Varnished Clams & Pinot Gris Reserve

Spring Flavors from the Puget Sound

Varnished clams are a seasonal treat in the Pacific Northwest. Commonly found in the Puget Sound and areas of British Columbia, they have been gaining in popularity in recent years and are right at home alongside native Littleneck clams and Savoury clams at your local fishmonger. If they aren’t available in your region, you can substitute Manila clams for this recipe. 

The recipe is a classic take on clams in a white wine sauce, though as our founder Wendy Lange notes, the addition of fennel and a dash of Pernod works particularly well with our Pinot Gris Reserve, and will bring out the more savory tones the wine. Serve it with a hunk of crusty bread and you’ve got a dish your guests will rave about. 

Varnished clams in colander



3         pounds varnished clams

2         tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1/2     bulb fennel, cored, quarted and cut into thin slices

3         cloves garlic, minced

1         small-to-medium sized tomato, cored with seeds removed and thinly sliced

1         cup white wine 

splash of Pernod, if desired 

lemon juice to taste

chives or scallions for garnish


large 12″ skillet with a lid


Soak the clams in cold water for 20 minutes to flush out any remaining sand and salt water, then rinse the clams in a colander. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the fennel and sauté until it begins to soften, add the tomato and garlic, and lightly sautée until the garlic smells fragrant. Add the white wine and butter and bring it to a boil.

Nestle the clams into the sauce, then cover the skillet and steam for 8-10 minutes. Midway through steaming, add a splash of Pernod, if desired. Continue to steam until all the clams have popped open. Discard any clams that remain unopened.

Ladle the sauce and clams into large bowls, squeeze lemon juice over the top and garnish with scallions. Serve immediately with a baguette and a chilled glass of Pinot Gris Reserve! 

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