. It’s important to choose a bottle that is not too fruity. This wine goes well with a number of different entrees, since it is light, refreshing and a bit acidic. The combined aromas of Sauvignon Blanc can bring out the taste of lemon-flavored salmon quite well. It also pairs well with sushi.

Pinot Noir is a great choice if you love red wine. It’s especially excellent with salmon prepared on the grill, and it can hold up to the strong flavor of this fish. This is one of the lighter red wines, so it pairs extremely well with foods like salmon. It is often too heavy for white fish and too light for red meat, but salmon finds the perfect balance when paired with this wine. A Pinot Noir served with herb-grilled salmon will taste especially flavorful.

Zinfandel is very good with blackened or grilled salmon. Look for a bottle that is somewhat fruity and not too dry. This medium-bodied wine displays classic varietal character with a fresh berry aroma and a hint of black pepper. The flavors are bright and juicy, with a zesty spiciness. Pairs beautifully with salmon.

Too often wine can intimidate us. Part of this is due to the tremendous number of choices that exist and part of it is due to the tendency to make wine too precious.

Wine is meant to be enjoyed with food.

Hopefully the above will be useful to you as a guide. It comes down your own choice and preferences. Drink what you like, it’s part of the joy of pairing food and wine!


THREE WINE STYLES: RED | WHITE | ROSÉ

THE BEST WHITE WINE PAIRING WITH SALMON

White wine has always been the “go-to” wine for fish. As a general rule, white wines tend to handle the sauces and seasonings that are used with salmon preparation. Chardonnays are usually the choice varietal. It is a full-bodied wine. A sure bet, so to speak!

Chardonnay that is aged in oak barrels tend to have a texture that is smooth and rich. That is a good combination for pairing with the salmon’s fatty nature. You might try a White Rioja, a California Chablis, a Viognier or even a White Pinot Noir.

There are a few exceptions to this pairing. Some of the sauces contain fresh herbs like dill or French savory. Some tend to focus on citrus flavors. If this is the case than a Sauvignon Blanc would be better. This wine has mineral tones with complementary herbaceous and citrus flavors that goes well with these types of sauces.

THE BEST RED WINE PAIRING WITH SALMON

Not every red wine pairs with salmon. One shining star is Pinot Noir. This wine is known for its delicate. A bold red wine will dominate the salmon’s subtle, but rich texture and flavor. The tannins in Pinot Noir are discreet and refined. Tannins tend to be bitter so wines with heavy tannins are not the best choice for pairing with most salmon dishes.

Pinot Noir offers a silky, refined tannin structure, with hints of strawberry and raspberry fruit and earthy undertones. This brings out the savory flavors in herb-crusted salmon recipes or cedar plank grilled salmon. Pinot Noir is even a good match for basic baked salmon. This offsets the age-old problem between tannins and the seafood. Finally, the light acidity of Pinot Noir pairs with the salmon’s oily texture. If you want red wine with your salmon than Pinot Noir is always your first choice

There are some additional red wines for pairing with salmon’s rich steak-like flesh. Here’s the trick: find a low-tannin wine to keep the pairing from tasting metallic. Some examples of this include a Valpolicella blend, a Gamay and of course Italian Lambrusco

THE BEST ROSÉ WINE WITH SALMON PAIRING

/>When you think about it salmons flesh is pink. So, if you go by the white with white, why not pink meat with pink wine. Rosé wine has been made from almost every grape available. To obtain a rosé wine, the skins used in the fermenting stage of wine production are left in contact with the juice for a much shorter time. That is why it is light pink vs. red in color. There are hues of rosé. From dark to very light. A good rule is to match the color of the rosé you want to use with the color of the salmon. So, a Coho salmon would match with a much darker rosé than a farm raised fish.

Rosé wines will pair with many salmon dishes. Rosé is wonderful with a grilled whole fish. It will go with that smoked salmon and eggs as a brunch choice. It goes with pate or poached salmon dishes.

Rosé wines inherently have red fruit aromas with a mineral character. This is a real asset when looking to pair the wine with salmon dishes. Many wine experts have pointed out that rosé wines have characteristics of both white and red wines. Its acidity is perfect to tone down the rich oily nuances of salmon. Rosé will not overpower the spices or seasonings used in preparing the dish.

How about sparkling rosé. Well it adds another dimension to the pairing equation. Champagne is festive beverage. It adds an elegance to any dish you are serving. The advantage of sparkling rosé is the bubbles cut thru the oily texture of the salmon. So, if you are looking to upgrade your poached salmon take the plunge and pop the cork on a bottle of Brut Rosé.


Healthy Salmon & Wine Pairings

Only the strong (and lucky) survive the passage from freshwater creek to endless ocean, followed by a headwater homecoming, there to spawn and die. No wonder salmon symbolize self-sacrifice and perseverance for Coast Salish tribes in the Pacific Northwest.

Of course, on the plate—whether poached, baked or grilled—salmon is the siren of the sea, its diamond-silver skin surrounding the enticing, silky pink flakes.

The mighty salmonidae holds another tantalizing power: They’re packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and even arthritis.

Rosés and Pinot Noirs are generally accepted as good pours for the pink pesce. But how you cook the salmon should determine the wines you pair with it.

“The size and weight of the wine should match the richness and intensity of food,” says Erik Liedholm, wine director and partner with John Howie Restaurants in Seattle. “Grilling creates a char that goes with a New World Syrah or cooler-climate Zin. With poached salmon, a rich Chardonnay can be wonderful.”

Salmon have their own superstars—the Copper River and Yukon River runs in April and May. These salmon pack higher concentrations of Omega-3s, and their rich fillets fare best when simply grilled or seared.

“Because of the richness of the fish, you can head to Syrah,” says Liedholm.

Wrath 2009 Ex Anima Chardonnay (Monterey)

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley (keep stems)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced about ¼-inch thick
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced about ¼-inch thick
  • 2 carrots, sliced on a bias about ¼-inch thick
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced about ¼-inch thick
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 4 5-ounce wild salmon fillets, skinned, boned
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, cut into small pieces

Fill a large bowl with water, and add the lemon juice.

Peel the dark green outer leaves from the artichokes and cut off the spiny tops and stems. Cut the artichokes into quarters, remove the chokes with the sharp point of a pairing knife and immediately place them into the water with lemon juice.

In a large shallow pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Next, add the garlic, parsley stems, onion, fennel, carrots and celery. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Gently cook until the onions are translucent but not browned, stirring frequently. Drain the artichokes and pat them dry with a cloth or paper towel and add them to the pan.

Deglaze the hot pan with the white wine and bring to a simmer, cooking until the liquid reduces by half.

Pour the broth or water over the vegetables and simmer, covered, until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a knife. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Discard the parsley stems, then add the whole parsley leaves to the pot, and let wilt slightly.

Season the salmon fillets liberally on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a heavy sauté or frying pan to medium high and add the canola oil.

Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, lay the fillets gently into the hot oil. Press fillets with a spatula briefly. Add the butter to the pan and baste the fillets once the butter is melted. Cook on the first side until the fillets are nicely caramelized, then turn the fillets over and cook the second side until they are firm and no longer translucent.

To serve, spoon the vegetable mixture into four shallow bowls with a little of the cooking liquid. Place the seared salmon fillets on top of the vegetables and serve with crusty bread. Serves 4.

Artichokes are a notoriously tricky pairing. But Chef Jeff Rogers at Cindy’s Waterfront, says with this dish, the minerality and crispness of an unoaked Chardonnay is a sure bet, such as the local Wrath Ex Anima Chardonnay (Monterey County). Another choice Rogers recommends: Falanghina—an ancient grape grown in Campania, near Naples. It has notes of lime blossom and mimosa, and a minerality that slices through the flavors.

Silver Oak 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

  • 4 6-ounce white King salmon fillets, skin on, from shoulder (tails cook faster)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 stalks rhubarb, peeled and chopped in 2-3 inch pieces
  • 1 quart simple syrup
  • 1 quart crème fraîche
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste

Place salmon, olive oil, bay leaves, and garlic in a heat-resistant Ziploc bag. Put the bag into 105˚F water, being careful not to break the bag (Chef Diday uses a pasta strainer to keep it away from the sides of the pot), for 6–8 minutes (flip half way through) or until the desired degree of doneness is reached.

Poach the rhubarb in simple syrup for 3−5 minutes, then strain out rhubarb, reserving the simple syrup. Allow the rhubarb to cool completely, then purée it in a blender until smooth. If it is not blending well, add some of the simple syrup until you get it smooth.

Place the crème fraîche in a medium mixing bowl, and allow to come to room temperature. Add the rhubarb to the crème fraîche until you like the way it tastes. Add Kosher or sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Serves 4.

“I like a very full wine with this salmon,” says Chef Adrian Diday, of Bear Track Inn.

“With its round fruit flavors, the 1999 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet goes extremely well with the tasty trinity of fat, acid and salt in this dish. Also, the astringency of the crème fraîche really works to balance the fruit in the rhubarb, and all the flavors meld and harmonize well with the rich middle of the wine.”

McCrea Cellars 2008 Cuvée Orleans Syrah (Yakima Valley)

  • For dry rub seasoning:
  • 2 teaspoons lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dry whole tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon dry whole basil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • For the salmon:
  • 4 6−7 ounce salmon fillets, skinned
  • 2 tablespoons dry rub seasoning
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Italian parsley, to garnish
  • 4 lemon slices

To make the dry rub seasoning, place all ingredients into a food processor and process until well blended. Transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.

Place the fillets on wax paper. Sprinkle both sides of the salmon with 1½ teaspoons of the dry rub seasoning. Really press the seasoning into the flesh. Refrigerate the fillets uncovered, for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours prior to cooking.

Before removing the salmon from the refrigerator, soak cedar planks in water for 1–2 hours or until completely soaked.

Place the seasoned salmon fillets onto the soaked cedar plank, then squeeze lemon over each salmon fillet. Make sure the fillets are not touching.

Meanwhile pre-heat an outdoor grill to high. When pre-heated, turn the heat down to medium-high.

Place the planks on the grill, and cover the grill with the lid. Cook for 8–12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon fillet, or until the internal temperature of the fillet reaches 120–125˚F. Remove the planks from the grill and place them on a cookie sheet. Baste the fillets with butter, then garnish with the parsley sprig and lemon slice and serve on a cedar plank. Serves 4.

“Syrah melds texturally with the cedar plank dish, in which the dry rub brings out the subtle flavors of the salmon,” says Erik Liedholm, wine director of John Howie Restaurants. “If you’re splurging, choose a Northern Rhône, such as a Crozes-Hermitage. A less-expensive option is Grenache, like the ones produced by Qupé in California or McCrea Cellars (left) in Washington. They have the acidity and depth to go with the dish.”

Wild not only tastes better, it’s better for the environment. On the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, the “Best Choice” is wild salmon from Alaska, followed by wild catch from California, Oregon and Washington. Of the farmed fish, only U.S.-farmed freshwater silver (or coho) salmon earn a “Best Choice” rating, due to the reduced risk of escape and spread of pollution and disease. The aquarium recommends avoiding all other farmed salmon.

From late November to March, there are practically no wild salmon runs. Frozen fish can be tasty if thawed correctly—meaning a slow, two-day process in the fridge. “It can’t be left on the counter or quick thawed,” says chef John Howie. “A whole fish fares better than a fillet. Oilier fish, such as king, transition the best.”
Casting Call
Cooked vs. Raw

Using a digital thermometer, cook to 110˚F for rare 115˚F for medium-rare 125–130˚F for cooked-through. Let the fish sit a bit after you take it off the heat to finish cooking. Adrian Diday of Bear Track Inn shares a chef secret for skipping the thermometer: Use an aluminum cake tester to probe the center of your cooking fish. Place the metal on your wrist. If it feels slightly warmer than body temperature, the fish is about 120˚F.
Pacific salmon

First, each separate species has its own unique oil content, so the five Pacific salmons all cook differently. Each species also runs up river at different times, so the peak seasons vary. Here’s what else you need to know.

King (Chinook)
The heftiest, thickest fish, it generally weighs about 30 pounds. Heavier fish often are called Tyee the record is 126 pounds. Of the Pacific salmon, it has the second-highest oil content, making it delicious on the grill. May–July.

Sockeye (Red)
Smaller than kings, sockeyes average four to 15 pounds. The brightest red salmon in color, they are also the oiliest. Pan searing will caramelize the outside while keeping the thin fillets medium-rare in the center. You can also slow-poach sockeye in olive oil, which enhances the fish’s unctuous quality. June–July.

Silver (Coho)
Its bright-metallic color earns it the nickname “silver bullet.” Cohos can be found from Alaska to Monterey, California. The flesh—more pink in color—isn’t as rich as king or sockeye. It’s best quickly sautéed, although it can also be grilled. July–November.

Pink (Humpy or Humpback)
The smallest of the Pacific salmon, it has a lower oil content than the others. To maintain a rich, velvety taste, pinks should be flash-seared, similar to silvers. Late June–mid-October.

Chum (Dog or Keta):
The most widely distributed of the Pacific salmon, they are generally used for canning. Two runs: summer and fall.
Atlantic salmon

There is only one species of Atlantic salmon (the most popular farmed fish) found between Maine, Greenland and Northern Europe and Maine. Atlantic salmon can survive spawning and return to spawn in subsequent years. The best catches are February through November.


Perfect Seafood Pairings

Talk to chefs in any of the three largest cities in the coastal Pacific Northwest about the local seafood, and you will find yourself swimming in a sea of superlatives.

Executive Chef Ned Bell of YEW restaurant + bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver says, “We are very fortunate on the West Coast to have what I would consider the best halibut in the world. First and foremost, it doesn’t get any fresher—the most important thing with seafood.”

Vitaly Paley, executive chef and owner of Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar in Portland, Oregon, was both a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Northwest in 2005 and a victor on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America in April 2011. His culinary passion is prawns. Here, the locals call them spot prawns.

“They come from up and down the coast, all the way up to Alaska,” Paley says. “They are incredibly versatile. The flavor that comes out is amazing—sweet, like little lobsters. I really love them!”

In Seattle, Chef-Partner Kevin Davis of Steelhead Diner and Blueacre Seafood feels he is at the seafood epicenter.

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“Our mussels and clams are on a par with anywhere in the world,” he says.

When asked to list the Northwest’s bounty, Davis rattles off a lengthy list of somewhat rare local favorites: “razor clams, geoduck, line-caught lingcod, yellow-eye rockfish (you broil and eat it like lobster tail it tastes like crab, with lobster texture). And Dungeness crab, of course! I’m from Louisiana.”

Davis concludes, “I’m blown away by the quality of our Northwest crab… if the Cajuns knew we had this here, there wouldn’t be a Cajun left in Louisiana!”

Salmon and crab, oysters and sablefish, calamari and octopus all of these and more are available at fresh seafood markets throughout the Northwest coast. Aficionados speak of such flavors in near-reverential terms.

Seafood marketing consultant Jon Rowley uses the term “mer-oir” to describe the particular flavors of locally cultivated oysters, comparing it to the terroir that great vineyards display.

As is true in many wine-producing regions, the local viands seem to match up naturally with the homegrown wines. Northwest white wines—whether Oregon Pinot Gris, Washington Riesling or racy Chardonnay from the Canadian Okanagan—are vivid and tangy, well-matched to the briny flavors of the shellfish.

The heartier fish—notably salmon and halibut—can accommodate both white and lighter red wines. Once you’ve tasted Oregon Pinot Noir with Columbia River steelhead or Copper River salmon, you will forever understand the red-wine-paired-with-fish phenomenon.

These three seafood-centric recipes and wine recommendations are sure to bring the flavors of the Pacific Northwest to your kitchen.

Red Chili Dungeness Crab

Recipe courtesy Kevin Davis, chef and co-owner of Blueacre Seafood, Seattle

“I like to take a 2.5 pound crab for an excellent meat-to-shell ratio,” Davis says. “This dish can be made with cooked or live crab. So if you go out and catch too many to eat, this is a great dish to do with crab left over. I cook [the crab] in a little boiling salted water for 15 minutes, chill it and then do this recipe. This dish comes at you very fast, so it’s important to have all ingredients assembled and in place before beginning.”

1 whole Dungeness crab, approximately 2 pounds, cooked
1 cup Wondra flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup blended cooking oil (canola and olive oil)
1 tablespoon garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
½ cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon sambal olek
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Remove, clean and reserve the carapace from the crab to use as a garnish. Remove and discard the lungs and cut the body in half. Using a sharp knife, cut the legs from the body, then cut the body halves in half, rendering four equal pieces. Using the back side of a knife, gently crack each section and as well as the leg tips just enough, allowing the oil to penetrate the crab during cooking.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the crab pieces, and toss well to evenly coat. Shake to remove any excess flour, and transfer the pieces to a holding plate.

In a large sauté pan set over a high flame, heat the oil until it just begins to smoke. Remove the pan from the heat, and carefully add the crab pieces. Spread the crab
evenly among the pan, and return to high heat. Do not shake the pan until the pieces begin to caramelize.

When the pieces begin to brown on one side, turn over and brown the other side. Add the garlic and ginger, followed by the basil and cilantro, stirring carefully as the herbs will pop in the hot oil.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add the ground black pepper, orange zest, lime zest, sambal olek and soy sauce. Place the pan back over the high flame, and continue to sauté until the liquid has absorbed—approximately less than 1 minute.

To serve, arrange the crab pieces in the center of a platter. Garnish with the cleaned crab carapace. Serves 2.

Wine Pairing: “This dish always makes me think of Riesling,” says Davis. He likes its versatility, especially with seafood. Washington State is the largest producer of Riesling in the United States, and it arguably makes better Riesling than anywhere in the world outside of Germany. For spicy dishes such as this one, try an off-dry style like Eroica by Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen. The wine retains more than enough acidity to cut the sweetness.

Warm Spot-Prawn, Tomato and Feta Salad

Reprinted with permission from The Paley’s Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest by Vitaly Paley and Kimberly Paley with Robert Reynolds, copyright © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House.

Spot prawns, which actually have spotted shells, are harvested from California up through Alaska. Chef Paley sources his from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, just north of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, during a season that starts in May and lasts all summer. When fresh, they can be eaten raw or quickly boiled (pull the heads off first). When cooked, simply pinch the tail and pull, and the meaty part comes out clean.

1 large onion, sliced into -inch-thick rounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium head of leaf lettuce, such as butter or red oak, separated into whole leaves
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in ½-inch-thick slices
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped, plus 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 bunch parsley, washed, dried, leaves picked and finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
16 spot prawns, shelled and deveined cup dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons drained capers
¼ cup anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod, Ricard, or ouzo
6 ounces feta

Place the onion slices on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with cup olive oil. Roast the onions until the edges turn slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep warm.

Line 4 plates with whole lettuce leaves. Place 2 tomato slices in the center of each plate. Separate the roasted onions into individual rings and arrange on the plates.

On a small cutting board, combine the finely chopped garlic and parsley to create a persillade continue to chop the mixture until it’s well incorporated.

In a skillet large enough to hold all of the prawns, warm the remaining cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes and sliced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the prawns and cook until they begin to lose their translucency, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine, lemon juice and capers. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the anise-flavored liqueur, feta and persillade.

Spoon the prawn mixture over the prepared salads, and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Wine Pairing: “Use the wine that you cook with,” says Chef Paley. “This is a versatile dish that can work with a variety of [wines]. The prawns are really sweet, and the salad goes from sweet to salty with capers and feta. So you need a light, fresh kind of wine, perhaps effervescent. I would recommend a nice steely Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir Rosé.” For a specific wine, try Eryie Vineyards’s 2010 Estate Chardonnay or Thistle’s 2010 Chardonnay.

West Coast Halibut, Little Neck Clam and Virgin Olive Broth, with Fresh Peas, Young Spinach and Sweet-and-Sour Beets and Carrots

Recipe courtesy Ned Bell, executive chef of YEW restaurant + bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, B.C.

“Halibut,” says Bell, “is the jewel of our coastal waters—what I consider to be the best halibut in the world. I have strong relationships with fishermen. I know exactly when and where the fish was caught. Great seafood tastes fresh and clean, and halibut is like a sponge waiting to soak up flavor. This is a very simple recipe to create—wonderful for a small dinner, and also works well for larger groups or family-style gatherings. Serve it in the middle of the table with crusty artisan bread and your guests will love it.”

For the beets and carrots:
1 pound baby carrots, assorted colors, peeled and cleaned
1 pound baby beets, assorted colors, peeled and cleaned
¼ cup olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
5 cups white vinegar
1 cup salt
2 cups sugar

For the halibut and broth:
4–6 pieces fresh halibut, approximately 6 ounces each, skin removed (sablefish/black cod can be substituted)
2 tablespoons sea salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds fresh littleneck or Manila clams, thoroughly rinsed
1 cup shucked fresh peas
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 cup white wine (preferably the wine you will be drinking)
1 (12-ounce) can soda water
1 pound baby spinach
2 tablespoons sea salt
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

For the beets and carrots:
Preheat an oven to 400˚F.

Place the beets and carrots on top of a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt.

Wrap the aluminum foil around the vegetables to create a sealed pouch. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small pot set over medium heat, combine the white vinegar, salt and sugar, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool.

When the beets and carrots are done roasting, remove them from the oven and add them to the pickling liquid, allowing them to marinate for 2 hours. Set aside until service.

For the halibut and broth:
Preheat an oven to 400˚F.

Season the halibut’s belly side with sea salt to taste. Heat a large shallow frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan, and carefully place the halibut, belly side down, into the pan. Sear for 2 minutes until the flesh turns golden brown, then turn over the fish.

Add the clams, peas and shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, cook for 20 seconds, and then add the soda water. Bring the contents to a boil until the clam shells open.

Stir in the spinach and remove the pan from the heat. Scatter the beets and carrots throughout the pan to re-warm slightly. Sprinkle with the sea salt and chives, and stir in the lemon juice and zest.

Serve immediately, either from the pan or in a large serving dish.

Wine Pairing: “Roasted or grilled halibut will lend itself to tank-fermented Chardonnay or Viognier—wines with good body and mouthfeel, but no oak,” Bell says. He favors Dibello’s food-friendly Okanagan Valley Viognier, and notes that Vancouverites drink more wine per capita than any city in the country.
For another approach, YEW sommelier Emily Walker suggests pairing the dish with a delicate Sancerre Rouge, such as one produced by Domaine Vincent Delaporte. “The intensity on the palate of youthful red fruit and savory herbal nuances makes an affectionate match with the fresh herbs in this dish,” she says. “The wine’s finely grained tannins and bright acidity play perfectly with the fleshy texture of the halibut and the acidity in the broth.”

Six Iconic Pacific Northwest Seafoods to Try

Salmon: Always get fresh salmon, not farmed. Look for thick fillets with plenty of belly fat. Certain Alaskan runs––such as Yukon and Copper River––are pricy, but any fresh king (Chinook), sockeye or coho (silver) salmon in season is good. Pair it with Oregon Pinot Noir.

Halibut: A superb game and food fish, it has a dense, meaty texture and low fat content. Fresh halibut has delicate, clean and light sea flavors and needs little seasoning. Broil or grill it, and serve it with a Washington Sauvignon Blanc or an Oregon Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Dungeness crab: These tasty crabs are found from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands south to California. Boil and cool these crabs, then crack the shells and dip the meat in melted butter—just like lobster. A dry or off-dry Riesling is the best accompaniment.

Spot prawns: The best spot prawns arguably come from the cold waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and along B.C.’s Inside Passage. They should be fresh and lightly cooked, with a squirt of lemon. Pair with aromatic dry white wines like Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Viognier.

Black cod or sablefish: This is an oily, soft-textured, highly coveted fish that’s similar to Chilean sea bass. It may be used for sushi, or it can be baked or broiled. Kasu cod recipes call for marinating the fish for up to three days. Pair this with a rich, oaked Chardonnay.

Jon Rowley’s Etiquette Tips for Eating Oysters

Seattle-based seafood consultant Jon Rowley is a man in love with oysters.

“We have more species of oysters here in the Northwest than probably anywhere else in the world,” says Rowley. “It’s because of the hatcheries. And the waters here are pretty darn good, so the oysters have a really clean taste to them. We have many varieties: Pacifics, Virginicas (Totten Inlet’s could be the best in the country), Kumamoto, Olympia (our native oyster, and Mark Twain’s favorite food), and more.”

“A new and exciting development in the half-shell growing business is tumbling the oysters,” says Rowley. “This creates a deeper cup and a softer shell–– it’s like tumbling a rock. It’s done with mesh bags with a float on one end and steel cable on the other. The tide picks the float up and the oysters tumble to the bottom, so they tumble in the tide four times a day. It’s very effective. They come out very sexy, uniform in size and shape. Taylor [Shellfish Farms] calls theirs Shigoku—Hama Hama [Oyster Company] has one called Blue Pool.”

When asked for a recipe, Rowley offers this advice. “Let the wine be the condiment. I encourage people to have the oyster just as it is––no cocktail sauce, or anything in the way of the wine. Chew the oyster well––there’s sweetness, minerals, salt, all kinds of flavors that go to every part of your palate. Then follow chewing the oyster with a sip of wine––that’s the condiment.”

Visit oysterwine.com for results of the recent 18th-annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. Organized by Rowley and hosted by Taylor Shellfish Farms, the goal is to find the best “oyster wines” made in America.

This year’s 10 winners include no less than six Pinot Gris, along with a pair of Sauvignon Blancs, a Pinot Blanc and a dry Chenin Blanc. My own palate would favor a very crisp Washington Sauvignon Blanc—all stainless fermented. Among the best are the 2011 selections from Waterbrook, Jones of Washington and Washington Hills, as well as the 2010 from Mercer Estates.


Top pairings

Salmon is in many ways the chicken of the fish world - an ingredient you can serve in many different ways and therefore match with a number of different wines.

That said, it's a rich fish, often served with cream or butter and therefore a natural candidate to pair with a medium-to-full-bodied white wine such as chardonnay. But nowadays it's often served raw or grilled which opens to the door to many other wine pairings. Read on for my wine pairing suggestions:

10 of my favourite ways to serve salmon and the wines to pair with them

Raw salmon such as salmon sashimi or tartare

Try a crisp fresh white such as a gruner veltliner or a dry rosé - a surprisingly good match with salmon sashimi as I discovered here.

Salmon ceviche

As much about the zesty marinade as the fish itself. Torrontes from Argentina is a good pairing or - an unusual match but one I found worked well a while back - a Soave from Italy

Cold poached salmon with mayonnaise or a salmon terrine

Chablis is an incredibly reliable pairing for this kind of dish but other crisp dry whites like Pinot Grigio, Albarino, Sancerre or a crisp Chenin Blanc will match well too.

Warm salmon with a hollandaise or beurre blanc sauce

A classic salmon dish that matches well with a good quality oak-aged (but not too oaky) Chardonnay. White burgundy would be lovely. See also this pairing of salmon with leeks and chardonnay

Salmon en croute or fish pies with salmon

Again likely to be rich and creamy so Chardonnay should again hit the spot or try an old vine Chenin Blanc. See also this delicious recipe for salmon in pastry with currants and ginger.

Salmon fishcakes or salmon hash

Chardonnay again (this is getting boring but it is the most reliable wine pairing with salmon!). But a sparkling wine like Cava - or even champagne - can be good too.

Seared or grilled salmon

Here&rsquos where things get interesting. Because salmon is a meaty fish if you grill or char it you can pair it with a red. Pinot Noir is my favourite match but a Gamay would rub along happily too. If you prefer a white try a dry Pinot Gris.

Blackened or barbecued salmon

If you cook salmon with Cajun- or Creole-style spicing it can handle a more robust red still. Try a Merlot or a Zinfandel

Salmon teriyaki or yakitori

A fruity Pinot Noir is also a good wine match with Japanese style dishes such as salmon teriyaki or yakitori. Sake or fino sherry would be a good pairing too.

Tandoori salmon

With Indian spicing I&rsquod be inclined to go for a white such as a dry riesling or pinot gris rather than a red. Or read about this surprising fino sherry pairing

If you found this useful see this separate post on my top 10 drink pairings with smoked salmon

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