Fresh Pacific Northwest salmon is one of those foods I can’t get enough of.
I was fortunate to grow up on northern Whidbey Island, where my dad was an avid recreational salmon fisherman who frequented its surrounding waters with great success. I can recall many a Sunday when an early afternoon dinner was centered around his barrel-cooked, alderwood-smoked salmon … one caught just the day before.
The salmon was prepared simply. Butter, salt, pepper and perhaps a squeeze of lemon topped the fish, which was juicy, flaky and tender, never overcooked, and perfect when served with a baked potato, green salad, and a slice of my mom’s garlic bread.
There are many other ways to prepare salmon, of course, but the focus of today’s column is to suggest a few wines that pair with salmon when it’s cooked with only a minimal amount of added ingredients, the way my dad still prepares it today.
The key to a good wine pairing always starts with the food. Because salmon often has a rich, marbled, high-fat content, I usually select wines with a high acid content to serve with the prized seafood. The combination works because the wine’s acidity cuts through and contrasts with the fattiness of the fish, allowing you to taste both the food and the wine.
That food-and-wine rule-of-thumb not only applies to salmon, it holds true for most other foods that are high in fat.
Whether you choose a wine that is red or white shouldn’t matter; it’s the acid level that should be your gauge. Select a wine that fits this profile – Champagne and sparkling wines, riesling, pinot gris, grenache, and pinot noir are excellent examples – and you’ll be rewarded with a virtually foolproof choice that should enhance your dining experience.
Here are a few Northwest wines that work especially well with a simply prepared salmon entrée:
Gilbert Cellars 2013 Estate Riesling (about $20) – This big, viscous riesling is quite appley to start, with undertones of crisp citrus and a touch of spicy lychee. The wine’s 0.75 percent residual sugar content gives the finish a faintly perceptible whisper of sweetness.
Maryhill Winery 2012 Proprietor’s Reserve Grenache (about $30) – There’s an Old World character to this wine with its reserved cherry, red plum, and spiced crabapple flavors. The finish suggests toasted oak, crushed herbs, and a lingering hint of earthiness.
Swiftwater Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir (about $55) – Sourced from Willamette Valley grapes, this elegant wine opens with gentle, smoky cedar and caramel aromatics. Bright, red raspberry flavors melt into a soft finish with accents of anise and dried black cherry.