Category Archives: Oregon Wines

Salmon recipes and wine pairings

Now that the rains have returned, so have our salmon. We are pretty fortunate to be able to watch the phenomenal life cycle of Pacific Northwest salmon in our backyards.

This return, and our growling tummies, got us thinking about how now would be the perfect time to offer some salmon recipes and wines to go with them. Coincidentally we’ve also had coverage in the paper and online this week about salmon, so we’re sticking with a fishy theme.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, go see the interactive map of some of the best viewing areas in Kitsap to see the returning salmon. Reporters Chris Dunagan and Amy Phan spent a lot of time updating the map and producing the videos.

Looking ahead, there will be a story in the Kitsap Sun Sunday Life Section by reporter Chris Henry about the tiny fishing village of Sekiu, where fishermen come together during salmon season to max out their limits.

This time of year, when salmon spawn, is a good time to dig up recipes that call for wood-smoked salmon (we’ll save the poached salmon recipes for the spring).

So what wine do we pair with salmon? It depends, dear reader, on the big picture. Think about the texture, weight and other prominent features of the entire dish.

Salmon is dense and fatty (all the good fats, mind you) and that component makes it a versatile fish. Depending on the texture and weight of the sauce, salmon can easily pair with a white, rosé or red wine.

So we look to the sauce to make the best match. A broiled fresh salmon served with a little lemon and butter is easy. Lemon and butter are lighter and crisper than say a Gorgonzola cream sauce. If you’re going to keep it simple and broil the salmon with lemon and butter, choose a wine that is lighter and crisper such as a Pinot Grigio or an Arneis.

If you want to add some weight and prepare a side dish with Gorgonzola cream sauce (see the recipe below), we suggest looking to a country where all but one wine region touches the sea.

Tortellini, Gorgonzola and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo are staples in Italy. From the Abruzzi wine region, located in the calf area of the Italian boot, this wine is made from the Montepulciano grape — the second most produced wine in Italy behind Sangiovese. The medium-bodied weight, bright acidity and aromas and flavors of herbs and cherries make this the perfect wine for this rich dish. Most are under $10. Look for our favorite, Masciarelli 2009 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Tortellini with Smoked Salmon, Walnuts with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 3/4 cup smoked salmon
  • 8 oz. cheese tortellini (cooked)
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish

Cook cheese tortellini. In a large sauté pan, toast the walnuts on medium-high until golden. Reserve. Add the heavy cream and butter to the pan and bring to a gentile boil. Add Gorgonzola, garlic, basil, thyme, oregano and simmer until thickened. Continue to reduce for 2 to 4 minutes, and then add the smoked salmon. Then add the cooked tortellini. Toss until pasta is hot. Plate and garnish with Parmesan and toasted walnuts.

Planked Salmon

Another common way to cook salmon in the Northwest is using an alder plank. Native people of the Pacific Northwest first devised the method of cooking salmon on hardwood over an open fire. Today, however, we’re going for the quick and easy route of oven-baked using a piece of wood.

There are different planks that can be used. While we prefer the traditional alder plank, you can also consider other non-resinous hardwoods such as cedar, hickory, maple or oak. Naturally, the plank should be clean, at least an inch thick and large enough to accommodate the salmon.

Ordinary slabs of alder from a lumber mill are inexpensive, but they generally have to be replaced after the third or fourth time. You can also purchase an alder plank from a kitchen store. These are meant to be reused time and time again in the oven. With these planks you brush them with olive oil, then stick them in the oven for 30 minutes while it warms up. Once you remove the plank, turn the oven up to 350 degrees, throw the salmon on the plank, skin side down, and pop it back in the oven. (Remember when you take the salmon out to remove the skin, and the gray matter below it before serving).

If you choose a plank that isn’t designed for repeated reuse, make sure you soak it a minimum of four hours, or if you can overnight, before popping it in the oven or you may end up with blackened plank (and one heck of a mess in your oven).

So what “sauce” should you use when planking a salmon? Naturally you want something that will enhance those subtle smokey wood flavors.

One quick and easy answer is to slather the fish in a flavored butter. Or if you’re trying to kick a dependence on butter, consider substituting olive oil. Here’s one such recipe:

Flavored Butter

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced flat leaf parsley, oregano, chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Soften the butter. Using a fork mash together the herbs with lemon zest until thoroughly combined, then add to the softened butter. Add the butter to the salmon while it’s still warm so it can spread while melting.

Also consider basting the salmon with an olive oil and a Herbs de Provence mixture. Brynn usually eyeballs the mix, but combine a couple tablespoons of olive oil with a tablespoon of the herbs (traditionally a combination of savory, fennel, basil, thyme and lavender), then spread evenly across the fillet.

Wine Pairing

Not only does a wood plank add delicious flavor and aroma to the fish, with complementary side dishes of simple boiled potatoes, caramelized onions and maybe a few decorative sprigs of herbs, it blossoms into a feast for the eyes, nose and growing appetite.

A perfectly cooked planked salmon with herb-seasoning and tiny potatoes is a marriage made in heaven.

The delectable fragrance of the fleshy textured salmon mingled with the aroma of the heated alder and herbed sauce will pair beautifully with an Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.(Trust us, we’ve tried and tested this pairing, more than once.)

Argyle is well established in Oregon’s Dundee region. And they have plenty of experience producing wines with the Pinot Noir grape, including some of the best sparkling wines.

This wine match works wonderfully with the planked salmon because of the bountiful flavors and aromas of ripe black cherry and hints of herb. It also sports a smooth cherry finish.

What we’re drinking: 2008 Domaine Drouhin Estate Chardonnay

Brynn writes:

I’ve wanted to drink this wine for a few months now, ever since my editor gave it to me as a “baby” gift, meant instead to be a reward for making it through the 9 months and of course the marathon of delivery.

Since I only drink one glass a wine at a time these days, and usually over the course of an hour or more, it’s often hard to find the time to sit back and truly relax. But a couple Friday’s ago I lucked out.

I put the baby to bed and seeing as I didn’t have to get up before the sun Saturday morning, I decided to treat myself to a glass of chardonnay while I caught up on the television shows I’d missed all week. (Yes this is what becoming a parent has done to me).

Looking through the wine rack, the  2008 “Arthur” Drouhin Family Estate Chardonnay caught my eye. It’s a wine from the Dundee Hills of Oregon, where Domaine Drouhin took up residence in 1987 with its first plantings.

The family operates in Oregon and also France’s Burgundy region, where it all started. The Oregon plantings are located between 400 and 800 in elevation, on top of the Dundee Hills. This location is similar in climate and latitude to Burgundy — which is why it appealed to Robert Drouhin, in charge of Burgundy’s legendary Maison Joseph Drouhin, when he visited Oregon for the first time in 1961.

The similarity in climate means the wines that are produced rival those made in Burgundy. That was certainly the case with the 2008 Arthur estate chardonnay. The juice is aged in half stainless steel and half oak.

The blended result is a medium-bodied wine with fruit-forward flavors, warmth in the middle from the hints of oak and minerality on the finish. For those who want to try a true chardonnay that hasn’t been over manipulated, or “over oaked” this is a perfect example of this grape’s potential.

A bottle is $30; half-bottle is $15. Domaine Drouhin wines are available at the local supermarket, but you can also purchase wine from the website.

Winemakers dinner on Bainbridge Island

Brynn writes:

Looking for something to do next week, say on Wednesday night?

Well if you live on Bainbridge Island — or feel like making the trip depending on where you’re coming from — Doc’s Marina Grill is hosting a winemaker’s dinner featuring Joe Dobbes, who was named the “#1 Hot Small Brand of 2011” by Wine Business Monthly Magazine.

Dobbes is the winemaker of Joe Dobbes Wines, located in Dundee Oregon. He’s been a winemaker for close to 30 years and has received national recognition for his wines.

Here’s part of the press release from Doc’s with more information about the dinner, including how to sign up:

Doc’s will be finishing its Winemakers Dinner series for the 2012 Season with Joe Dobbes from Dundee, Oregon. This is the most anticipated winemakers dinner of the year due to the national recognition Joe Dobbes has received for his fantastic wines. This will be a great opportunity for locals and wine enthusiasts alike to meet one of the most exciting American winemakers, and taste his wine. There is limited seating for this experience, and will be sure not to disappoint.

Established in 2002, Dobbes Wines has become one of Oregon’s most well-established wine companies.

Registration is available online at, just make a reservation during the time of the dinner, or by calling (206) 842-8339.

What we’re drinking: Argyle sparkling wine

Mary writes:

I recently had a bit of very good news and thought it appropriate to pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.

My go-to bottle is the elegant, balanced and aged Argyle brut. This may cost a bit more but Argyle releases their bruts later other wineries. The current vintage is the 2008. This gives the wine time to marry and boy, is it worth it.

Aromas include honeysuckle, apple, melon and freshly risen dough with hints of spice and red currant. The bubbles are small and effervescent in the mouth — that’s the part that makes you grin. The palate is mineral complimented by lemon zest, currant and bread dough with a long, pleasing finish.

Argyle was established in 1987 in Dundee, Oregon. Their chardonnay and pinot noir are exceptional values. We especially get a giggle out of the labels designated “Nuthouse.”

A good many wineries in this area started out as a hazelnut processing plant — Oregon produces a boatload of hazelnuts. In the Dundee Hills, hazelnuts are the only other agricultural crop besides wine grapes. So as a tribute to their heritage, Argyle established the “Nuthouse” line of wines with a “Nuthouse Chardonnay” and “Nuthouse Pinot Noir.”


Seattle Wine and Food Expo coming up

Brynn writes:

February and March are great months for wine and food in Seattle. That’s when the Seattle Wine and Food Experience and Taste Washington events are planned.

The Seattle Wine and Food Experience is Sunday, Feb. 26 from 12 to 5 p.m. at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. More than 100 wineries are expected to be there pouring, and many of Seattle’s top chefs and restaurants will be serving up some of their best dishes.

While Washington’s wines will be featured, it looks like Oregon wine will be the focus of the day. Oh and for those of you who like more than just wine, beer and ciders and distilled spirits will also be showcased. For more information on the event, check out Wino Magazine’s online article. Tickets are $49 in advance.

Taste Washington will be held over two days this year, Saturday March 31 and Sunday April 1. General admittance both days will be from 2 to 5 p.m.

After spending almost 7 hours there last year, we love the decision to spread the event over two days. This allows visitors to map out what wineries they want to visit and not feel rushed, or as we experienced, frazzled by the end of the day after trying so many wonderful wines.

Like last year there will be more than 200 Washington wineries showcasing their wines inside the Centurylink Field Event Center at this year’s event. Tickets for general admission start at $99 for the weekend, or $75 for single day admittance. There’s also VIP packages, $125 for one day, $150 for the weekend. Visit the event website for more information on the wineries, restaurants and other offerings.

What wine goes with butternut squash lasagna?

When we first read that this week’s recipe from Ann Vogel would be for lasagna, we immediately went through our mental catalog to seek out a less familiar Italian wine pairing for the traditional Italian dish.

Then we read the recipe.

Hmm. Instead of going the traditional route, Vogel has opted to change things up by substituting the beloved tomato sauce with cubed butternut squash and olive oil. A great fall dish, we agree, but there goes our plan to recommend a Sangiovese.

Instead we’re heading to the white wine category for this recommendation. Our goal is to balance the sweetness of the squash with the savory flavors of the Romano, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

We think the perfect wine to do that is a Pinot Grigio. (Hey we have to stick to the Italian theme, don’t we?)

We recommend Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Pinot Grigio. The winery says its 2010 vintage does great on its own, but can stand up to food nicely. The varietal originated along Italy’s northern coast, which means it pairs well with seafood and other fresh, light foods.

The Woodbridge Pinot has a citrus finish that the winemaker recommends pairing with Parmesan dishes — another reason why we think it will go with this lighter version of lasagna.

And the best thing about the wine? It’s widely available and will run you $7 or less.

If you’re looking for something a little more expensive — especially if you plan to make this lasagna the centerpiece dish of a harvest dinner for friends — we also recommend picking up a bottle, or two, of Willamette Valley winery Elk Cove Pinto Gris.

This wine is sublime with a crisp citrus palate and full mouthfeel on the finish, allowing it to easily stand up to any dish. It runs about $20 and can be found at the grocery store.

Kitsap Wine Festival in review

The weather could not have been better for last weekend’s third annual Kitsap Wine Festival.

Luckily we didn’t listen to our own advice of leaving the sunscreen at home and bringing our umbrellas. Instead we slathered on the 30 SPF and hit the Bremerton waterfront for the three and-a-half hour wine tasting event.

The crowd seemed about the same from the year before, and the food offerings were just as delicious.

And of course the wine was good too.

Like last year we arrived at the gate and quickly made our way to the back of the tasting area, avoiding lines and seeking the cool breezes off the water.

But this strategy to get away from the crowds put a bit of a whammy in our plans to hit the wineries on our “Must Taste List.”

Anam Cara Cellars was the first winery on our list, and the first winery when we walked in. As a result there was a long line and we never made our way back to the front until it was time to leave.

So we started at the Summer Sippers Bar where we tasted Kana Winery’s Katie Mae White — a Riesling — Masset Winery Le Petite Blanc 2010, Vortex Cellars Rattlesnake Hills Rose, Maryhill Winery’s Rose of Sangiovese and an Italian sparkling Riondo Pink NV from the Veneto region.

Although these wines were refreshing, it was difficult to really taste them as they were chilled to the bone. But they were well chosen for the hot afternoon.

Our favorites of the bunch were the Riondo Veneto Pink NV for Brynn and the Maryhill Rose of Sangiovese for Mary. Both are refreshing dry pink wines with body and flavor. Both are made from the Italian red grapes, the first Corvina and the other Sangiovese. The Riondo was especially refreshing for the hot day with its bubbles that provided a nice effervescence.

Other wines we tasted and would recommend are Maryhill’s Zinfandel, Robert Ramsay Cellars’ 2008 Mourvedre and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and Pondera Winery’s Sericus, a 2008 Bordeaux blend that picked up a double gold from the 2011 Seattle Wine Awards.

Oregon was represented by Lange Estate Winery and Vineyard’s Chardonnay and Reserve Pinot, which paired wonderfully with Anthony’s salmon on a bed of roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

Mary thought Dubindil Winery’s 2008 Syrah was really good. This boutique winery out of Snohomish, doesn’t filter their Syrah but it’s still smooth and silky with layers of flavors. Situated in the heart of the Puget Sound AVA, they focus on small batches of handcrafted wines made from grapes in regions around the state.

Kiona Winery and McCrea Cellars were Brynn’s favorite wineries of the day. That’s because she loved almost everything they poured.

Kiona offered a 2010 Chenin Blanc, 2010 Rose of Sangiovese, 2008 Estate Lemberger and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Her favorites of these were the Lemberger and Cab, although the chilled Chenin Blanc was nice for the hot day.

McCrea poured its 2009 Sirocco Blanc (a white Rhone blend), a 2009 Rousanne, 2008 Grenache and 2006 Syrah.

Once again these whites were Brynn’s favorite, especially the Sirocco Blanc, a blend of 43 percent Grenache Blanc, 41 percent Marsanne, 10 percent Picpoul and 7 percent Rousanne.

Robert Ramsay Cellars was another one of Brynn’s favorites, largely because of its Cab made from old vines and its Mason’s Red — a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre with a co-fermentation of Viongnier, which gave this wine a lovely nose.

All in all we had a wonderful time and are already looking forward to next year’s event.


Brynn and Mary

Meet the winemaker dinner in Poulsbo

Mor Mor Bistro along Poulsbo’s Front Street is spending Cinco de Mayo celebrating the well made wines of Oregon’s Abacela vineyard and winery.

Winemaker Earl Jones will be in attendance at the five course dinner, that is $75 a head. Reservations are required, so if you’re interested in checking it out better call Mor Mor ASAP.

Here’s the details from the restaurant:

We invite you to join us on Cinco de Mayo for a unique presentation of one of Oregon’s finest wine producer’s. The accomplishments of Abacela “a vineyard & winery under the Oregon sun”, with Spanish winegrapes like Tempernillo, have established a reputation as a modern pioneer and a leading producer of native Iberian varietal wines in America!

The menu will consist of 5 courses that are inspired by the local ingredients of the Northwest with some subtle touches of Spanish cooking dynamics. Dorian has hand selected the wines with the help of Abacela’s very own Earl Jones. Earl will be flying in to join us for the dinner so we would love for as many of you to join us as possible to show Abacela that Poulsbo knows good wine! This is a great opportunity to have a splendid meal, try amazing wines and get face time with one of the regions most unique and sought after vintner’s.

Cost will be $75.00 per person and we encourage you to call asap to reserve your tickets. 360-697-3449