Check out our more recent addition (with up-to-date reviews) of Great Wines When You’re Grilling 


On a summer day, when the sun is out, the sky is free of clouds, and the breeze picks up just the right amount, it’s almost unthinkable to stay cooped up inside. Inviting some friends over and firing up the grill is a perfect way to take advantage of such wonderful afternoons. And, of course, the only thing that can make great food even better is great wine. The key is picking the right pairing. I have a few friends who swear by their Chardonnay and will drink it with almost anything. If that makes you happy, so be it, but with just a little effort your wine and food experience can be vastly improved. We’ll even make it extra easy for you. The staff here at Food & Beverage went through our recipe archive and selected some of our favorite grilled dishes. We’ll present them in a three part package highlighting some of California’s finest wines to pair with each recipe. Plus, if you’re new to the concepts of pairing wine with food, we’ll explain some of the basic ideas.

First up is our seafood category. Clearly, there’s a range of possibilities. We simply selected three of our favorite dishes. Chef James Liu provided us with a simple, yet tasty, recipe for Grilled Halibut. When picking a wine to enjoy with a dish, a good notion to keep in mind is matching like qualities together. For example, since the fish is rather light, wines that also have a lighter body are safer bets. Also, because the Halibut’s marinade is rather citrusy, selecting a wine with similar flavors makes for a excellent compliment.

For Chef Liu’s dish, here are some wines we’d recommend. (Click on their links to read our panel’s full review of each wine.)

Toccata 2010 Pinot Grigio

Vina Robles 2010 White 4 Blend

Peju 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Round Pond 2010 Sauvignon Blanc


Grilled Citrus Halibut
By Chef James Liu, Alta Mira Hotel, Sausalito, CA

Made with:
Otafuku Ponzu Sauce

Grilled Citrus Halibut

Serves: 4

Halibut Marinade Ingredients:

6 – (6 oz.) Halibut Fllet
I cup Ponzu Sauce
3/4 cup Fresh Lernon Juice
I bunch Fresh Mim
I/2 cup Canola Oil

Mix Ponzu Sauce, Fresh Lemon Juice, Fresh Mint Leaves (finely chopped) and Canola Oil. Put Halibut Fillets in the mixture and marinate for I/2 hour.


Grilled Prawns

Grilled prawns are a lovely summer dish and Chef Stephen Smith’s manner of preparing them is simply delicious. His recipe combines bright citrus flavors in the marinade with a creamy character of his cilantro butter. Thus, selecting a wine that has lighter fruit flavors as well as a rounder mouthfeel that stands up to the slight creaminess of the dish is the best way to go. Our tasting panel recommends these wines. (Click on the links for the wines’ full reviews):

Steven Kent 2010 Lola White Blend

Alma Rosa 2008 Pinot Blanc

Sevtap 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Bernardus 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Harmony Cellars 2009 White Riesling

McFadden 2009 Pinot Gris


Lime and Ginger Grilled Prawns with Cilantro-Garlic Butter
By Chef Stephen Smith, Albion River Inn, Albion, CA

Note: 2 lbs. Prawns will serve approximately 5 people

Prawn Marinade Ingredients:
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Lime Juice
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 tbls. Garlic (minced)
1 tbls. Horseradish
2 tbls. Ginger (minced)
2 tbls. Cilantro (chopped)
TT Fresh Pepper (cracked)

Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend. Marinade prawns for no more than 2 hours. Grill or broil prawns and sauce with cilantro-garlic butter (below).

Garlic-Cilantro Butter Ingredients:
1/2 tbls. Peanut Oil
1 tbls. Garlic (minced)
1 tbls. Shallots (minced)
1 oz. White Wine
1 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 oz. Heavy Cream
1 oz. Lime Juice
2 tbls. Butter
1 tbls Cilantro (chopped)

Lightly brown garlic and shallots in white wine and pineapple juice, reduce slightly, add cream and lime juice and reduce until almost dry. Add butter and cilantro off of the heat.


Grilled Salmon

Finally, we have salmon – healthy, tasty, and ideal for summer grilling. Since salmon has a fairly soft texture but has more flavor than most white fish, we like to pair it with a lighter red wine like Pinot Noir. Again, it’s about putting like qualities together – a light but flavorful fish with a light yet flavorful wine.

Chef Heidi Krahling provides us with a recipe for a delicious Pine Nut Relish that balances all kinds of flavors and brings the fish to life. Honey and raisins provide a bit of sweetness, so pairing the salmom with a lush, fruit-driven Pinot with make the wine seem drier. The dish also has enough pop from lemon juice and garlic that if you’re not in the mood for a red wine, a balanced Chardonnay (without too much oak) or a moderately dry Rosé work quite nicely, too. (Read our full reviews of the wines by clicking on their links.)

Meiomi 2009 Pinot Noir

Dieberg 2007 Pinot Noir

De Loach 2009 Pinot Noir

Peju 2009 Chardonnay

Mer Soleil 2008 Chardonnay

Scheid Vineyards 2009 Syrah Rosé

Toccata 2009 Rosato


Grilled Salmon with Catalan Pine Nut Relish
By Executive Chef Heidi Krahling, Insalata Restaurant, San Anselmo, CA

Grilled Salmon with Catalan Pine Nut Relish

8 Salmon Filets 5 oz. each


1. Brush salmon with a little olive oil. Place salmon on a grill. Cook salmon for 2 – 3 minutes on each side. Serve with Catalan relish generously poured on top.

Catalan Pine Nut Relish

Relish Ingredients:
1/2 each Yellow Onion (diced fine)
1/2 cup Capers (drained of brine)
1/2 cup Pine nuts (toasted )
2 garlic cloves finely chopped |
1/2 cup each – Golden and Dark Raisins
3 oz. Honey
3/4 cup Sherry Wine Vinegar
2 Roma Tomatoes (peeled, seeded, diced fine)
2 Zest of Lemon
1/2 bunch Italian Parsley (finely chopped)
1 1/2 oz – 2 oz of Lemon Juice
1 -1 1/3 cup EV Olive Oil

1. Place raisins, sherry vinegar, honey and 3 TB water in sauce pan. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Place is SS bowl. Set aside to cool. Place rest of ingredients in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add more EV oil to make relish “spoonable”.