Tuesday, April 29, 2008

California (seafood) dreamin'

All the leaves are green,
and the sky is blue
(And the sky is blue-ooh)

OK, no more.

But if you're going to San Fransisco -- or anywhere else on the West Coast -- here are some wines to check out for Oysters and Wine, par excellence. To wit, the winners of the 2008 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition's 12 best West Cost wines for Oysters. The restaurants that hosted the judging sessions probably are pretty good, too.

In final judgings at the Water Grill in Los Angeles, Sutro’s at the Cliff House in San Francisco and Anthony’s HomePort in Seattle, 40 food and wine writers and restaurateurs selected 12 winners of the prestigious “Oyster Award” as the conclusion to the month-long, 14th Annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, the annual dating service to find the best West Coast matches for oysters.

Seven California, three Oregon and two Washington wines, including nine crisp Sauvignon Blancs, two bright, refreshing Pinot Gris and one Pinot Blanc, prevailed over a record 200 entries in the first competition to judge a wine by how it goes with a food. All wines are blind tasted with Kumamoto oysters in the four-tier judging process.

Taylor Shellfish Farms of Shelton, WA., sponsor of the competition, announced the winners:

Amity Vineyards 06 Pinot Blanc (OR)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 06 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc (WA)
Clayhouse Vineyard 06 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Clos du Bois Winery 06 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Covey Run Winery 06 Fume Blanc (WA)
Dry Creek Vineyard 06 Sonoma County Fume Blanc (CA)
Girard Winery 06 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Kathryn Kennedy Winery07 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Robledo Family Winery 06 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Simi 06 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Van Duzer Vineyards 07 Pinot Gris (OR)
Willamette Valley Vineyards 07 Pinot Gris (OR)

Few wines go with oysters, a vibrant combination of minerals, sweetness and the sea. That is why the competition identifies, on an annual basis, a group of great “oyster wines” that restaurants can offer with oysters on the half shell, an increasingly popular menu item. The competition is organized by its founder, Jon Rowley.

Taylor Shellfish Farms invited British Columbia, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington wineries to submit their best “oyster wines,” typically dry, crisp, clean-finishing white wines. Each wine is blind tasted with a Kumamoto oyster. The judge first smells and then chews the oyster well, then smells and tastes the wine, then rates the “bliss factor,” the wine’s affinity with the oyster.

In the eight-day preliminary judging at Anthony’s HomePort at Shilsole Bay in Seattle, five veteran Preliminary Judges ate 1,200 Kumamoto oysters in narrowing the contenders to 44 semi-finalists and then to 20 finalists. (So, how do you get to be a judge for this thing?)

The finalists were judged, again with oysters, by 12-14 judge panels in the three cities. Because of the number of wines that impressed the judges, two additionl “Oyster Awards” were awarded this year for a total of 12.

Some of the competition judges claim they have the best job in all of food and wine. “I wait all year for this,” says longtime Los Angeles judge, LA Weekly restaurant critic and 2007 Pulitzer winner, Jonathan Gold.

“The search for wines to go with oysters adds to culture and excitement of oysters,” says Bill Taylor, president of Taylor Shellfish Farms. “The acclaim by the wine and restaurant industries as well as the media makes it fun for everyone.”

Taylor Shellfish Farms, based in Shelton, Wash., is a fourth-generation, family-owned company producing manila clams, Mediterranean mussels, geoduck and oysters for national and international markets.

Oysters are a favorite shellfish, but you do have to admire the first person to try one. However, once people fall in love with their fresh, briny goodness, few things compare. As Papa put it,

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

“A Good Café on the Place St. Michel”
from A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway


Los Angeles
Lou Amdur, Proprietor, Lou’s Wine Bar
Anthony Dias Blue, Blue Lifestyle
Bob Blumer, aka The Surreal Gourmet
Michael Cimarusti, Co-owner/Exec Chef, Providence
Patrick Comiskey, Senior Correspondent, Wine & Spirits
Traci Des Jardins, Chef/Owner Jardinière (San Francisco)
Jerry Garbus, Beverage Director, King's Seafood
Jonathan Gold, Restaurant Critic, LA Weekly; 2007 Pulitzer for Criticism
Christopher Hopgood, General Manager, Ocean Ave Seafood
Stacie Hunt, NPR, Wine Journalist
Mary Sue Milliken, Chef/Owner, Border Grill and Ciudad restaurants
Russ Parsons, Food Writer, Los Angeles Times; Author
Robert Small, Professor, Cal Poly Pomona and Chairman, Los Angeles International
Wine & Spirits Competition

San Francisco
Jon Bonné, Wine Editor, SF Chronicle
Bronwen Clark, Manager and Wine Director, Rodney's Oyster House (Toronto)
Narsai David, Food & Wine Editor, KCBS Radio
Jerry DiVecchio, Writer, food-wine-life
Mark Dommen, Chef/Partner One Market Restaurant
Michael Dunne, Food Editor, Wine Columnist, Restaurant Critic, Sacramento Bee
Greg Hinds, Hog Island Oyster Bar
Millie Howie, Wine Writer
Jan Newberry, Senior Editor, SF Magazine
Harvey Steiman, Editor at Large, Wine Spectator
Tim Teichgraeber, Wine Writer; SF Chronicle; Minneapolis Star-Tribune; Cooking Pleasures
Robert Thompson, Wine Writer

Tom Arthur, Senior Manager, Elliott's Oyster House
Jessica Skye Bolt, Assistant General Manager abd Wine Director, Steelhead Diner
Shannon Borg, Wine and Food Writer
Renee Erickson, Chef/Owner, Boat Street Café
Adriana Grant, Editor "Food Files", Seattle Weekly
Chuck Hill, Wine Writer; Author; Publisher, "Joy of Oysters"
Lane Hoss, Marketing Director, Anthony's Restaurants
Blair King, Executive Chef, The Brooklyn Seafood, Steak & Oyster House
Doug King, Wine Steward, Metropolitan Market-Sand Point
Richard Kinssies, Proprietor, Wine Outlet; Wine Columnist, Seattle P.I.
Nancy Leson, Food Columnist, Seattle Times
Dan McCarthy, Proprietor, McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants
Craig Miller, "Wine Guy," Top Foods
Cynthia Nims, writer
Gerry Warren, Enological Society Pacific Northwest; Slow Food
Nels Webber, Server, Elliott's Oyster House