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Aug 21, 2007 08:40 PM

Need some pairing help--Grilled salmon

Headed to a dinner that an oenophile friend is preparing and am trying to bring over a wine that will pair nicely.
I have been told that he is preparing a grilled salmon with blueberry salsa (?spicy) and sauteed spinach. He has some Pinot Noirs (which would be my go to wine usually with Salmon but I am definately Pinot biased).
I definately want to bring a red b/c I think everyone has a red wine bias. I want to spend no more than $30. Don't necessarily need specific bottles but some other grape varietals would be nice.

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  1. "salmon with blueberry salsa (?spicy) and sauteed spinach"

    Quite honestly this doesn't seem like a very wine friendly combo. I sense that the blueberry salsa could clash unpleasantly with an oily fish like salmon and the oxalic acid in the spinach will lend a bitter and metalic note to virtually any red wine (especially one with obvious oak or substantial tannin). None the less, you have been appointed to bring some wine....I guess you could try something soft and fizzy with a sweetish edge, possibly Brachetto or Sangue di Giuda.

    Good luck!

    1. I would strongly urge you to bring a pink sparkler. You may be able to Find Nicolas Feuillate Rose for about $30. Otherwise bring the Mumm's Napa Blanc du Noirs.

      If you are set on a non-Pinot red, I would bring a Rosso di Montalcino.

      1 Reply
      1. re: whiner

        Second the Feuillatte rec; delicious and a great value. Or, spend 10-15 dollars more for the Duval-Leroy rose.

        Also, a non-sparkling rose might work as well; maybe from Provence (Chateau de Pampelonne) or Tavel (Chateau de Trinquevedel).

      2. There is one screamingly obvious match for this meal...

        A medium-sweet German riesling... Go with a Spatlese but perhaps have an Auslese standing by if there's heavier blueberry concentration...

        Riesling is a delicious match with grilled salmon on it's own merit, and it's really THE table wine that will most closely pair with the blueberries (much better than Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Noir, other obvious "salmon" matches)

        If you prefer Kabinett, that should also work... really anywhere on the riesling spectrum is good here.... But my first choice would be Spatlese, you can't miss, it will be delicious.

        WRT the Spinach... you can make this a mind-blowing match with Riesling by doing a few simple things that the "food purists" on here will resist... but here goes:

        1) riesling will tolerate spinach as-is, but to bring it closer to the wine, add some almond slivers to the spinach and especially a light hint of almond oil and/or saute the spinach in almond oil and toasted almonds as almond is very riesling-friendly essence.

        2) Create a "creamed spinach" dish using Emmentaler cheese, which is an incredible match with riesling... add to taste anything from a few slivers to a full creamed dish...

        With apologies to "purists" who believe you can't add anything to make a food item more wine friendly as we've found on the Lamb Shank thread.

        Other than this, then the bubbly isn't a bad idea either, IMO.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Chicago Mike

          1) the poster is looking for a red wine rec

          2) the poster is NOT cooking this meal

          1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

            If you're looking for a red, Oregon Pinot is my go-to for west coast salmon and I think something like a WillaKenzie, which is somewhat burgundian in style (mid-weight, not overly extracted, decently structured) would complement the richness of the fish, the fruit of the sauce and the minerality of the spinach. If you can find it, the base-line Willamette Valley is probably under $30, the Aliette and Emery, both of which I like, are probably closer to $35-40.

            If you're looking for something other than Pinot so as not to compete with your oenophile host's collection, perhaps a Bierzo. Maybe it's just on my brain b/c mentioned in another post, but it also combines elements of berry and earthiness that might work. Check other recent post for suggestions on producers.

            1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

              "oenophile friend" is cooking. All of my oenophile friends welcome suggestions as to food prep...

              Plus these threads are for the benefit of more than just the current poster.

              Keep in mind he says he has a "red bias" because he thinks everyone else does, not because he himself does....So, I'd definitely suggest re-considering the bias here.

              1. re: Chicago Mike

                To suggest to a host how to prepare their meal is quite rude and presumptuous.

                This goes way over the line of good guest behavior.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Unless of course you're on close speaking terms and CLOSE FRIENDS with the host(s), and have held wine & food tasting dinners together for years, and are bringing bottles yourself....

                  My wine circle is like that, perhaps yours is more formal and distant ?

                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                    Deal with the OP's situation, please. He doesn't even know the menu; he only has an idea.

            2. re: Chicago Mike

              "With apologies to "purists" who believe you can't add anything to make a food item more wine friendly as we've found on the Lamb Shank thread."

              This is a misapprehension and misinterpretation of the comments made on that thread.

              "You can't add anything to make a food item more wine-friendly" shows you still - still! -- don't get that adding cheese to that specific lamb shanks dish doesn't belong. Yes, it may work in the starchy side dish for the Provencal version of lamb shanks or Italian osso buco, but not in that Catalonian version of the dish.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Again, I'm not limited to classic recipes and classic food/wine matches. I'm always looking for ways to maximize the food/wine connection.... to experiment.... just as the littany of chefs I cite have done...

                Mario Batali, Gordon Hammersley, Sandra Stefani, Bob Kinkead, Jeff Gaetjen, the food/wine planners at Torii Mor Winery, even the American Lamb Board itself, lol...

                If you want to stick to classic traditional recipes be my guest...

                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  I'm sorry, you're still not getting that your comparison is off. Those chefs' dishes are not Catalonian; the lamb shanks are.

                  c.f.: What Wine with Braised Lamb Shanks

            3. The bluberry salsa really threw me, but maybe your friend has the magic touch
              i would highly reccomend a "rose" of pinot noir, the one that i serve in my restaurant (a fish house) is the Greenpoint pinot noir rose it's great (red berry undertones, dry and crisp) with salmon although our sauces tend to be savory rather than sweet but maybe the blueberries will be off set w/a little heat....hope so also louis latour makes a kickin beujolais rose with blackcurrent and raspberry, but very subtle.... both bottles are in the 15-18 dollar range, bon appetit !

              12 Replies
              1. re: susan myers

                How about a French Minervois? You should be able to find a nice one for under $30.

                Can you serve the blueberry salsa on the side? I hope it isn't too sweet, because I think it's going to fight.

                1. re: brendastarlet

                  Thank you everyone for the interesting recommendations. I too am a bit thrown by this blueberry salsa thing but sometimes you gotta role with the punches. I, like a number of others, was thinking rose (maybe more because of a familiarity as I recent did a fairly extensive tasting).

                  I am really into Bierzo's recently, Frodnesor, as I recently created a post on it, but think that it maybe a little big for salmon (maybe not?). I was also thinking maybe a beaujolais style (not nouveau, but something like a Fleurie) -- any thoughts?? On the same style, was thinking maybe about a Zweigelt but to be honest I have little knowledge of good producers. What do you think about Beaujolais or Zweigelt?

                  1. re: Bhutani

                    Cru beaujolais sounds like a pretty good idea as a departure from pinot. I recently had a couple of bottles that were very good, both under $15:

                    Fleurie, Domaine des Quartre Vents
                    Brouilly, Chateau de la Chaize

                    I believe both were of '05, though I cant be sure. If I remembered correctly, they'd go well with a heavier fish, and roasted chicken/turkey as well. As a bonus, if you or your host are into this sort of thing, the brouilly also came in a uniquely adorable bottle that looked like a Hennessey VS or Drambuie.

                    1. re: Bhutani

                      I'd try a Bierzo but I fearlessly drink red wine with almost everything. If you get one of the lower end ones like the Petalos they're typically a somewhat softer style. I don't really know from Zweigelt as I've only had it once (at Alinea in Chicago where it was paired w/ a smoked lamb dish) but from what I know, I think its jammy, smoky qualities might overwhelm. Cru beaujolais is a nice call, captures many of the elements I was thinking of for an Oregon PN in an even lighter-footed style.

                      1. re: Frodnesor

                        There are some lighter styled Zweigelts around. Given the blueberry, I'd lean toward a Beaujolaisish Zinfandel if anybody still makes them (Louis M. Martini used to).

                        1. re: carswell

                          As an aside, I was not thrilled to read about the salmon with blueberry "salsa"; however, as someone who has lived on the west coast of British Columbia all of my life, I will say that both food items are plentiful in the Pacific Northwest; blueberry bushes grow wild in the rainforest, and salmon is king (pardon the pun). So in a way, the combination makes sense.

                          I'd be really hesitant to pair a red wine with blueberries; the berries are just so sweet. If my hand was forced, I'd probably agree that an off-dry rose would be most successful.

                          1. re: anewton

                            In fact, among reds a LATE HARVEST zinfandel may be very interesting with this dish, although a bias towards either reds or whites is unusual for a group of oenophiles....

                            Try the riesling as previously suggested, (or a sparkler) as the primary wine for this dish... but if you want a richer red wine standing by, a "sipping glass" of late-harvest zin could be very interesting here.

                            1. re: Chicago Mike

                              Late harvest zin, very interesting. I can't say I had that many but I think of them almost port-ish in nature and reserve them for after dinner. One outstanding one that I have had is Robert Sinskey's from a few years back -- don't think he makes it anymore unfortunately.

                              1. re: Bhutani

                                Just tasted a pretty nice one from Bella Winery. Can't imagine pairing it with a fish. Seems the sweetness would completely overwhelm.

                                1. re: Frodnesor

                                  I had the Bella late-harvest Zin last night with a pluot-raspberry "cobbler" I made with a candied almond topping instead of the regular cobbler topping.
                                  The pairing was spectacular -- one of those that made our eyes roll back in our heads. The wine is not at all like port -- much more fresh berry in flavor
                                  and (obviously) much lighter in alcohol.

                                2. re: Bhutani

                                  A recent LH Zin, that was not-Portish (a surprise to me) was the Edmeades. I had expected their Alden Ranch on steroids, but got a much lighter, though still fruit-driven wine. Besides a port (not lack of capitalization), it was very, very light. Do not quite know if I'd pick it for this dish, but it might well work.

                                  On a side-note: I've had several blueberry treatments, where there was not that much sweetness, and instead an interesting earthiness, which I'd hope for, with regards to pairing with wine, other than as a dessert.


                    2. re: susan myers

                      If you're going in the rose direction, Ponzi also makes a nice rose of pinot noir. The Boony Doon Vin Gris de Cigare is also a pretty reliably good rhone-style rose. This summer I've also liked the Janasse Principaute d'Orange and an Artazuri rose from Navarra. All should be under $20.

                    3. Some fruit salsas are actually rather savory -- pineapple or melon salsa for fish, for example,
                      often have red onion, minced jalapeno, vinegar or lime juice, and register in the mouth as not being sweet.

                      If this is the case for the blueberry salsa, then Rose or Rose champagne would be a fine pairing.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Just wanted to give you all an update as we had the dinner last night. I decided to take a Chateau de Trinquevedel Tavel (I believe it was 2005) which we opened before dinner with an assortment of cheeses. Really enjoyed it as I do most Tavels, especially with the cheeses (though most wines are more enjoyable with cheese).

                        My host shared some extraordinary wines with me that paired nicely with the salmon. A 2003 Mueller Emily's Cuvee Pinot Noir which I think was the star of the night. Had plenty of ripe dark fruit with a well-structered tannic finish. It was a nice match with the salmon with the blueberry salsa--which I have to say was actually really good (unfortunately I didn't get the recipe).

                        Finally, he brought out a big gun -- 2005 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir. The nose on this wine was unbelievable. I think we drank the wine a little young but we could tell that the wine would be amazing in a couple of years when the tannins soften.

                        Thank you all for all the great tips. Even though I picked the Tavel, I did get a couple of other bottles recommended here (the Bella Late Harvest Zin, and the Nicolas Feuilatte Brut Rose) that I plan on enjoying in the near future.

                        1. re: Bhutani

                          Thanks for the update. Sounds like a great meal. Out of curiosity, how was the level of sweetness in the blueberry salsa"

                          Just had the Southing '04 last week and it could have used another year, or two. Of the two PNs, that we did side-by-side, the Melville, Carrie’s Vineyard, Santa Barbara ‘04 was drinking a bit better. Both were paired with various mains for 6, at Restaurant Cuvée in New Orleans. Now, the Southing was outstanding, but everyone's nod went to the Melville.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Actually, the salsa was not that sweet. It had some heat to it (which probably hindered the pairing) I think there was either serrano or jalepeno, and some red onion for certain. If you have ever had a mango salsa it was kinda similar in its prep but the blueberries added more acidity and less sweetness than you find with a mango salsa.

                            1. re: Bhutani

                              Thanks for the clarification. I've had some blueberry sauces and accommpaninments, that were anything but sweet. Mostly, they had an earthy quality. Just curious.