Growing up actively fishing, clamming, crabbing and covered in tide-flat, one becomes a bit of a seafood snob! The Pacific Northwest is blessed with an abundance of delicious and seasonal treats. Here we present some of our favorites with pairings.
My cousins, siblings and I would spend HOURS on the beach at Samish Island digging for clams. Razor clams and Goeducks that is- these meaty rich shellfish are excellent for fritters, soups and stews. Enjoy with Pinot Bianco from Castelfeder (Alto Adige, Italy).
Chef Tracey’s Manila Clams with coconut milk, shallots
Manila Clams, originally from Japan, live in the rocky depths, sandy areas as well as squishy tide-flat areas. I didn’t grow up with these as much. But I did find a love for them when I was older- toss them in white wine with linguini or with Andouille sausage, corn and potatoes! Pair with a Rosso di Montalicino from Nottola (Tuscany, Italy).
Five am is nothing to beach kids in my day- we would suit up, grab some pitch forks and buckets and float along on inner tubes next to our uncles when the tide flat was out. They had pots out that they would harvest later on in the evening, and this allowed Nana to start making fresh Dungenous crab cakes- Wow. Enjoy that with Vinchio Vaglio Serra Gavi (Piedmont, Italy).
There are several species of shrimp in the PNW- over 80! The most common, and largest is the Spot Prawn. Steam, peel and eat. Enjoy with Domaine Moltès Pinot Blanc (Alsace, France).
Squid– oh yes- calamari! My favorite style of calamari is non-breaded, sautéed with Calabrian olives, capers and tomatoes. Serve with La Farra Extra Dry Prosecco (Veneto, Italy)! Want the old school breaded with aoli style… very well, then 1851 Cellars Chardonnay (Columbia Valley, Washington) for you! Cheers!
Bouillabaisse, paella, or just a steamed bowl with chili flakes and butter- Mussels are a staple in PNW cuisine. It truly depends on the preparation- if you are having stew, enjoy with Domain Perraud Macon (Burgundy, France) or Santa Lucia Losco from coastal Maremma (Tuscany, Italy). Paella- Outon Albariño (Rias Biaxas, Spain) all the way! Simple butter and chili- have Okocium Lager (Poland)!
Ines Giovanett (Castelfeder Winery) & Tom Stocks at Taylor Shellfish, 2012
I can spend a whole day pairing to Oysters as Washington State has so many to choose from! Check out this link for all the different styles>> And classically- the pairing should be Muscadet: Chateau de La Bigiotière or Domaine des Herbauges (Loire Valley, France).
With eight different styles of Tuna consumed, the four most common are Albacore, Yellow-fin, Blue-fin, and Big-eye. Blue-fin, especially Atlantic Blue-Fin, is an endangered species. The others are border line threatened. If you are fortunate to consume some, enjoy with Santa Lucia Vermentino (Tuscany, Italy)
Sturgeon, known more for caviar than as a dish, is a meaty, oily and rich dish. Many species are endangered due to illegal caviar trade as well as over-fishing and pollution. You need a Burgundian white for this one: Domaine Perraud Mâcon Villages or Chateau Eyssards Bergerac Blanc Sec (Bergerac, France)
Mildly sweet, dense white meat- Swordfish is often overlooked! If you like the meaty texture of salmon but not the fishy character, you will enjoy swordfish. Moderate consumption as it does carry levels of mercury, and it is on a watch. Pair with Ozilhan Réserve Blanc (Côtes du Rhône, France)
I don’t believe you need to pair Salmon with Pinot Noir. Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE PINOT NOIR. But… there are plenty of gorgeous wines to pair with especially pending what you are making with your salmon. I’ll give you two choices…
Of the five WILD Salmon – Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye – what’s the difference?
- Sockeye is the darkest and meat-y-est. Pair with a bold 5 Oros Vendemmia Seleccionada (Rioja, Spain) or Willamette Pinot- like Domaine Serene (Willamette Valley, Oregon). Awesome smoked! Pair with Starke Conde Syrah (Stellenbosch, South Africa).
- Chinook (King) is the lightest in color yet expressive in flavor and the highest in the marbled fat content. Depending on what you prepare it with, pair with a wine that has a bit more earth and richness- Santa Lucia Morellino di Scansano or Claude Nouveau Santennay (Burgundy, France)
- Coho and Pink are similar with a medium to light coloring, medium flavor and medium oil. Try a rosé- Château Frégate Bandol Rosé or for your pinot noir: Paul Reitz Volnay (Burgundy, France).
- Chum is very light in color and very lean. Sometimes with an orange hue. Enjoy with Les Couventines Gigondas (Southern Rhône, France) or Wish Wine Co. Pinot Noir (North Coast, California)
Since we are talking about salmon, what’s the deal with Steelhead Salmon? It is actually a sea-bearing Rainbow Trout. You will find the same richness of salmon, yet medium flakes of orange goodness. Pair with Scopone Brunello di Montalicino (Tuscany, Italy) or Walter Scott Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon).
Rainbow Trout spends its life in the fresh water- so rich in style yet cleaner and leaner. Think the same for your wine pairing- Castelfeder Vernatsch (Alto Adige, Italy) or Walnut City Wine Works Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
Chef Tracey’s Halibut Cheeks on Roman gnocchi
Halibut is a delight. Light, lean with a sweet freshness, it is so versatile for pairing as well as preparation. Plain with lemon- Chevaliers Chablis (Burgundy, France); Fried- Asara Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch, South Africa); Ceviche!! Casto Pequeño Cotoval Verdejo (Castilla y Leon, Spain)
Since we are speaking white fish, next we move to Cod. There is Atlantic and Pacific and whole races that sustain themselves on these beauties. Simple clean and mild flavor. Not dissimilar to halibut but a bit oily and not as sweet. Pair with Lobo Hills Sauvigon Blanc (Yakima Valley, Washington).
Black Cod/Sablefish has a rich, buttery, satin like texture with high oil content. It lives in deep dark waters and along the muddy areas of the ocean. Pair with Domain Moltès Alsatian Riesling (France).
Lingcod– is not actually a cod. Lingcod is a lean, white-fleshed fish with a mild flavor profile, medium-firm texture and large flakes. Enjoy with a bright and refreshing Sancerre- La Colline aux Princes (Loire Valley, France)
Bass– similar to the tale of Steelhead and Rainbow trout, several bass species are fresh water to seawater bound. Large mouth bass are the most common in our area- expect a rich, oily fish with full flavor! Go local- have a Washington Syrah: Beresan Cellars (Columbia Valley)
Petrale Sole and Dover Sole are actually Flounders and both have a mild, delicately nutty, sweet flavor with small, firm flakes. Definitely Palazzo Malgara Grillo (Sicily, Italy)
Chef Tracey’s Pacific Rockfish with yellow tomato pureé, avacodo, basil oil & smoked paprika oil
Rockfish, aka Pacific Snapper, is lean, with a sweetness and nutty undertone. Firm and flaky. A great fish for mixing into seafood stews or baked in parchment with clams and herbs! Pair this with a Bordeaux Blanc- Château Martinot (France).
Please keep in mind that we are stewards to our environment. Many species have been over harvested and not properly managed, so please make sure to check sites like this >> as well as health sites for toxin levels (especially for small children, pregnant women, and those with illnesses) >>
Cheers & hope you enjoy some of these pairing suggestions!
Sommelier, Portalis Wine Shop Manager & foodie extraordinaire!