Adam’s Cast-Iron Salmon

Here in the Pacific Northwest, our summers are marked by fantastic outdoor celebrations featuring our favorite regional foods and wines. To locals, this often means a glass of Pinot Noir alongside grilled salmon, fresh salads and seasonal fruit, a meal that perfectly expresses the bounty of an Oregon summer. In our family, we all make a simplified version of this meal at home year-round using a cast-iron skillet.

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How To Pair Salmon With Different Pinots

As more and more of us are drinking red wine and eating more fish, it is time to let go of the old adage that seafood only pairs with white wine and embrace serving hearty fish like salmon with Pinot Noir, a red wine that is higher in acidity and lighter in tannins compared to other red wines which have a tendency to overpower lighter fare. It’s a great example of “what grows together, goes together,” the pairing of regional cuisine with wines grown in the same region. Of course, whether you choose a Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Noir will likely depend on how you prepare your salmon:

Grilled Salmon: a robust, bright Pinot Noir (Clay Court)
Sushi: a complex, quaffable Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley)
Salmon tacos: Pinot Gris
Salmon Salad: Pinot Blanc
Smoked Salmon: Sparkling Pinot Noir

We love salmon cooked just to doneness with a good char on the skin, a preparation that complements Pinot Noir – see the recipe below for how you can do this in your own kitchen, with or without a grill. The fattiness of a wild salmon like Chinook (the big ones, also called King Salmon) give it more flavor as does the smoky char, so it needs a more robust white or red wine to properly reset your taste buds after each delicious bite.

Salmon Is A Traditional Northwest Food

a large waterfall with people fishing on wooden platforms with long nets
Deepnet Fishing At Celilo Falls Circa 1957

We live on land and grow our grapes on land that is the traditional territory of indigenous groups collectively referred to as the Salmon People, the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest for whom salmon isn’t just an important first food but a central aspect of tribal culture. In part because of the bounty of salmon in these rivers, our region flourished with inter-tribal commerce for thousands of years, making this one of the most prosperous regions in the world before Europeans arrived in the Western hemisphere. Salmon is still incredibly important to our Pacific Northwest communities, and the restoration of our rivers and of salmon populations is important to us. That’s why our winery is certified salmon safe and why when we cook salmon, we choose sustainably harvested wild fish and give it the attention it deserves.

As Featured At The International Pinot Noir Celebration

IPNC Salmon Bake
Salmon Cooking At IPNC

Every summer, international winemakers, sommeliers, wine-sellers and people who just love wine arrive in McMinnville, Oregon to attend the International Pinot Noir Celebration, one highlight of which is the annual Salmon Bake, where filets of salmon are skewered on tall alder stakes and roasted over a fire pit. This ingenious outdoor setup is modeled after an indigenous salmon cooking method used for thousands of years that ensures the salmon cooks slowly at a good distance from the flames. Chefs from around the northwest offer up side dishes and desserts and winemakers from around the world pop open corks on big bottles of their best Pinot Noirs. This well-loved event puts Pinot Noir and Salmon on the international stage. We highly recommend going – get your tickets early though because it sells out.

smiling white man with a white beard and short hair in a blue button down short sleeved shirt holding a platter with two large raw fillets of salmon
Adam’s preparing to grill salmon at our 2022 Distributor Retreat

Adam’s Cast Iron Salmon Recipe

Recommended wine pairing: Clay Court Pinot Noir

We love grilling salmon, but depending on the size of your grill it can be a recipe for a fire, especially with larger pieces of salmon that have thicker skin and more fat to burn. And smaller pieces of salmon risk falling through the grate. A cedar plank works great, but we don’t always have one on hand. So at home, we usually get our char from cooking filets skin down in a cast iron pan. We then finish the fish in the oven to our preferred level of doneness. This recipe is a summer favorite in our family.


Skin-on fillets of a thicker cut of salmon like wild Oregon or Alaska Chinook (3-4 oz per person)
1 stick butter (4 oz)
garlic, chopped
cut lemons

For the Skillet:
2 tablespoons high-heat oil like grapeseed or canola

Optional Salad Accompaniment:
butter lettuce or seasonal greens
chilled green beans, cannellini beans or both!
baby potatoes

summer herbs of your choice, chopped (basil, thyme, parsley)

smashed clove of garlic (remove just before serving)
3tbs olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dijon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Generously salt the skin side of the fish and then paint the top of the filets with a mix of room temperature butter, chopped garlic salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. This is a great time to prepare the salad. Prepare vinaigrette in a bowl by whisking together all ingredients except for the garlic and herbs, which you can add once the oil and vinegar have emulsified.

Heat oil in the cast-iron skillet on a high burner until it just starts to smoke then carefully add the fillets skin-side down. To avoid filling your house with smoke, keep the fan on and turn the burner down once the skin has really begun to cook and the fillets slide easily on the pan.

Once the skin is mostly rendered and the salmon appears cooked through approximately 1/2 of its thickness on the bottom, turn your broiler on high and transfer the cast iron pan to the top rack of your oven to finish cooking. We find the cast iron gives a nice charred flavor, but if you want to add more smokiness, you can also finish your salmon on the grill at low heat (once the skin is rendered it is much less likely to catch on fire, just watch out that you don’t let your precious salmon slip through the cracks of your grill!) Watch carefully until the salmon is cooked to your desired level of doneness. We like it when it’s just barely solidified to the touch and a toothpick goes in without much resistance, but you can also use a meat thermometer and take it out once it’s about 120 degrees in the center.

Transfer salmon to a plate right away to rest to avoid additional cooking from the residual heat of the cast iron pan. Arrange salad items on a platter, remove the smashed garlic clove from the vinaigrette and drizzle on the salad right before serving. Serve with crusty bread and cut seasonal fruit. Cheers!

This salmon recipe pairs beautifully with our Clay Court Pinot Noir. Cheers and bon appétit!