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Tuesday, 13 March 2018 13:46

Beer Pick of the Week

guinness draught pint Picmonkey

Guinness Draught


Guinness Brewery

Dublin, Ireland

Style: Dry stout

Alcohol: 4.2%

IBUs: Unknown

Serving style: kegs

Availability: World-wide, year-round

Monday, 14 April 2014 17:30

Searching for Bliss in the Afternoon

Shigoku oysters Picmonkey

by Dan Clarke

Accepted dogma used to be that Muscadet, a crisp white wine from the Loire, was the go-to wine for oysters. There's no doubt that's a fine pairing, but the time is long past when the rest of the world meekly submitted to all opinions French. We produce some wonderful oysters here in the US and some excellent wines, as well.

Twenty years ago Taylor Shellfish Farms began the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, which seeks to identify each year's ten best West Coast wines to accompany oysters. Making the list assures a winery will get placement in some of the country's best restaurants. Last Wednesday I joined 10 other food and wine professionals in the Club Room of the Marriott Marquis Hotel in San Francisco to help determine this year's winners. Similar panels were convened in Los Angeles and Seattle. This judging of wines was intriguing because it was different. We were not to judge the quality of the wines, at least not on their own. The exercise was to find which wines tasted best while eating oysters. Competition organizer Jon Rowley asked us not to sniff, taste or analyze each wine in any way before we had an oyster in our mouth. After chewing and savoring the flavor of the oyster for a bit, then we were to take a sip of wine. We were to be judging the merger of these two delights.

Plated oysters and wine glasses Picmonkey

We are seated at tables and far enough away from each other to discourage conversation. In front of each of us are 20 empty glasses and a plate of a dozen oysters. Each glass is identified by a letter and the wines will be poured in flights—five glasses each time. Since analyzing each wine requires consuming at least one oyster, each of us will be downing dozens of these mollusks. Fortunately, they are small. After all, we're supposed to be judges, not gluttons.

Shigoku oysters are the standard by which we will be judging. They are new to most of us. In past years the oyster of choice for this annual competition was the more familiar Kumamoto. As Jon Rowley explains to us, the Kumamotos were of inconsistent quality in early April of this year, so the change has been made to the Shigokus. These are “tumbled” oysters. Grown in mesh bags in Washington's Willapa and Samish Bays, they tumble several times a day due the action of incoming and outgoing tides. Rather than growing outward, they grow deeper in these circumstances and develop deeper shells.

Well over 100 wines were originally submitted to this year's competition. Preliminary judging winnowed that number to just the 20 wines we and the panelists in the other two cities will be rating in the finals. We know nothing about the identity of these wines we're about to judge, save for the fact that they all come from the West Coast. Servers begin pouring from bottles shrouded by silvery foil bags.

So I try my first Shigoku, chewing it a bit before taking a sip of the wine lettered “A.” Not bad, but not the “bliss factor” that Jon Rowley says is part of a really great pairing. I repeat this action for each of the five wines in the first flight. Our charge is to report our favorite 10 wines from the 20 we'll be tasting this afternoon. Wine C has a long finish I like. D finishes shorter, but has a very clean flavor. These two make the cut. I like three wines from the second sequence of pourings, two of them especially. And so it goes, flight after flight. The task is more difficult than in past years, as most of the wines we're tasting seem quite similar. Yes, this is work, but I wonder how many of my friends in big offices would happily change places with me today.

Twenty wines judged, we adjourn to the back of the room where we enjoy a beer and some light snacks and catch up with what's new in our respective worlds. Jon Rowley provides a key with the names of the lettered wines we've just tasted. No Chardonnays this year, but, as expected, Sauvignon Blancs dominate the field we'll be judging with 11 entries. Six Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris are represented and one each from the varieties Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Albarino. My own top three are the 2012 Pinot Grigio from Hogue, a Washington winery, the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc of St. Supery (Napa) and the 2012 Kenwood Pinot Gris (Sonoma). There seems to be some buzz among my colleagues about wine S, which turns out to be the Sebastiani 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. I liked it, too, rating it number five. Mostly, though, we talk about how our children are doing and how the Giants are off to a fast start in the National League. It's been a good afternoon, performing my role in an interesting exercise and getting a chance to reconnect with some folks I haven't seen in years. The Seattle panel will convene tomorrow and nobody will know the overall results of the contest until Monday.


The Final 2014 “Oyster Award” Winners

as Announced Monday, April 14

Acrobat 2012 Pinot Gris (OR)

Chateau Ste Michelle 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (WA)

Foris 2012 Pinot Blanc (OR)

Geyser Peak 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

Kenwood 2012 Pinot Gris (CA)

Kenwood 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

Lost River 2013 Pinot Gris (WA)

Revolution Wines 2013 Chenin Blanc (CA)

Sebastiani 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

Van Duzer 2013 Pinot Gris (OR)

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