Tis the season to get outdoors and drop a line. The state’s anglers are a lucky bunch since Pennsylvania’s streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds are filled with tasty freshwater fish. Of course, if your skillset trends more towards shopping than fishing, that’s ok, too. Many of these finned friends can be found at your favorite fish market or grocery store.
Below is a list of native fish — along with serving suggestions — paired with Pennsylvania wines. It doesn’t get much more local than that.
This beautiful fish, plentiful in Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams, has a clean, fresh flavor and tender white flesh. Choose a simple preparation: A hard sear on the skin side to provide some crispiness, salt, pepper, and a big squeeze of lemon. If you’re catching trout as part of an outdoor adventure, this preparation is even no-frills enough for campfire cooking. Serve your tasty filets with a crisp, citrusy unoaked Chardonnay, which will underline the earthiness of the browned skin and heighten the bright flavors of the dish.
There are multiple species of bass swimming in Commonwealth waters. If you manage to snag one, expect a white fish with firm flesh. Bass can have a slightly stronger flavor and are heavily influenced by their environment — some people prefer the taste of bass plucked from colder, clearer waters. Consider preparations with powerful ingredients and a lot of acid. A spicy, tomato-y fish stew with Indian flavors is a great choice. Pair your pot with an off-dry white such as Traminette, which will tame the spice and contribute beautiful floral aromas to the meal.
Moist, sweet, and mild, catfish is a beloved across the globe. Look south to Louisiana for inspiration and cook up blackened catfish filets. Blackening spice is a seasoning mix that typically includes cayenne, paprika, garlic and onion powder, black pepper, salt, oregano, and thyme. Sprinkle it liberally on the fish while you sear it in a pan with plenty of butter. Serve this punchy dish with a wine that can hold its own. A bottle of off-dry Delaware, with its fruity flavors of candied apple and grapefruit, will do the trick. The wine will provide a welcome contrast to the spicy and savory fish.
These wee fish are like the northeastern version of sardines or anchovies — and they should be enjoyed the same way. Fry them up and nosh the little guys like french fries and don’t forget a generous sprinkling of salt when they come out of the oil. This is the moment for a flinty, austere white like Albariño. Originally from Northern Spain, a fish-crazy place, this grape produces wines that are zippy and fresh, with notes of apricot and peach. Another enticing option is a Vinho Verde-style wine inspired by the beloved bright, slightly fizzy, low-alcohol whites from Portugal. Quite a few PA wineries have embraced this gulp-able style.
This lake-loving fish has a mild, sweet flavor. If you manage to catch a few, throw them on the grill whole after stuffing it with slices of lime, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Whip up a spicy dipping sauce using a chili-garlic paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, black vinegar, and sugar. Serve your fragrant, Thai-inspired meal with a wine that will accentuate its freshness. We suggest Grüner Veltliner, a crisp and grassy white that will pair equally well with a subtle fish and the funky flavor of fish sauce.