Pairing: Pinot noir with salmon salad

Our Wine of the Week, Olema 2014 Sonoma County Pinot Noir, is silky and smooth on first sip. As it lingers on the palate, an engaging depth unfolds, with suggestions of cherries, sweet spices, cocoa butter, black topsoil and licorice. There’s a bit of heat, too, contributed by the wine’s 14.2 percent alcohol.

You may notice a bit of sweet apple and tangy citrus, too, flavors that rise to capture your attention and then quickly settle back down.

The licorice element can be key to extraordinary pairings, as you can use anise, fennel, tarragon, licorice-flavored spirits and licorice root itself to engage the wine and encourage it to blossom. Grilled boned quail served over wild rice that has been cooked with a licorice root is a great match; add a suave beurre blanc and the match soars.

A bit of good fat will mitigate the heat, which suggests rare ribeye steak or braised pork belly.

The wine really soars when paired with salmon, especially wild Pacific King salmon. For the best results, cook the fish slowly so that it remains juicy and succulent and be certain not to overcook it. It should still glisten a bit in the center.

It is paired here with a very special spicy salad mix that includes leek grass and very young cilantro, which is available at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Saturday and at Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday. Or use the inner leaves of butter lettuce or Tom Thumb lettuce.

Slow-Roasted Salmon Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Serves 2

2 wild Pacific King salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

- Kosher salt

1 teaspoon minced shallot

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon tarragon leaves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

- Black pepper in a mill

2 ounces salad mix, preferably Earthworker Farm Mark Twang mix

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Set the salmon on a clean work surface and move your clean fingers over the top, feeling for pin bones. Use your fingers, tweezers or needle nose pliers to pull them out.

Sprinkle the five-spice powder over the cut side of the salmon, rub it in a bit and add some salt. Set the salmon in a heavy pan or small baking sheet, set on the middle rack of the oven, and cook for about 20 minutes for 1-inch thick fillets and a tad less for thinner fillets.

Meanwhile, put the shallot into a small bowl, add a generous pinch of salt, and pour in the vinegar and lemon juice. Let rest until the salmon is done.

Set aside half the tarragon; mince the other half.

Working quickly, pull the salmon from the oven and set it aside briefly.

Stir the minced tarragon into the shallot mixture, add the olive oil and several turns of black pepper, taste, and correct for salt.

Divide the salad mix between two plates, sprinkle a little salt and the tarragon leaves on top and toss gently.

Drape a salmon fillet on top of the greens, spoon vinaigrette over everything, and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at

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