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What wines do oysters like best?

Oysters Let's face it, oysters don't like exciting wines. Well, if you want to be literal, oysters probably don't like wine at all. But oyster lovers do, and so for the last 15 years, food marketing genius Jon Rowley (he basically invented Copper River salmon) has gathered food and wine geeks in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles for the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, a marathon of slurping and sipping, to try to determine which wine accompanies the oyster best.

It's a great competition to judge -- what's not to like: sitting in the cool confines of the Water Grill while  they bring you 20 wines (an earlier version of this post mistakenly said 36 wines) and as many oysters as you want? And that may be part of the reason why the winning wines tend to be ones that are more typically considered "Miss Congeniality" than "Miss America." The winners tend to come from the more mild-mannered grapes -- Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, particularly. What's more, they tend to be made by the kinds of wineries that are known more for good value than for blue ribbons.

That was true again this year, even though there were a slew of new faces in the winners' lineup.
All of the top 10 finishers were either Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio) or blends thereof. And many of the usual suspects did well again -- Chateau Ste. Michelle, Robledo Family Winery and Kenwood Vineyards have all won multiple times in the past. But there were some new kids too: Airfield Estates, Cedargreen Cellars, Covey Run and Hogue Cellars out of Washington, Anne Amie Vineyards and Sweet Cheeks Winery from Oregon as well as California's Rutherford Ranch.

My palate tends to be, er, quirky and though I liked the Airfield Estates, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Anne Amie, I was particularly taken with the Sauvignon Blancs from Freemark Abbey Winery, Kunde Family Estates and Simi Winery as well. Though after six dozen oysters, you probably should take that for what it's worth.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (6)

The comments to this entry are closed.

"But, Russ, you don't clearly state that in the article."
You're right. My bad. I assumed that saying it was the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition was clear enough.

No matter. Sancerre, Muscadet and Vinho Verde are all classic accompaniments to oysters that have been praised for decades. To me, it's only good news that we now have domestic alternatives that work every bit as well.

"Those are all good suggestions. But I would remind you that this is the PACIFIC COAST Oyster Wine Competition ... the wines (and the oysters) all come from the West Coast of the US."

But, Russ, you don't clearly state that in the article. In fact, I only found that out by following the P.C.O.W.C. URL provided, clicked a few times, and stumbled across this:


"The Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition is sponsored annually by Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Washington. The goal of the Competition is to identify, on an annual basis, a group of West Coast wines that can be recommended as good "oyster wines"...good wines to accompany oysters."

I realize that this is "just a blog", but a lot of people don't follow links in blogs, and rely on the poster to give a solid summary...

Those are all good suggestions. But I would remind you that this is the PACIFIC COAST Oyster Wine Competition ... the wines (and the oysters) all come from the West Coast of the US.

As for Chris' question, I think the wines that pair best have a couple of characteristics: crisp, tart fruit (no oak!) and fairly light body. This pairing isn't about the most delicious wine, but about the wine that makes you want to eat more oysters.

I'll second muscadet; it's a shame it wasn't on Russ' list. And, I'll add vinho verde and frizzante prosecco...

Good whites from Loire seem to work decently, and I've also had a blanc de blanc Champagne that cut the mustard, er, sea water.

Pray tell, Mr. Parsons, why you think the winners paired up so well?

Frankly, I think oysters are extremely difficult to match with a drink, as in what wine works nicely with salt water?

Sancerre or a nice crisp Muscadet. Duh.

Quipe Marsanne is nice too.


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