Over the years my father-in-law, husband and son have become experts in Alaska’s salmon fishing. As any fisherman knows, expertise in catching fish leads to much practice in cooking it. Our freezer is packed with this rich, nutritious fish, so we are always experimenting with sauces, spices and cooking methods and, of course, wine pairings.
The delicate flavors of many fish simply can’t stand up to most wines. So the traditional rule when it comes to fish is to stick with light-bodied wines. However, salmon’s meatier texture and bold flavor allows for more choices.
Matching pinot noir with salmon breaks all the stuffy wine-pairing rules and proves fish and red wine can be harmonious. The low tannins and fruitiness of pinot noir accentuate the fatty richness of salmon, especially when it’s grilled.
Lemon often accompanies salmon. To highlight the lemon, pairing the dish with tangy sauvignon blanc is one of my favorite combinations. The acid in the wine and lemon actually work together to tone down what you would think would be an acidic overdose. This is particularly true for salmon with a lemon and dill sauce.
Many styles of chardonnay have the weight to stand up to the substantial texture of salmon. The key is avoiding styles that are high-alcohol, oaky blockbusters.
Riesling is a safe bet with salmon because of its distinct acidity. Many salmon recipes call for Asian and spicy flavors — soy, chile pepper, ginger or even wasabi — making Riesling an ideal and refreshing fit.
2011 446 Single Vineyard Monterey Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail) 2011 Cline Cellars Cool Climate Sonoma Pinot Noir, California (about $14 retail) 2011 Concha y Toro Xplorador Chardonnay, Chile (about $10 retail) 2011 BR Cohn Silver Label Chardonnay, California (about $17 retail) 2011 Firesteed Riesling, Oregon (about $15 retail)
2011 Anne Amie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $20 retail)
2010 Bridlewood Estate Pinot Noir, California (about $20 retail)
2009 Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay, California (about $46 retail)
2010 Dierberg Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, California (about $34 retail)