HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us


Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline on Twitter

Critics Challenge

Distillers Challenge

San Diego Challenge

Sommelier Challenge


Winemaker Challenge

WineReviewOnline on Facebook

WineReviewOnline on Instagram

Dec 11, 2018
Printable Version
Email this Article

WINE WITH…Smoked Salmon Rillettes

This is the time of year when we’re all happy to have a couple of reliable, delicious, relatively simple and wine-friendly recipes on hand.  Whether a simple snack or more substantial fare, we ideally want the dish to be something that can be made a day or two ahead and whipped out of the fridge just as the guests begin to arrive.  Enter Smoked Salmon Rillettes.

Rillettes is a pâté-like preparation usually spread on bread, toast, or crackers.  Although customarily made from chopped pork that has been simmered in fat a long time until it is very tender, this deliciously rustic fare may also be made from goose, duck, or game birds, as well as salmon or, as we recently discovered, smoked salmon.  This version tastes somewhat more elegant than most others, and so is an excellent choice for holiday entertaining.  And make plenty.  If your guests are anything like ours were, they’ll eat every morsel!

Smoked Salmon Rillettes

Serves 4-6

May be made up to a day before serving.

8 ounces smoked salmon
1 teaspoon minced chives
6 ounces soft goat cheese*
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Finely shredded zest from ½ lemon
½ teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

*Do not used cheese flavored with herbs

Cut the salmon in large pieces then chop them coarsely using the pulse function on your food processor.  Cut the cheese in chunks and add to the salmon, along with the lemon juice and zest, the paprika, and black pepper.  Pulse a few more times, then drizzle in the olive oil.

Pack the rillettes into a serving bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to a day.  Serve with grilled or toasted bread such as baguette, or with crackers.

*         *         *

When throwing a holiday party featuring rillettes, you probably won’t open the fanciest bottles in your cellar, but instead will look for values that can please connoisseurs and wine neophytes alike.  We kept this in mind when trying our smoked salmon rillettes, and we came up with five wines that should fit the bill nicely.  What unites them?  They all are white (or sparkling), and while medium to full-bodied, none shows any overt oak flavor.  A heavy wood influence, we discovered, will make the rillettes taste too fishy.

Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_
More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  



Approx. Price



Dry Creek,



Dry Chenin Blanc






                                                                                       Deliciously consistent vintage after vintage, this medium-weight wine exhibits floral notes in its bouquet followed by summer fruit flavors and a creamy but fresh texture.  Always a good value, it’s perfect when hosting a big crowd.


Eyrie Vineyards, Dundee Hills


Pinot Gris






The late David Lett pioneered both Oregon Pinot Noir and Oregon Pinot Gris at Eyrie back in the 1960s.  Though not as popular as Noir, Gris now has become a Pacific Northwest staple. It’s a natural with salmon!  This rendition tastes completely dry but at the same time offers enticing aromas and flavors redolent of juicy peaches, apricots, and ripe pears that hint at sweetness.  The slightly spicy finish adds intrigue.


J Vineyards,

Russian River Valley 


“Cuvée 20”








Not cheap but more affordable than Champagne (especially when discounted during December), this vivacious sparkler offers fruity flavors reminiscent of baked pears and apples, with a hint of sugar and a slightly yeasty finish.  




















With no oak aging and no malolactic fermentation, this crisp Chardonnay is packed full with fresh fruit flavor.  It also has a firm acidic backbone, helping it stay lively and bright.  Though there are no hints of slate or minerals, it is California’s answer to Chablis, and pairs well with exactly the same types of food—including, of course, smoked salmon.













(Imported by Dalla Terra Direct)









Stone fruit flavors mingle with unexpected notes of toasted nuts and a distinct minerality to produce a wonderfully complex wine.  Medium-bodied, with a seductively creamy texture, it echoes the equally creamy rillettes while adding intriguing new flavors to the match.