Wine Pairing: Cedar Plank Salmon with Garlic Basil Aioli

This recipe pairing is inspired by the incredible experience I had last year at Oregon Pinot Camp. Can you guess what wine I paired it with?! Read on to discover this awesome dish and my love for Oregon wines.

Last summer I attended Oregon Pinot Camp (OPC) 2014 and it was INCREDIBLE. I may not have shown it much on the blog yet but I am absolutely in love with Oregon wine. Its perhaps my favorite region to visit in the US and the wines are some of my favorite to promote. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the two most planted grape varietals from there, but personally I'm a huge fan of their Chardonnay. More of that on another post though.

Pinot Camp elevated my love for Oregon to a whole new level. From camp, I learned just how much the wineries stick together and promote one another. Instead of competing with each other for wine sales, they understand that if they support the region as a whole, everyone will be successful. So sweet!

Oregon Wine Regions Plus a Pinot Noir Salmon Pairing |
Oregon Wine Regions Plus a Pinot Noir Salmon Pairing |

Oregon Pinot Noir

Oregon Pinot is different. Or should I say...different than what we're used to. The trend these days seems to be big, juicy, over-extracted, high-alcohol Pinot Noir. Personally I don't understand it--why not just drink a bottle of syrah if you're going down that route? Since Oregon has a very cool climate for grape-growing, their Pinot Noir generally can't get that ripe and juicy. The result? Very light, aromatic wines with great acidity and medium alcohol. Which means these wines go great with food.

Common Descriptors of Oregon Pinot Noir:

  •  Red Cherry
  • Strawberry
  • Cranberry
  • Mushroom
  • Potting Soil
  • Dried Leaves

Speaking of food, I had a revelation towards salmon while at Pinot Camp (FINALLY I tell you why I'm featuring Salmon but talking about Oregon in this post!). Long terrorized by the worst salmon my Mom had ever made me eat as a kid, baked with ZERO seasonings, its the truth when I say I have never been a fan of the fish. Its just so...fishy. On the last night of Pinot Camp, however, the wineries hosted a traditional Oregon salmon bake. It was a crazy party and the best salmon I've ever had. Check out that fire!

OPC Oregon PInot Camp Salmon Bake 2014 Recipe and Wine Pairing |
OPC Oregon PInot Camp Salmon Bake 2014 Recipe and Wine Pairing |

As you can see in the picture, they get this huge fire going and hang the salmon fillets on wooden spikes. Let me tell you, that fire was HOT. We tried to roast marshmallows on it after dinner and no one could get near it.

The salmon was fantastic just in the way it was prepared, but what I really fell in love with was the garlic basil aioli they served it with. So much that I told myself that I would make a blog post about it. A year later, I finally did it!

The Pairing

Obviously if salmon is a traditional dish of Oregon, its a natural match for Pinot Noir. Salmon is a heavy, oily fish that can stand up to red wine better than most fish. However, since Oregon Pinot Noir is not a heavy red wine, it does not overwhelm the fish like other reds would. The garlic and basil in the aioli can be difficult ingredients to pair with wine, but the herbal characteristics in Oregon Pinot complement those flavors. On top of all that, the char you get on the salmon and all those delicious flavors from the cedar plank resonate with the fruit in the wine, tying the whole meal together.

My favorite Oregon Pinot Noirs (it was so hard to only pick a few!)

  • Adelsheim Vineyards
  • Benton-Lane Winery
  • Cooper Mountain Vineyards
  • Domaine Drouhin
  • Domaine Serene
  • Elk Cove Vineyards
  • Panther Creek
  • Penner-Ash Cellars
  • Roco Winery
  • Soter Vineyards

Okay lets be honest...I love them all.

The Recipe

This recipe does not require a huge fire in your backyard like the one above (although that would be awesome if you had that setup). To make the salmon in a similar way, all you have to do is buy a cedar plank from the grocery store. These planks are usually right in the seafood section for your convenience! We served the salmon with a delicious homemade rice pilaf and grilled summer squash. Its a beautiful and delicious weekend meal for date-night in.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Garlic Basil Aioli

Author: Dani 

Prep time: 2 hours 15 mins

Cook time: 40 mins

Total time: 2 hours 55 mins

Serves: 2

Garlic-Basil Aioli Inspired by


  • 1 Wild Caught Salmon Fillet (skin-on okay)
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 Cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup vegetable oil


  1. Soak the cedar plank in water or wine (to give it some flavor) for 2 hours (or at least 20 minutes). The longer the better on this one
  2. Preheat a gas grill to high. After 15 minutes, reduce it to medium low
  3. To make the garlic aioli: combine the minced garlic, yolks, lemon juice, and basil leaves in a food processor; pulse to combine. Slowly add the olive oil and vegetable oil in a small stream while processor is running. Combine the black pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic salt in a small bowl
  4. Rinse the salmon thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Brush it with the olive oil, then with the black pepper, paprika, and garlic salt mixture
  5. Place the salmon onto the cedar plank, skin-side down (we had to use two planks since our salmon was so big!)
  6. Place the salmon on the plank onto the grill grates and cook for about 30-40 minutes. When the salmon is cooked through but slightly pink in the middle, it is done. Try not to lift the lid during the cooking process until you think the salmon might be done--it is tempting, but lifting the lid will let the smoke and heat escape, cooking the salmon inconsistently. more picture. This was the sunset as seen from Anne Amie Vineyards. Sooooo beautiful.

Willamette Valley Sunset |
Willamette Valley Sunset |

Happy Pairing!