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Three Views on Wine With Oysters

Wine With OystersEveryone has a thought on what to choose when it comes to wine with oysters. I feel that you can’t go wrong with white wines that hit all points on the crisp/dry/well-chilled mark. And bubbles are always welcome to the party. But we all have our favorites.

I’m going to go with the 2010 Pepiere Muscadet Clos des Briords.  A lovely, single-vineyard old-vine Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley. This wine was born to be consumed with bivalves. It’s a got a bit more richness and texture than your average Muscadet. And you can get it in magnums! What’s not to love about that? For bubbles, I’m sticking to the Loire and recommending any high-quality Cremant or sparkling wine from that region.

As the European wine buyer here at Esquin, I hope you can forgive me for showing my French bias. But in the interest of highlighting local wines to go with local oysters, I have consulted two bastions of Pacific Northwest wine for their two cents’ (two half shells’?) worth:

  • Clive Pursehouse of the Northwest Wine Anthem: “For Oregon wines that match up well with your favorite shellfish acid is king, and some of the beautiful dry Rieslings from Oregon’s Willamette Valley certainly fit the bill.  You don’t have to go far into the Valley to come across some beautiful cool climate Rieslings with some of the acidity, balance, and zest to properly pair with oysters. You’ll find wonderful examples in the northern end in Chehalem Mountain or Yamhill-Carlton. One example is the Trisaetum Coast Range Vineyard Dry Riesling; it delivers with zesty spice and green apple tartness.  Brilliant acidity brings this Riesling to a beautiful crescendo.”
  • Sean Sullivan of the Washington Wine Report: “The 2010 vintage in Washington saw the type of cool conditions and high acid that leads to fantastic white wines, and particularly wines that go with oysters. Two of my favorites from the 2010 vintage are the Cadaretta SBS and Guardian Cellars Angel Sauvignon Blanc. The 2010 Cadaretta SBS–a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon–has a full, rounded feel, with white grapefruit flavors and tart, mouthwatering acidity. Guardian Cellar’s 2010 Angel Sauvignon Blanc is barrel-fermented, giving the wine a textured feel to balance it’s racy acidity. Both simply should not be consumed without an oyster shell in hand.”

So what is your pick for oysters? I’m always looking for a new wine to enjoy with oysters. And if it requires more research by the dozen, so be it.

wine with oystersThanks to Taylor Shellfish Farms in the Melrose Market and my host Jon Rowley for providing the oysters and the inspiration. (Well, oysters for me. Clive and Sean, I owe you a dozen. Each.) View the winners from Taylor Shellfish’s oyster wine competition.

Entering the Cayuse Conundrum

Bionic FrogEasily the most contentious and controversial blog posting of the year in Washington wine, Wine Peeps take on Cayuse generated a volume of comments not normally seen unless Justin Bieber is involved. The burning question: Are the wines of Cayuse a unique expression of Washington terroir (a word so beaten to death and co-opted by marketers I would like to see it retired) or are they flawed? Wine Peeps side with the latter. I have zero intention of rehashing the debate (feel free to block off an afternoon to read all the comments) but I advise you to consider the spirited counterpoint to the arguments put forth by Wine Peeps in Sean Sullivan’s Washington Wine Report.

So what was my take on all this after plowing through the science, the tasting notes, the passion, the vitriol, the laughter, the tears? I really, really wanted to try Cayuse and decide for myself. It took about a month and a half post-Cayusegate, but I got the chance recently. Thanks to providence and generosity of our owner, the staff at Esquin got to sample the 2006 Cayuse Bionic Frog Syrah. Though I did not have a lab at my disposal to evaluate the soundness of the wine, I was in full possession of my taste buds and my highly subjective opinion.

First, what did the heavy-hitters of the professional wine world, The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate, think of the 06 Frog? Suitably impressed: 96 and 99 points, respectively. While I’m not one to rate wines on the 100 point scale, or any scale, I trust these stalwarts to ably tally up their score cards. I do, however, have to vehemently disagree with possibly the most jaw-dropping sentence I have ever read in a wine review, courtesy of Jay Miller: “Imagine having to choose between your ideal fantasy sexual partner and this wine–and you choose The Frog!” Jay, you can have the bottle and I’ll take Scarlett Johansson.

My take on the Bionic Frog? Three word review: I liked it. But allow me to elaborate. It’s probably the meatiest wine I have ever tasted. If you like your Syrah on the earthy/gamy side, this is for you. My critique of the wine is that it’s missing something from the other end of the spectrum: fruit. I’m not sure how many people in the general wine-drinking public would like a wine that leans so heavily towards one end of the spectrum of flavors. Regardless, the Bionic Frog is one of the most interesting and unique Washington wines I’ve ever tasted. And I’m not being pejorative (or cowardly) here; “interesting” and “unique” are not euphemisms for negative remarks.

What would be really cool (and this is something that Sean covers) is to taste all the wines made from fruit in The Rocks area of the Walla Walla Valley AVA. I know each vineyard site is specific and has different soils, slopes, and blah blah blah. But I’d like to get a general handle on how much site influences the wines and how much winemaking has an impact on flavor.

I’m not going to paint Cayuse with a wide brushstroke after sampling one bottle, but (you knew this was coming) I didn’t think it was flawed. The Bionic Frog is not made to be crowd-pleasing and this style of wine is polarizing–even amongst experienced wine-tasters. But with critical accolades and a wait list longer than the one for Green Bay Packers season tickets, Winemaker Christophe Baron isn’t losing any sleep over his critics.

So what’s your take on Cayuse? You can also read the thoughts of my coworker Justin on this same bottle at Bottle Variations.

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