Pairings Salmon and Wine | Written by Dan Radil
One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is the availability of fresh, local seafood. Penn Cove mussels, oysters from Taylor Shellfish, and Puget Sound salmon are just a few of the many possibilities.
Salmon is an especially prized local treat, and the proper wine pairing with this rich seafood can make a good thing taste even better.
Preparation method is always the key to determining a reasonable food/wine pairing, and because salmon can be prepared in so many ways, it opens the door to a myriad of possible wine choices…from red to white and points in between.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
Salmon is oily, high in protein, and packed with Omega-3 fatty acids that make it a borderline-opulent seafood. Choosing a wine to serve with it, or any food for that matter, should start with an easy-tofollow, “complement versus contrast” food preparation guideline.
When the salmon is prepared simply, such as baked, poached or topped with Beurre blanc, try a big, flavorful white wine such as Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, or Marsanne to complement the food. These wines make perfect complementary selections because their full-bodied, viscous qualities mesh beautifully with the richness of the fish.
If contrasting the food with the wine, high-acid white wines such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc, or high-acid reds like Gamay or Pinot Noir make excellent salmon-pairing options. The combination works because the wine’s acidity cuts through the fat content of the fish, allowing you to taste the distinct flavor characteristics of each. Try these wines with a grilled, pan-seared or herb-encrusted salmon entrée.
And don’t forget to include Champagne, sparkling wine and rosés in the “contrast category” as well. Many of these wines are produced in a brighter, leaner style with crisp acidity, so they also make excellent choices to contrast and serve with salmon mousse, smoked salmon or even a creamy salmon chowder.
Seattle winemaker Andrew Latta is doing an amazing job at Latta Wines, producing wines that are scoring 90+ point ratings and earning a reputation for being stylish, sexy, and cellar-worthy. His Latta Wines 2013 Roussanne (about $30) continues to drink beautifully, with white flower aromatics, tropical fruit flavors, and a rich, lengthy finish with big mouthfeel that also suggests a trace of minerality. It’s a natural to pair not only with salmon, but other seafood including lobster, crab, and halibut.
The Rotie Cellars 2016 Southern White (about $32) is another terrific, salmon-friendly wine choice from winemaker Sean Boyd. This Rhone varietal blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne explodes with complex flavors and aromas of stone fruits, pear, starfruit, and honeysuckle that melt into a big, round finish with notes of almond and marzipan. The wine earned double gold honors at this summer’s Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival and can be found at the winery’s tasting rooms in Walla Walla and Seattle.
Chardonnay and salmon are frequently served together and the Stoller Family Estate 2016 Chardonnay (about $25) should work well as a nice juxtaposition between the complementary and contrasting elements of taste of the food and wine. This Oregon Chardonnay initially offers Golden Delicious apple flavors to match the richness of the salmon, then transitions into leaner tastes of lemon and citrus as a contrast to this or other seafood such as cod, snapper or halibut. An interesting side note: the wine is virtually colorless, without taking anything away from its flavor content.
The Two Mountain Winery 2016 Riesling (about $15) from winemaker brothers Matt and Patrick Rawn in Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills Appellation is, quite simply, a winner. Crisp apple, lemon chiffon, and perfectly balanced acidity make this a great choice to serve with salmon. An added bonus: the wine’s gentle sweetness offers a nice contrast to any seafood that’s prepared a bit on the spicy side.
Newberg, Oregon’s Rain Dance Vineyards continues to impress with its 2016 Nicholas Vineyard Estate Rosé (about $22). This vibrant, expressive rosé is comprised of 100-percent Pinot Noir and opens with pie cherry and green watermelon flavors that are capped with zingy lime zest. The wine’s laser-sharp acidity should easily cut through the fat content of any salmon dish for a tasty food/wine flavor contrast.
Bright, snappy, and perfectly pink, the Kim Crawford 2016 Rosé (about $17) also offers a high-acidity profile that should pair nicely with salmon. Sourced from New Zealand Merlot grapes, it features a base of fragrant strawberry flavors as the centerpiece for an edgier, dry finish of rhubarb, cranberry, and red cherry. It’s a crowd-pleasing rosé that looks good, tastes good, and is affordably priced.
Many consider Pinot Noir to be the best red wine to serve with salmon, and, if so, the Durant Vineyards 2014 LaCasita Pinot Noir (about $60) may be the best of the best.
This amazing Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot is darker than you might expect, with black cherry and berry flavors and underlying accents of fennel and anise. Surprisingly tight to begin, a bit of aeration will allow the wine to open up and pair beautifully with barbequed or grilled salmon with a light char. It’s an exceptional choice for an exceptional Northwest seafood.