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William Hunter
June 5, 2017 | William Hunter

Grilled Salmon and the 2014 Single Vineyard Chardonnays

Barbequed fish in the summer can always be fun and I have a recipe for whole Salmon cooked on the grill that I’ve always liked. It takes a little work; mostly cleaning and seasoning of the grill to be sure the fish won’t stick to it. I like salmon because of its oily (omega -3’s that’s good for HDL’s) weight that goes so well with a full bodied Chardonnay. Some feel that Pinot is appropriate for Salmon as well. Even though I’m typically not of that mind set in general I can understand a light in body Pinot with salmon but Chasseur Pinots, I feel are too full for the fish to stand up to it, but if it’s for you we still have some Pinot available. I think the weight and complexity of any of the Chasseur Chardonnays work with salmon but the 2014 single vineyard Chardonnay’s would go especially well with this summer time fare.
Now, if you want to tackle this fish dish be prepared:

First, take care of the grate. Essentially, what you're doing is seasoning it, just as you might season a cast-iron skillet, by cooking on layer upon layer of oil. Do this every time before you grill fish, and each successive grilling session will be easier. Start by taking a good wire brush to a cold grate. With healthy elbow grease, work off all solid matter, especially the black, carbonized stuff. Get it as clean as possible.

Now begins the lacquering process. You are going to need at least two layers of oil. Using a spray-oil product or a 2-inch square of folded cloth or paper towel drenched in olive oil or vegetable oil, drench the grate with oil until the rungs look shiny. (Keep a spray bottle of water handy for flare-ups.) Using tongs, rub the cloth along each rung of the grate. An old, long-used grate may absorb several coats before it is saturated, especially in the high- use areas. Turn a gas grill to high, or light coals until they burn red-hot. Allow the oil on the grates to cook at highest temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, rub on another generous layer of oil. If spraying, remove the grate and do it off the flame. Heat the grate again on high for another 10 minutes. If the grate is not shiny with baked-on oil, repeat the oiling and heating process again. Do it until you have grates that shine evenly.


  • Be sure the fish is dry…
  • Salt the fish in the belly cavity. Insert slices of lemon and fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram or rosemary, if you wish. Drizzle it with oil.
  • Plan where the fish is going to go on the grill, with room to roll it over, especially if it is big – say, a 14-pound salmon. In other words, instead of picking it up and flipping it, you will lift up the belly side and roll the fish over on its back to cook the other side.
  • This technique will minimize the danger of the fish breaking up. Besides, a whole salmon is going to weigh at least 12 pounds. That's hard to lift.
  • Cook the fish around 400 degrees. If using briquettes, don't put the fish over red-hot coals – wait until they cool down somewhat so that white ashes cover part of the coals.
  • Another way to estimate temperature is to hold your hand close to the grate and count. Every second that you can keep your hand comfortable over the coals equals about 100 degrees. Since I have access to oak staves; I like to put one on the grill so it burns slowly and gives off some smoke.
  • Gently place the fish on the grill. Then do not touch it. On a gas grill, turn the heat down immediately to medium-low. Lower the lid.
  • Cook the fish for about half of total cooking time – total time for well-cooked fish should be about 10 minutes per inch of thickness of the fish, measured at its thickest part. You can also insert an instant-read meat thermometer in the thickest part of the fish, without touching the spine. It's done at 125°. You can remove it at a lower temperature if you like the flesh slightly undercooked.
  • Uncover the grill and coat the top side of the fish with oil. Firmly and gently, using the largest spatulas you can find – the Weber fish lifter is especially helpful – lift the belly side of the fish and with an alley-oop, roll the fish over its dorsal side without lifting it up. Cover.
  • Again, leave it alone. If you've treated your grate well, the fish will not stick.
  • Shortly before the end of what you've calculated as total cooking time, check the thickest part of the fish, just behind the head, for the meat to flake. However, if you like it less done, especially if it is salmon, you want the flesh near the bone to be still slightly translucent.
  • Now with your best-quality, largest spatula lift-slide it off the grate. The fish is done.
  • You will have a crisped side of skin that's delicious and healthy. If you don't like skin, take it off. You'll find the flesh underneath some of the most moist you've ever tasted. If your fish is very fresh, it's possible the skin will have shrunk and torn slightly.

1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated or minced lime zest
Pinch of sea salt
2 anchovies, rinsed well and chopped
2 green onions, sliced fine, including the green tops
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and minced
1 seeded serrano pepper, minced fine
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced chervil
1/4 cup minced parsley

Combine garlic, lime zest and salt in a wooden salad bowl. Add anchovies and crush with a fork until a paste forms (similar to making a Caesar salad dressing from scratch, the acid in the lime, a lemon in the case of a Caesar, will break down the garlic and anchovies). Add onions, capers, serrano pepper and black pepper. Stir in olive oil, chervil and parsley. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste. Yields about 1 cup.

Divide whole grilled fish into 6- to 8-ounce servings and use 1 tablespoon per serving of sauce for the fish.

95 Points - Pinot File, The Prince of Pinot
93 Points - Connoisseur's Guide to CA Wine
A study in the virtues of elegant richness and quiet energy this wine is both unctuous and yet with refined fragrant floral notes of honeysuckle, orange blossom and violet.


90 Points - Connoisseur's Guide to CA Wine
This sophisticated Chardonnay unwinds with airing, and a progression of preserved lemon, apple, peach and pear skin fruit scents along with enriching savory notes of toasted nuts, baking spices and vanilla wafers.


95 Points - Pinot File, The Prince of Pinot Impressions of firm fresh pear, apples and lemon curd waft from the glass and are then followed by toasted cashews and smoky mineral notes which float in the headspace above the wine.


94 Points - Connoisseur's Guide to CA Wine
The opulent aromas expand into densely packed and concentrated flavors in the mouth of vanilla cream, honey roasted grain and wet stone minerals.




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