Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Northwest Treasure From The Sea

You think Northwest wines are special, wait 'til you taste Northwest oysters. The Toveys passed along a piece on the East Coast Shellfish Grower's Association's First Annual Invitational Oyster Challenge. Totten Bay oysters from Charles Taylor won. After downing dozens of these beauties at Taste Washington, I could have told you so. I told the gentleman who sat next to us at Taste, the restaurant at the Seattle Art Museum, how great they were. My friend Hermine and I noticed that this casually dressed guy was getting the royal treatment from my old friend Shannon, the new wine manager at Taste, so we struck up a conversation. It turns out that Taste has to keep him happy since he supplies all their oysters from the Taylor Oyster Company. Totten Oysters are Quilcenes raised in Totten Bay. Tottens and Quicenes are my faves, with the exception, of course, of Kumomotos and little teeny weeny Olympias. IMO, Washington state has the best oysters around. Even better than Belons from France.

What to drink with oysters? Dry, crisp whites! Classically, Sauvignon and Semillon based French whites such as Muscadet, Entre-Deux Mers, Bordeaux Blanc and Graves. Check out Albarino from Rias Xais in the northern Spanish province of Galatia. I particularly like Laxas Albarino.

Taylor Shellfish Farms holds an annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition to find west coast wines that match well with Oysters. The 2008 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition " Oyster Award" Winners were:

2006 Amity Pinot Blanc

2006 Ch. Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc

2006 Clayhouse Sauvignon Blanc

2006 Clos Du Bois Sauvignon Blan

2006 Covey Run Fume Blanc

2006 Dry Creek Fume Blanc

2006 Girard Sauvignon Blanc

2007 Kathryn Kennedy Sauvignon Blanc

2006 Robledo Suavignon Blanc

2006 Simi Sauvignon Blanc

2007 Van Duzer Pinot Gris

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris


A dozen winners for a dozen oysters. In the 2007 competition, 2005 Brassfield Sauvignon Blanc and 2005 King Estate Pinot Gris were, also, among the winners. I might add that "Luna" Pinot Gris and Santa Margherita Pinot Gris are also good "oyster wines", but the Santa Margherita is outrageously overpriced in the $20 plus range. Less expensive dry Italian whites such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Orvieto are also excellent oyster wines. Soave works, too. This is one of those rare instances where European wines are less expensive and better tasting than American wines.

What makes an oyster wine. Here are some comments from the wine judges:

White, white, white.
Dry as a bone, clean as a whistle.
Crisp, clean.

This reminds me. Another great source of oyster wines - New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc such as Whitehaven.

Refreshing.
Good backbone of acid.
Avoid big, buttery, oaky Chardonnay.
Same temperature as the oyster.
Airy freshness.
Lean, austere.
Let's the oyster be an oyster.
Steely.
Crisp, flinty.
Doesn't get in the way of the next oyster.

These descriptions reminded me of a whole other group of French wines - Chablis. Avoid the really expensive Grand Crus. For oysters, stick with Petite Chablis, Chablis or Premier Cru. The cheaper the better because it will be drier, crisper, and tart. If you are going to drink Chardonnay with oysters these tart, dry versions of Chablis are perfect.

Brisk and clean.
Not too fancy, no complications.
I like it cold.
Get away from vanilla and butter.
Don't like any residual sugar.
Light, fresh.
Citric or mineral undercurrent.
Clean , slicing finish.
Acid and chalk.
Dry, steely, chilled to a crisp.
Crisp, delicate but firm.
Sharp, fierce acidity.

Another Eurowine comes to mind - Moschofilero from Greece.

Searingly dry.
Makes you want to eat more oysters.
Dry, crisp, clean finishing.

Wow, my tongue and throat are seared, pickled, and cold. Perfect prep for the next oyster. You understand, of course, that we are talking here about raw oysters - the perfect aphrodisiac. No Oysters Rockefeller here. Oysters are an acquired taste. It is an easy acquisition, if they are freshly opened and not "milky." The rule of "R" months is generally a pretty good guide but not always accurate for all micro-climates. The next "R" month will be September. That's a long time to wait. Ask your waiter about "milkiness." If you gather oysters yourself during the Washington summer, beware of Red Tide - call the hotline.

Champagne also works with oysters, although it is a shame to waste good oysters on Champagne and good Champagne on oysters. In any event, make sure the Champagne is very dry and very cold. If you are one of those weirdos who don't like wine, raw oysters are great with ice cold Vodka or Gin and totally dry Martinis. Very light, very cold beer, such as Corona, works, too. Cheers! Thanks Bob, Kathy and Robin for passing this on to me.

1 Comments:

  • At 7:29 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    OMG, I'm rereading this post and it looks like I left out the two ultimate oyster wines - Entre-Deux-Mers and Muscadet, Mon Dieu! What was I thinking? Gene

     

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