Living in Alaska, we like to get together. While it may be a big state, it has a small town appeal. As spring ushers in brighter, longer days, it brings more opportunities for social gatherings inside or outside. Hosting parties can be as easy as pulling together a few friends over food and drinks. It can be fun to mix it up with different themes to awaken the senses as nature outside is awakening. Recently, I hosted a wine-pairing party with an intimate group of co-workers and friends.
Wine Pairing with Salmon
Spring is the start of our salmon fishing season, so naturally, a spring wine pairing needed to include salmon. Our four flavors of Dear North Salmon Bites provided four opportunities to explore. Premium filet cuts of Coho elevate the salmon eating experience; this is jerky perfected, a natural partner for wine.
Salmon pairs best with wines that are fresh, clean and bright tasting. For this assignment, I recruited a friend of mine, Keith, who works for Specialty Imports here in Juneau. He has a passion for foods and deep understanding of wine. I gave him Salmon Bite samples for inspiration and his list of tastings surprised all of us.
Our tasters from the Dear North team each bring something different to the table. Ruth, a Vino Volo member, was a natural. Amber, our head of Production, knows her way around salmon (her father is a commercial fisherman).. Glory, our head of finance, has an amazing palate—she once correctly identified an ingredient in a brine recipe where I only added a minuscule amount! Katelyn has a sophisticated palate. And, Mark is a consummate foodie and my go-to phone call for Seattle cuisine.
Keith’s Wine Pairings with Salmon Bites
Tasked with finding the perfect wines to accent the flavor of the salmon, Keith came back with helpful tasting notes and recommendations:
SPICY FIREWEED HONEY SALMON BITES
“This one had a nice spice note to it. I would pair a Cotes du Rhone Rouge with it. I would go for a lighter one, Guigal in particular. This would also do well with a dry to off-dry Riesling—I would go for Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington.”
SAVORY SEA KELP & SESAME SALMON BITES
“’Savory’ is the right word for these oceanic flavors – just enough salt and sweet.” “I would go with the Hakutsuru Junmai Ginjo Sake chilled lightly. A sparkling wine would also show well, such as the Roederer Estate wines—their California sparkling wine or their Louis Roederer Champagne.”
WILD ALASKA SPRUCE SALMON BITES
Spruce was amazing; I loved it for its piney, sharp notes. For this, I would pair it with a light California Fume Blanc, such as Dry Creek. It would also do well with a Pinot Grigio, such as Zenato.”
SALTED RHUBARB & RASPBERRY
“The Rhubarb Raspberry was subtle and delicate, and really allowed the freshness of the salmon to sing.” for this would be Campuget French Rosé. I think they both would do well, but I’m leaning toward the Rosé.”
Keith followed this up by suggesting that each of the Salmon Bites would pair well with sparkling wine, “as long as the wine was dry.” Thinking outside the wine bottle, he also offered the tip that the Spicy Fireweed Honey Salmon Bites would go well with a “light IPA, such as Anchor Steam from San Francisco.”
Let the Tasting Begin!
We began our exploration with Savory Sea Kelp and Sesame Salmon Bites and the Ginjo Sake. It was a good way to jump into the party. The pairing was a bit obvious because of the wonderful umami taste in the bites. More importantly, this pairing opened discussion. The overall consensus was that it had a pronounced alcohol after-taste that affected the subtle flavor of the sea kelp bites.
Next up Campuget French Rosé and Salted Rhubarb and Raspberry Salmon Bites—there was some skepticism about the Rosé. A few in the group had never had Rosé before or thought of that late 70’s style Rosé or my mom’s Zinfandel. Wow, the lights came on for this one—what a fantastic pairing! It was balanced in its approach and really complimented the sweet sour notes in the rhubarb bites. The group came alive with feedback…”this was amazing, I need another taste.” The umami flavor and sake taste was supplanted.
Onto the Spicy Fireweed Honey Salmon Bites: The Riesling seemed to work best, pairing with the sweetness and spicy bites. The Cotes de Rhone overpowered the bites and tended to be a bit grassy—maybe too landlocked for salmon?
Wild Alaska Spruce Salmon Bites with fume blanc and Pinot Grigio: Spruce Salmon Bites are the quintessential Alaska taste. They are an even blend of citrus and juniper. An interesting sidenote here: the women preferred the fume blanc while the men liked the Pinot Grigio. There was just something missing with this pairing.
Then, our group’s chemistry took over and brought a sense of excitement. We started matching the wines a bit off-script and came up with probably one of the best of the evening-Sea Kelp and Sesame Salmon Bites with fume blanc!
We passed around the bottles of chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Prosecco as we delved into more pairings. The Prosecco added a new dimension and worked remarkably with all the Salmon Bite flavors—they would have tasted even better with a Brut Champagne.
Some of our pairings were exquisite for everyone; some were not…. but that was the whole point – to taste, compare notes, have fun.
Life in Alaska is all about sharing time together, great food, and new ideas with friends and family. This same sense of community is what is at the heart of our company.
It’s your turn. What wine pairings have you tried with our Salmon Bites or Smoked Salmon? Post your favorites in the comments section.