This week we put a winemaker's boast to the test. The wine is the 2007 Firesteed Oregon Pinot Gris (about $13 at big box stores and wine shops). The boast is that "many consider it the optimal wine to serve with salmon." How could we resist an experiment?
Before we tried it with an oven-roasted fresh sockeye fillet from Alaska served with rice and sliced avocado, we sipped. A lightly floral nose with mineral highlights led the way into a complex white wine with more body than a typical sauvignon blanc but lighter than an oaky chardonnay. The wine opened with bright flavors of apricot, lavender honey and lemon ice cream kept crisply in check by a kiss of flint. The flavors lingered on the palate before giving way to a long dry finish. Definitely a food-friendly wine, but no slouch as an aperitif, either.
The rice on our test plate served mostly as a buffer between the assertive flavors of salmon and ripe avocado, both of which we sparked with a squeeze of lime. This pinot gris provided a pitch-perfect counterpoint to the avocado's buttery richness, bringing out its full savor but also tempering its inherent weight. With the salmon, too, this wine was just right, nicely complementing the fish and prolonging and extending its full flavor on the tongue.
The bottom line? This Oregon wine both honors its origin and goes beautifully with salmon. Still, the same may be said of many another white. Instead of "optimal," we declare this pinot gris an excellent and worthy companion to a noble fish.
Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.