Washington #MerlotMe Paired with Ahi Tuna and Salmon for #WinePW


Yes, you read that right: for Wine Pairing Weekend this #MerlotMe month with our host Jeff Burrows at Food Wine Click!, we offer a pairing of Washington Merlot with salmon and ahi tuna!! As well as a somewhat untraditional cheese plate…

While I often suggest to people to pair the color of the wine with the color of the food, which would mean the go to food pairing for a full or medium bodied red wine like merlot is red meat,  I’ve paired Washington merlot with Salmon and with Ahi Tuna with great success!

Merlot is a very versatile red wine and works well with “red” fish like salmon and ahi tuna as well as “pink” meats like pork loin and duck; last year we paired Merlot from Duckhorn with duck breasts. Merlot also pairs really well with roasted fall vegetables particularly butternut squash and pumpkin.

So while we kicked off this #MerlotMe month with a traditional tritip beach barbecue paired with Flora Springs and Charles Krug from Napa and Decoy from Sonoma, and later we paired Napa Valley’s Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard and  La Jota from Howell Mountain with flat iron steak with berries (to be posted next week!) plus we have two other pairings in the works (I’m looking at you Nine Hats Merlot from WA!), for today’s “official” #MerlotMe post we offer up our two favorite Merlot and seafood recipes.

There is something about the silky succulence and elegance of Washington Merlot that I love with tuna and salmon! And I think it is also the texture as well as the rich earthy, herbal flavor that makes it pair so well with squash dishes.

For this week’s #MerlotMe paired with ahi tuna and salmon, we chose three wines made by Mike Januik:

2015 – Januik – Merlot – Columbia Valley
2015 – Januik – Merlot – Champoux Vineyard
2014 Novelty Hill – Merlot – Stillwater Creek Vineyard 

Januik, a former back country ranger, white water river guide, and poetry lover who has been making wine since 1984, earned his MA in Enology and viticulture from UC Davis. Before starting his own label in 1999, he was the head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle. His honors as a winemaker include being named one of the world’s ten “Masters of Merlot” by Wine Enthusiast magazine: he is credited with hundreds of 90+ scores and Wine & Spirits magazine named Januik “Winery of the Year” in 2011.

In addition to Januik, Mike has had a key role at Novelty Hill from the beginning: he consulted with Novelty Hill’s owners Tom Alberg and Judi Beck on the estate vineyard Stillwater Creek, he encouraged planting with one of the most innovative clonal selections in the state, and he has made the wines there since the first vintage in 2000.

While independent wineries, Novelty Hill and Januik share a destination tasting room and production facility established in 2007 in Woodinville which is located not far from Seattle, and is home to a number of wineries including Chateau Set. Michelle. I’ve visited the area twice — on a press trip in 2010 before the Wine Bloggers Conference and again in 2013, but I need to visit the winery next time I’m in the area!

I was inspired and encouraged in part to do this pairing after a recent tasting of the 2014 Januik Merlot from Columbia Valley which just sang with fresh, in-season, wild Alaskan salmon as well as a conversation about breaking out of the red meat equals  red wine box.



  • Cheese plate
    soft cheeses: goat cheese brie, french nuage, creamy blue, blueberry covered goat cheese, fresh seed sourdough, spiced nuts
  • Ahi tuna salad with blueberries, sesame oil, and pomegranate vinegarette.
  • Grilled salmon with a side of steamed cauliflower and broccoli and rice.
  • Pumpkin spiced cake with cream cheese frosting and toffee nuts.

2015 – Januik – Merlot – Columbia Valley – 14.4%  SRP $25

Januik’s beautiful emblem on its label is a what at first seems to be a grape vine leaves and a little cluster. At closer examination, the vine is in the shape of a “J” — just lovely!

Grapes came from four Columbia Valley vineyards harvested ten days earlier than normal due to a very warm season. The wine was fermented for about eight days on skins, pressed, then barrel aged in new and once used French oak for 21 months and racked every five months before bottling.

Color: Red plum, with a ruby/pink ring.

Nose: Menthol, sage, cherry, cranberry, earthy floral that isn’t perfumey more like the pollen of a daisy, cigar box, hot cinnamon candy, nice warm notes.

We sniffed this wine for a very long time before diving in!

Palate: Bright tart cherry and cranberry.

Pairing: The blueberry goat cheese works making us think of pairing this with short ribs covered in a reduction cherry sauce, or a pork loin or duck with a berry sauce. It was great with fresh seedy sourdough and went well with aged blue cheese making us think about pairing a blue cheese burger with this wine. The “Albina City, Honey Cardamom Almonds”  on the cheese tray also had a nice relationship with the wine. Great with the seared Ahi tuna salad.  Smelling the salmon makes you salivate for the wine. Great with the salmon too. smooth easy pairing. This pairing is my happy place, it is hedonistic it is so good!

Merlot like these are not only great food wines, but can also easily be enjoyed as a cocktail wine.

While this wine has a higher alcohol content, it is very smooth. The alcohol does not come out in the nose or the palate. Mike Januik suggests that this wine could be cellared for a minimum of 10-15 years.

2015 – Januik – Merlot – Champoux Vineyard – 14.4% alcohol SRP $40

Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills region of the Columbia Valley is at the top of winemaker Mike Januik’s list outstanding sites in Washington State because it produces wines with “exceptional depth, complexity, and elegance.” After a warm growing season, the harvested grapes fermented on skins for nine days, and after pressing, were aged for 22 months in primarily new French oak barrels “to improve its already lengthy finish.” The wines was racked every five months to “create lush tannins and a bold, stylish structure.” This wine could cellar for a long time.

Color: Delse red and purple, burgundy with a hot pink ring

Nose: Rice in earth, forest floor with pine, mint, herbal notes, almost rosemary, bay, the fruit is in the undertones, fresh ripe sweet cherry, a bing cherry

Palate: Tobacco,, cherry, leather on the finish, rich tannins on this wine that we did not notice on the other Januik

Pairing: This wine went so well with all the cheese on our cheese tray tonight. The goat brie, the nuage, the creamy blue and especially the blueberry goat. What a great wine to accompany a cheese plate. You could do this cheese plate as a dessert as well and be so very satisfied. We talked about making little puff pastry blueberry goat cheese filled tarts.

This wine was a hit with the seared Ahi salad. It worked with the richness of the tuna and the flavors of the berries. We did not want to stop drinking this wine during any of the evening’s meal.

OMG with the salmon this is over the top.

For Sue, the smoothness of the wine added to the creaminess of the salmon makes it an incredible pairing.

Surprisingly, I did not get what I think of as Washington Merlot mouthfeel with either of these two wines — which might be attribute to their youth or the vintage… or maybe just my palate that night!

2014 Novelty Hill – Merlot – Stillwater Creek Vineyard – Columbia Valley – 14.4% alcohol SRP $28

Color: Bit of muddy coral, rose with a pinkish rose ring

Nose: Eucalptyus, baking spices, carnation

Palate: Acidic, bright, minerals, clean finish, has more of a European style, tart fruit, earthy sharp rhubarb, pomegranate.

Pairing: This wine did not want just cheese alone, but when the seeded bread was added, it was very nice, the gooey cheese was like having bread and butter. It stood up nicely to the creamy blue. It was not as great with blueberry coated goat cheese leading us to believe that this wine would not carry through to dessert very well but it went well with the Ahi berry salad. There was a rich umami when the two went walking together. With this wine the salmon oil comes out as well as the pepper, it is not that it is fishy, it is just that you can taste the ocean, the salinity comes out. Both Sue and I liked this wine better with the tuna than with the salmon.

For more #MerlotMe, check out our twitter chat which takes place live on Saturday morning at 8am Pacific by following the hashtag #WinePW; if you missed the chat, just search for the #WinePW or #MerlotMe hashtags. For more details about our #MerlotMe wines and pairings, click on these links to our posts:

There’s lots of regulars but a few new folks too — welcome!

And as an extra-added, no additional cost to you, here’s a video post from Nick Goldschmidt, winemaker at Goldschmidt Vineyards in Napa Valley!

Finally, join us in November with our theme “Together We Rise: Wines from Fire Struck Regions in California, Spain, Portugal” when I will host once again here on Wine Predator will host. 

And now go drink some Merlot!

21 thoughts on “Washington #MerlotMe Paired with Ahi Tuna and Salmon for #WinePW

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  2. Love that you did Washington Merlots. It was my first time to Washington state recently and I am ready to go back for more! Wonderful pairings, I am a fish fan and will definitely be trying salmon and ahi tuna with some Merlot in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Thanks David! Yes, he sounds very interesting and I hope to meet up with him one day! And yes there is a big difference between farmed and wild salmon; it’s much richer and more flavorful and so goes better with a bigger wine like merlot. Grateful that we have so much wonderful seafood here in California!


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