kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

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Smoke, Wood, Fish and Pinot

Salmon and Pinot Noir is one of those sublime food and wine matches. When the salmon is wild caught Alaskan Sockeye grilled on a cedar plank, and the Pinot is a quality bottle from Oregon, it's even better.

To prepare cedar-planked salmon, you'll first need to soak your wood--the directions that came with my planks said for 10 minutes or so, but a half hour, or an hour, is much better. After soaking the plank, I topped it with my salmon fillet (with the skin still on), and sprinkled on some chili powder, paprika, fresh chopped rosemary, sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and garlic powder. While the herbs set for 10 minutes or so on top of the fish, I made a simple glaze of honey and rice wine vinegar. I made sure the glaze was thick enough so that when I drizzled it over the fish, it stayed put and didn't make my spices run.

I grilled the salmon on medium high for about 18 minutes (the fish was about an inch thick, and I could have even pulled it off a few minutes before that to make it even juicier.) When you are grilling on a plank, be prepared for flare ups, even if you soak the board. If that happens, just douse the board with a bit of water.

The fish skin usually stays on the board, or peels right off, so serving it is a breeze. And that delicious cedar is imparted all the way through the fish (my clothes also smelled delicious...)

With this meal, I served a bottle of 2005 Estate Pinot Noir from Yamhill Valley Vineyards in Oregon. It had bright fruit (raspberries and cherries), along with the distinctive Pinot smoky/earthy notes (which made it pair all the better with the smoky salmon.) And it actually had surprisingly firm tannins for a New World Pinot Noir, but they weren't over the top.

This wine is available in the DC area at the Vienna Vintner. And cedar planks, which used to be found only in barbecue and specialty stores, are widely available now in most area grocery stores. Now is actually the time to buy them--I've seen them on sale and clearance in a lot of stores now that summer is over. They can be used on the grill, or in the oven.