Saturday, May 30th, 2008
I got into the car as I heard David say into his cell phone "We have everything we need Gloria, just bring Bob!" Our long-time friend and loyal customer David Alabach was driving to Tomales Bay while cajoling guests waffling about attending his 9th annual Oyster Festival. Flip-floppers surround every social event, not just politics. But Gloria was fresh from surgery so her indecision was quickly forgiven.
Ninety minutes later we pulled into Tomales Bay Oyster Company to stake out tables. Most of the group would arrive hours later, laden with chips, salads, desserts, and oyster accoutrement. The luscious bivalves were already being pulled from their beds and sorted by size and type (top photo), so we decided an oyster brunch would be the very thing to begin the day. The first of many bags was purchased and a grill was fired - though fresh oysters are great when raw, this annual event features the large oysters that are best for grilling. When done perfectly, they taste like warm ocean foam, if you can imagine such a thing.
A number of people brought wines for the event, many purchased from my website. Here is a listing of the wines as they appear from left to right in the photo here (click the wine name to purchase, or for more information):
- The first wine in front on the far left in is Buttonwood’s 2006 Rose ($16). This is a refreshing wine intended for immediate enjoyment, and perfect for hot summer months. A "missionary" rose wine, one able to convert even die-hard red-only drinkers still haunted by memories of sugary-sweet White Zinfandels from the 1980's. Speaking of Buttonwood... Sadly missing from our lineup was the Buttonwood's Sauvignon Blanc ($14), which I think of as one of the best values from the Santa Ynez Valley, especially when paired with oysters!
- The next wine (front row, left of corkscrew) is the Trou de Bonde 2006 Grenache Blanc ($20) A small-production white wine made from grapes mutated from the red Grenache, it serves a touch of minerality along with mouth-watering granny smith apple flavors followed by pleasant peach and melon. This wine proved a popular match for the briny minerality of oysters!
- Rhone blend in plastic bottle with screwcap – This fun wine, created by Winemaker Andrew Murray for the Sunshine Brothers concert where no glass was allowed, was a sample only.
- (Center of photo, above, just right of the corkscrew) Beckmen Vineyard 2007 Grenache Rose ($22) This fun wine shows the usual ebullient Grenache in a dry rose wine replete with crisp acidic structure. One of my favorite summer wines! From the bio-dynamic Purisima Mountain vineyard of Steve Beckmen.
- Benjamin Silver, 2001 Cabernet ($24) Cabernet is hardly an oyster wine. But this proved a popular quaff after we’d had our fill of oysters and were seeking foods of greater depth and substance - like the grilled sausages with Dijon mustard. This wine is at its peak now and offers a rare chance to enjoy an aged wine without requiring any patience!
- (Tall green bottle) Calzada Ridge 2007 Viognier ($35.95) This is always our #1 seller during the summer months at Tastes of the Valleys. With only 100 cases produced, our supply rarely lasts through the summer. A most popular wine, with the bottle number stamped on every label.
- L’Uvaggio di Giacomo 2006 Arneis ($18) “His…Arneis are among the best of their kind in the U.S.” That’s how San Francisco Chronicle’s W. Blake Gray once described this wine from Winemaker Jim Moore. This was also great with grilled oysters, especially with a simple squeeze of fresh lemon, which complimented its acidic structure.
- (Hiding) Costa de Oro, 2005 Estate Chardonnay ($21) This is a moderately rich wine in the oaky tradition of California Chardonnay, though with enough acidity to avoid being flabby and boring. Still, it’s not recommended for oysters, but for just about anything else this side of beef. Only a small amount remains.
Mark Kurlansky's book, "The Big Oyster, History on the Half Shell" was available for perusing, though most found it difficult to read and shuck at the same time. We were disappointed to learn that oysters contain very little of nutritional value, and that one need eat many dozens to meet even the most minimal of daily requirements. We tried, nonetheless, making our way through an estimated six bags (@ ~36/bag) plus unknown numbers of clams and mussels.
Our friends Jeff Prather (Oxbow Wine Merchant) and Kari Auringer (Winemaker, Wildside Cellars) kindly shared a bottle of 2002 Sancerre from Cotat that proved once again why Sancerre is the classic oyster pairing (I assume it is available at OxBow Wine Merchants, likely in the $40 - $45 range). They also eschewed the host's plastic cups in favor of their own glass stemware - it wasn't Reidel, but it wasn't Solo Cup either.
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