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A Brief guide on Wine Pairing with Salmon, Fish, and Seafood

Many chefs and sommeliers will suggest the Chardonnay varietal when it comes to a wine pairing with salmon, other fish or seafood. 

Common wisdom, developed over a millennium of drinking wine and eating seafood, is white wines are to seafood as fish are to the sea…They swim well together!  Red wines, with a typically higher level of tannins, can impart a very subtle metallic aftertaste if imbibed alongside fish or seafood.  While there are some variables here, including the fattiness of the seafood, cook technique employed or even varietal characters of wine, generally speaking, white wine is a great match for everything from grilled shrimp, shellfish and oysters to salmon.

Most people find that a glass of a Chardonnay, with its traditionally oakier character, is very versatile and excellent with a wide range of fish and seafood dishes. This is especially true if the wine is a full-bodied, robust vintage. The butteriness of the fish or shellfish lends itself well to the toasted notes of an oaked Chardonnay. This wine pairing won’t overwhelm a light flaky fish in the way a red wine would.

When it comes to a meatier, fattier fish like the mighty King Salmon, a rich Chardonnay would be a great pair, striking a balance between the food and wine flavors.  Likewise, a good Chardonnay will complement even the most decadent lobster, with its meaty texture and rich flavor. Grilled prawns, right off the fire, are also a perfect pair with their charred grill marks and a little bit of heat from seasoning.

Chardonnay Wine Pairing Characteristics to Consider When Eating Seafood or Fish

Generally speaking, Chardonnay has a high acid content. This makes it a natural pair for the buttery goodness of so many seafoods, such as crab and lobster. It also complements the most rich cream sauces which need acidity to cut through the fat and provide a balance.

Unlike red wines, which tend to be rested on their skins during the fermentation process and thereby typically more concentrated and tannic, Chardonnay wine is found to be lighter, with less aggressive flavor characteristics.  Likewise, the aromas of a Chardonnay lean brighter, with orchard fruit notes and toasted oak from the barrel the wine is aged in.  While this difference may be why we choose a glass of Chardonnay, it can work against certain food and wine pairings.

With considerations of flavor, aroma and viscosity in mind, a flaky fish seasoned with lemon, butter, and a few spices, the brightness of the Chardonnay picks up on the brightness of this dish, bringing out its best flavors.  Likewise, when taking on a medium-textured fish such as sea bass, a rich, fruity Chardonnay can balance the protein of the fish.

Grilling or cooking over an open flame can produce charred seafood or fish, and that slightly smoky layer of flavor will lean into the toasted flavor of an oaked Chardonnay, making this food and wine pairing even more delicious.

Of course, the seasonings, sauces, side dishes, and even how the seafood is cooked can affect wine pairings. Baking or poaching yields less caramelization than sauteing, roasting, grilling, or cooking over an open flame.  Richly flavored sauces and sides welcome the more acidic, fruity qualities of a great Chardonnay, which can even handle the heat of more robust seasoning.

Chardonnay Wine Pairing with Salmon

Salmon is a rich, meaty fish. While it isn’t as toothsome as red meat, salmon does have a certain fattiness to it. That demands a slightly richer oaked Chardonnay, such as our Gold Mine Hills Chardonnay, recommended for its smooth yet bright flavors and its toasty qualities. 

When matching this wine to food, it helps to know its characteristics.  Full-bodied and opulent, Gold Mine Hills Chardonnay definitely qualifies as a richer wine.  Signature ripe fruit flavors include ripened fig, mango, and sliced pear.  There are also hints of lightly roasted marshmallows.  Before you sip, you may notice suave aromas nuanced with delicate white summer flowers, toasted almonds and a hint of whiskey barrel. A creamy butterscotch finish is balanced by a bright, natural acidity.

To give you more food for thought (and something wonderful to make), we recommend this recipe for Cedar-plank grilled Salmon.  In addition to simply being a delicious way to enjoy salmon, this dish is prepared in such a way that it elevates many aspects of our Gold Mine Hills Chardonnay.  Enjoy!

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Cedar Planked Salmon Recipe: Gold Mine Hills Chardonnay Food Pairing

Feed your fire with this delicious and simple cedar planked salmon recipe.  This is a year-round staple that pairs so well with Three Finger Jack Chardonnay.


Servings: 6

Prep Time: 15 Min

Cook Time: 20 Min

Total Time: 35 Min


3 (12 inch) unprocessed cedar planks

⅓ cup vegetable oil 

1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

⅓ cup soy sauce

¼ cup chopped green onions

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 (2 pound) salmon fillets, skin removed

White sesame seeds to top

White sesame seeds to top



1. Soak the cedar planks for at least 1 hour (longer is even better) in warm water.

2. In a shallow dish, stir together the vegetable oil, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, and garlic.

3. Place the salmon fillets in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 15 minutes, or up to one hour.

4. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Place the planks on the grate. The boards are ready when they start to smoke and crackle just a little.

5. Place the salmon fillets onto the planks and discard the marinade. Cover, and grill for about 15-20 minutes. Fish is done when you can flake it with a fork. It will continue to cook after you remove it from the grill.

6. Top with white sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

7. Pair with Three Finger Jack Chardonnay!

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