Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The 2012 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition - 10 Oyster Wines

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Jon Rowley in Seattle

The 10 winners of the 2012 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition have just been announced. The Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition is orchestrated every year by Jon Rowley and sponsored by Tayler Shellfish Farms.

The finals for the popular annual dating service for US West Coast wines and oysters took place April 24 in Los Angeles at the WaterGrill, April 25 at Kuletos in San Francisco and April 26 at Anthony’s Homeport at Shilshole Bay in Seattle. 25 top food and wine experts taste each wine with at least one oyster and selected 10 US West Coast wines for the prestigious “Oyster Awards”.

Each wine was blind tasted with at least one 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 for the oyster.

The 10 Winners

Four Washington, three California and three Oregon white wines, including six bright, refreshing Pinot Gris, two crisp Sauvignon Blancs, a dry Chenin Blanc and an elegant Pinot Blanc prevailed over 101 entries:

Brandborg 2010 Pinot Gris (OR)
**Cedergreen Cellars 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (WA)
**Dry Creek Vineyard 2011 Dry Chenin Blanc (CA)
**Foris Vineyard Winery 2010 Pinot Blanc (OR)
**Hogue Cellars 2010 Pinot Grigio (WA)
Kenwood Vineyards 2011 Pinot Gris, Russian River (CA)
**Kenwood Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
Millbrandt Vineyards 2010 Traditions Pinot Gris (WA)
Sockeye 2010 Pinot Gris (WA)
**Van Duzer 2011 Pinot Gris (OR

*Prior Oyster Award winner **Prior Multiple Oyster Award winner

For last years winners: The Best Wines for US West Coast and Other Oysters

4 Types of Oysters

The judges consumed about 1200 Kumamoto oysters. The Kumamoto belongs to the family of Pacific oysters. In fact, it is one of the most famous Pacific oysters. But oysters are found all over the world. I recently had delicious oysters in South Africa and Madagascar, which are typically not on the radar of the mainstream oyster eater.

See more:

In the Glass: A Rust en Vrede 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon With South African Oysters in Stellenbosch

Fine Wine and Fine Oysters in Madagascar: Oysters from Fort Dauphin and Wine from Clos Nomena

I distinguish 4 types of oysters:

The Pacific

Originally from Japan, the Pacific or Japanese oyster is the most widely cultured oyster in the world. It accounts for 75% of world production. In France, it has crowded out the Belon and now accounts for 99% of oyster production there. Gone are the days of the Belon in Paris. The Pacific oysters are marketed under a variety of names, often denoting their growing area. The Kumamoto is one of the most famous Pacific oysters. I tend to think of a Pacific oyster as a creamy oyster, with a mineral note.

The Olympia

The Olympia is a very small oyster seldom exceeding 2 inches. For comparison, in Massachusetts, oysters must be a minimum of 3 inches to be sold. Olympia is a native American oyster, which once flourished on the West Coast, before the Pacific took over. Olympias are hard to find today as they grow very slowly and are difficult to transport. They hold very little liquid and dry out quickly. The Olympia has a very full flavor with a distinct aftertaste.

The Atlantic

Another American native, there are many varieties of Atlantic oysters, such as the Malpeque from Prince Edward Island in Canada and the Blue Point from Long Island in New York State. Bluepoints were originally named for Blue Point, Long Island but now the term is generally applied to any Atlantic oyster two four inches long. These two are now the most common restaurant oysters in the US. Also called Eastern oyster, the Atlantic has a thick, elongated shell that ranges from 2 to 5 inches across. It's found along the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico in the US.

The Belon

The Belon, or European Flat, is Europe’s native oyster. The Belons are round and shallow. That’s why they are called Flats. They are also not very liquid and dry out fast. They have a long history. They used to grow in Brittany, Normandy, England, Spain, Holland, Greece and the Black See. But a disease is wiping them out worldwide. The Flats from the Belon river in Brittany were at some point the connoisseur’s top choice and the name was soon adopted by all oyster growers, a bit like the Blue Points from Long Island. The Belon oyster grows in limited quantity in Maine on the rocks of the Damariscotta river bed.

Wine that Goes with Oysters

Not every wine goes with oysters - a vibrant combination of minerals, sweetness and the sea. In general, first, I always try to go local. Second, the best oyster wines are dry, crisp, clean-finishing white wines, both sparkling and still. I avoid red wines and the sweeter style German Rieslings, although in South Africa I had a Cabernet Sauvignon with my oysters on the half shell, as suggested.

See more: Oysters and Wine

Jon Rowley

The 2012 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition was orchestrated by Jon Rowley again. Jon is a fascinating and entertaining man. I enjoyed very much an afternoon with him and my wife Annette in the summer of 2011 in Seattle. I felt very honored to spend time with a man who was inducted into the prestigious “Who’s Who of Cooking in America” in 1987.

See: West Coast Oysters and Wine with Jon Rowley in Seattle, USA

Before my trip to the US West Coast, I had not heard much about Jon Rowley. But in preparing for the trip, I quickly learned that Jon had a major impact on the flavor and quality of fish, shellfish, fruits and vegetables that are served in the North-West of the US. All his life, he has fought to get better-quality food on the tables of restaurants and households in this part of the world.

"I am fascinated by oysters" Jon said over lunch. “Today's availability of oysters was unimaginable here say 25 years ago. Almost no oysters were served on their own half shells in Seattle. Instead, oysters were eaten in cocktails, shucked and swathed in red sauce laced with so much horseradish that any tang of the sea was largely conjectural”. This has changed completely as I could witness at Elliot’s Oyster House, partly thanks to Jon’s efforts. He has organized restaurant oyster programs and promotions.

Tayler Shellfish Farms

The Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition is being sponsored by Tayler Shellfish Farms. Taylor Shellfish Farms, based in Shelton, WA is a fifth generation, family-owned company producing manila clams, Mediterranean mussels, geoduck and oysters for national and international markets. I had a chance to visit Taylor Shellfish Farms on my way up from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Fine Wine and Fine Oysters in Madagascar: Oysters from Fort Dauphin and Wine from Clos Nomena

In the Glass: 2007 Rheinhessen with Oysters at the Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan

In the Glass: A Rust en Vrede 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon With South African Oysters in Stellenbosch

New Hampshire, US: Cheese ... Lobster and Oysters ... and Wine!

Oysters and Wine

The Best Wines for US West Coast and Other Oysters

West Coast Oysters and Wine with Jon Rowley in Seattle, USA

Oysters - and Wine - at Zuni Café in San Francisco, USA

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