2 oz Pours: Oyster Pairings


I love oysters! They’re definitely towards the top of my FAVORITE things list. Pair them with a good bottle of wine and a delicious picnic and I am one very happy gal.

By this token, Hog Island Oyster Farm is one of my Happy Places. Here is the Bay Area, Tomales Bay is kind of a hot bed for oysters with several locations where you can stop to buy or eat them. I should explore the other options, but Hog Island has been our go-to since Greg and I first stopped there on a road trip several years ago.  Now that we’re living here in the Bay Area, I have been trying to take advantage. It can be tricky, as space fills up at Hog Island pretty far in advance; however, I was able to make it out there twice this summer. The first trip was for a beautiful picnic with girlfriends, and the second was to celebrate my birthday with Greg. 
 



Each of these trips was a chance to crack open a bottle and both worked beautifully. As it turned out both of these wines come from Chablis (and both Chardonnay), but one bottle was a really reasonable Overachiever and one was a more high-end Baller Wine. I’ve discussed Chablis here before (check it out here), but the wines from this region are a celebrated pairing with oysters. This is partly thanks to an intense minerality in the wine that is tied to the region’s Kimmeridgian soils that actually contain fossilized bits of oyster shells.

Before we move on to talk about the wines, let’s have a quick chat about the old adage about only eating oysters in months ending in “r”. We are now in September anyhow, but everything I’ve found on the subject indicates that while this was once a useful rule of thumb, it’s become essentially obsolete. TheKitchn.com has a great in-depth explanation with guidelines, but it’s generally safe to eat them year-round thanks to refrigeration, predominantly farmed oysters, and better food safety practices, among other reasons. (Although, there are still times of the year when the oysters are likely to be at their tastiest.) I will say both of the trips occurred in summer months that do not end in “r.”


Patrick Piuze Val de Mer Brut Non Dosé
 


A group of friends and I had a girl’s day at the beginning of the summer. One my buds had the forethought to book a picnic table way in advance, so we brought quite the spread for a day of delicious indulgence. 


Only two of us were drinkers in this group, but I still wanted something wonderful to drink with our oysters. I was craving something crisp and bubbly, so I brought along the Val de Mer Brut Non Dosé NV from Patrick Piuze.

This wine is made in the méthode traditionnelle, but the grapes come from the village of Tonnerre. Grapes are raised sustainably and are hand-harvested. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks before undergoing the secondary fermentation. The wine is then aged for 9 months on the lees and no dosage is added to this wine.

Tonnerre is also really pretty close to Champagne, and at around $20 this is much less pricey. There are still differences between this and a Champagne, but the price point makes it a very nice option for more everyday drinking. (The requirements for Champagne are much more stringent–for one, a lot more ageing time is required.) This wine is less toasty than you might expect of a Champagne. The flavors are really crisp with a lot of chalky minerality, and notes of crunchy green apples, lemon and lime. 



In addition to the wine, I brought along my Baume des Anges Blissful Plant  "Green Kaori" Shiso Spray. (A friend is involved in this company and sent me a couple of samples.) These are super potent extracts made through a process using a dry steam at cool temperatures to extract the flavor from the plants. They’re pricey, but they’re super strong and of such good quality that they’re being used in some very impressive high-end restaurant. (Check out more info here and check out this recipe for Parsley-Tomato Shrimp with Lemon Pepper Orzo  that I created using the parsley spray.)

I’m usually go with just a little mignotte on my oysters, but this seemed like a perfect application for these sprays. The shiso extract has a beautiful floral perfume combined with exotic and complex herbal notes.

By lucky chance, my friend Kristin (check out her Instagram feed at @nourish_sf) brought along an Asian Mignonette that could not have worked more perfectly with the shiso spray. I’d add a little spray to the oyster, then top it with the Asian Mignonette, to which I had also added a couple of sprays with her permission.

She later sent me the recipe. 





Asian Mignonette:

- 1/4 cup good quality rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons shallots, chopped
- 1 teaspoon jalapenos, chopped

She notes that she would have added fish sauce as well, but was all out. She also notes that good quality soy and rice vinegar make a big difference. She recommends anything from Ohsawa (Gold Mine Natural Foods) or she’ll look for something with the JAS label (Japanese organic) at a Japanese market like Nijiya.

Altogether, topping the oysters with the shiso and the Asian mignonette helped bring out more savory, herbal, and umami notes in the wine, and gave it an added complexity.  Loved this combo!


This wine was purchased at Bay Grape.

Geeky Aside: I’ve seen labels for Val de Mer Cremant de Bourgogne and this version that is labeled “French Sparkling Wine.” The tricky part is that on a lot of sites that I’ve looked at, the info on the two wines (if there are two) seems to be crossed to a good degree. I haven’t a found a complete listing of all the Val de Mer wines that disentangles the two. (To make things more complicated, I’ve been told that even this wine (the French Sparkling Wine) comes with a couple of different labels. I’ve been told that this wine specifically doesn’t qualify for “Crémant” status because more press wine is used than is allowed for Crémant. I does, however, spend 9 months on the lees which is the minimum requirement for Crémant. None of this should dissuade you from this wine– it’s still delicious and refreshing and great value. It’s just something to be aware of. If you seen of had the full on Crémant and know of the additional distinctions, please leave a comment.



La Chablisienne Les Clos Grand Cru Chablis 2011



My next oyster trip was for my birthday, which happened to fall on total eclipse day! (Although, it was so foggy here that we saw absolutely nada.)

On this occasion, Greg and I took advantage of Hog Island’s Oyster Bar. (Actually, I got mixed upas to which days you’re allowed to bring your own picnic for a first come first serve table, so we had to save the picnic we brought with us for later. Be sure to check the site. All the same . . . ) We ordered cheese and charcuterie plates to go with our oysters. At the Oyster Bar, the oysters are shucked for you– frankly, I’m happy to leave the shucking to someone else!  We also got an order of the BBQ oysters with bourbon butter–so good and definitely recommend!





Seeing as it was my birthday, I decided to bring a bottle of something a little baller for this occasion–La Chablisienne Les Clos Grand Cru Chablis 2011. La Chabilisienne is a cooperative, but a quality one. The co-op dates back to 1923 and 300 winegrowers now participate. Technical staff and oenologists from the co-op work directly with the winegrowers in order to maintain quality control. While the story of a co-op may not be as romantic or as sexy as that of a small producer, the upside (particularly one that takes the quality of its wines seriously) is that the quantities of wines produced often allows them to offer value to the consumer. While this is by no means a cheap bottle, the release price on this bottle (according to WineSpectator.com’s listings) was considerably cheaper (anywhere from about $10 to $40) than most other wines from this Grand Cru site that year.  



This was a rich and creamy version of Chablis. It had a minerally, stony  with a mix of peaches, golden apples, lemon, and melon fleshing it out. La Chablisienne’s site recommends 5 to 8 years of aging on their Grand Cru wines, so we fell right in the window. The wine was indeed showing really well with plenty of vibrant fruit and the creamy/leesy notes were well integrated. The wine and the oysters just flowed together and the wine became even fresher and brighter alongside the tasty shellfish.


Happy Birthday to me!




This wine was from “the cellar,” so I don’t have purchase info for you. 




Other Pairings

Of course there are many other beautiful pairings for oysters than Chablis. You could also start to get really specific and pair particular oyster varieties with specific wines. (I’m not there yet . . . but that would be a fun future project  . . . wheels turning.)

Generally speaking though, you’ll want something with a lot of bright acidity and a minerally edge. Muscadet is another classic pairing, as is Champagne. Other lean Chardonnays, Sauv Blancs, Albariños, and many others are likely to make great options as well. And of course a really cold beer would be great here too! I love oysters, so this is probably not the last time you’ll hear about oysters from me.

Do you have favorite oyster pairings? Please share them in the comments or by tagging #sommstable on Instagram.


 

Hog Island

Hog Island’s Oyster Farm in Marshall makes a wonderful day trip from SF or Oakland. However, if that’s a little too out the way for you, they also have locations at Oxbow Public Market in Downtown Napa and right in the Ferry Building in SF–and may I add that the grilled cheese there is also awesome. (You find my recs for these on the Zipkick App.)


 


The coast near Marshall is really charming. There are also quite a few walks and hikes nearby, and I will leave you with a few shots of the area–albeit on a cloudy day–to inspire your travels.



Consider 2 oz Pours our version of Page 6.  Whether through business, friends, or an average night at home, we get to try a lot of wine. Here's where we share little tastes of standout pairing experiences from the many tables we dine at. Please share yours as well, either by writing in the comments here, dropping us a line, or tagging #sommstable on Instagram and we'll share our favorites.







Share:

0 comments