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.

A Beer-Themed Lunch

MusselsThe name of the place is Esquin Wine Merchants, but we do love (and sell) some good beer as well. I recently attended a beer-themed lunch (can’t tell you how much I enjoyed typing “beer-themed lunch”) at Quinn’s that recharged my passion for beer and, delightfully, introduced to some unexpectedly excellent beer and food pairings.

As a wine guy, my brain has been programmed to think Muscadet whenever mussels are involved. It’s not a bad thought–especially when Pepiere is involved–but I was really surprised by how well one of the beers paired with mussels. I figured it would be the lightest-style beer (the lager or the Hefeweisen) but the mussels turned out to be sensational with the Orval Trappist Ale.

Duck TerrineAnother great pairing was the Samuel Smith Organic Cider with the Duck Terrine. The sweetness and acidity of the cider was a nice counterpoint to the richness of the terrine; duck is a meat that really lends itself to having a fruit component added. In this case, in liquid form.

Veal BreastThis veal was served with a trio of beers (Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, their Oatmeal Stout, and the Ayinger Celebrator Bock) that were all complimentary with the dish. Definitely a heartier beer was in store for this very rich meat; I’d have to say the Stout and Bock were better by a hair.

Apricot TartFinally desert: an apricot and apple tart. It was served with the Lindemans Framboise, which I have to admit I find too sweet. But the tartness of the fruit seemed to tame the sweetness a bit and bring out the acidity of the Lindemans.

I left Quinn’s very full, and full of respect for how well beer can pair with great food. Am I giving up my Muscadet anytime soon? Um, no. Never! (In fact, I’ve got a bottle in my fridge right now.) But I was reminded that the world of beer has many of the qualities that make wine so compelling. There’s a rich history, full of great stories. And it’s delicious.

Full disclosure: Lunch was provided by the distributor and importer.

Pairing Wine With A Fried Chicken Sandwich

Fried Chicken SandwichI was really excited to eat at the brick-and-mortar location of a favorite food truck around Seattle, Skillet, and had picked up a tip on twitter to try the fried chicken sandwich. And though I enjoyed a beer with my lunch, I’ve been thinking about what wine I would pair with it the next time I stop by or get one to take home.

The fried chicken has some fennel seed in the crust and comes with a kale slaw and pickled jalapeño aioli on a potato roll. (Note: a salad was offered in place of the fries. Suggestion denied.) Fried food has a real affinity for bubbles, so that’s the direction to go. I’m dreaming how they would refresh between each bite, and tame the slight heat from the jalapeño. Naturally I am recommending you have Champagne (especially a non-vintage with a lighter/crisper style), but if you are feeling less indulgent any high-quality Cremant, Cava, or Prosecco will do nicely. If you must drink a still wine, I think a Sancerre or racy Sauvignon Blanc, with some grassy, herbal tones would really work well with the fennel seed and kale.

Any other suggestions? I’m willing to do as much research as necessary. Though I may have start thinking about the salad option more seriously.

Belated thanks to Jane (@callingindead) for inspiring this post.

Food and Wine Pairing Challenge

Food and Wine PairingThe majority of questions I get asked at work involve pairing food and wine. So I thought I would share some of my insights from many years of eating and drinking at the same time. (Well, not simultaneously, but you get my drift, no?) Let’s start in the upper left corner with the salad. Just a fantastically fresh garden salad enjoyed at the restaurant at Cullen Winery in the Margaret River region of Australia. The generous portion of avocado gave it an extra richness, so I was thinking a white with a little bit of body, but enough zip to handle the greens and dressing. Coincidentally, Cullen makes a fantastic duo of Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (or SBS as they call them there) blends with a perfect zip-to-body ratio. It’s interesting to note that the SB portion of the SBS is oaked and not the S. It’s more typical to oak the Semillon rather than the Sauv Blanc. (And I wish I could recall which one I had with lunch: the Mangan or the Cullen Vineyard. The former only has a small percentage of the SB oaked while the latter oaks 100% of it. Both were delicious; that I can recall!)

So now that you’ve been healthy with your salad choice, are you feeling like a burger? Just a classic beef burger from Built Burger. (I highly recommend you visit, especially for the potato beignets, which are deliciously crisp on the outside and like potato clouds on the inside.) This juicy burger needs a juicy red, so how about a Spanish Grenache? I’d go for either the Tres Picos or the Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica. (The latter has a dollop of Syrah as well.) They’re both under $15. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a fancy-pants wine with a burger; just a solid weeknight-drinker.

But I can’t resist getting a little upscale here, so let’s move on to the pizza from Serious Pie. A simple (and simply delicious) combination of Yukon Gold potatoes, pecorino, and rosemary that has me craving a Champagne accompaniment. Potatoes, especially when topped with a salty cheese, have a great affinity for sparklers. Open up some Champagne with a bit of richness and plenty of refreshing, pinpoint bubbles: Vilmart, please.

I’m a bit stuffed, but a few laps around the block have given me some room for dessert. Bacon brittle gelato from Cafe Juanita? I encountered this at Seattle’s turn hosting pig extravaganza Cochon 555. Hmm. Rich gelato, smoky bacon, toffee-ish brittle? There’s a lot of brawn in this dessert! This calls for an Australian Muscat. A dense, sticky, amber-hued wine that will be like a sweet glaze for the bacon; look for Campbells Rutherglen .

So what would you drink with each of these dishes? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

Seafood and Wine Perfection in Melbourne

Queensland Prawns
Touched down in Melbourne and stayed at the Crown Promenade Hotel, where lunch was the first order of business. Connected by a tunnel are a casino and, more importantly, the restaurants of the sister Crown Towers Hotel. I was about to heed the siren song of Nobu when I was distracted by two words: wine bar. Hello, Number 8.

I decided my theme would be seafood and it served me well. The first course pictured atop this post:

  • Sautéed Queensland prawns with garlic, fennel purée, lemon peppered chive sauce

What can I say? It tasted as good as it looked. Perfectly cooked, tender shrimp (which is no mean feat as shrimp go from tender to rubber in nanoseconds) with a light sauce set off with some peppery arugula. (Or “rocket” as they call it here, which just sounds cooler.)

And here’s the follow-up act to my prawns (aka shrimp):

Roasted Cone Bay Barramundi

  • Roasted Cone Bay barramundi, crisp baby calamari, à la grecque dressing

Barramundi is a fish extremely common in Australia; it has a medium firmness and some oily richness but flakes nicely with some gentle fork-prodding. The dressing was a Greek-inspired Mediterranean medley with an undoubtedly tomato base. And note the nicely crisped skin on top that was like the most holy alliance of fish and chip.

The icing on the cake? Naturally, the wine I had to accompany both courses. I was doggedly determined to drink Aussie and something I never had before. Hello Riesling from Tasmania! How cool is that? The 2010 Freycinet drank just like its counterpart from the continent: dry and refreshing.

Now that’s what I call an auspicious beginning to my food and wine adventure in Australia! Bravo, Melbourne.

Cochon 555 Seattle: Wine and Pork Galore

Buty and Bacon

What can I say about Cochon 555 in Seattle? A lot. But I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. Not only was there Buty and bacon, but also delicious wines from K Vintners, Domaine Serene, and Syncline:

Cochon 555 Wines

Charles Smith of K Vintners was on hand to pour the Phil Lane Syrah:

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The hacksaw came out for a butchering demo courtesy of Tracy Smaciarz from Heritage Meats:

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The menu of Spinasse and Chef Jason Stratton plating:

Spinasse at Cochon 555 Seattle

Here’s the skin and ear salad with cherry bomb chiles:

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The trio of offerings from Lark:

Lark Trio of Pork

And here’s what they looked like. Are you hungry yet?


There was palate-cleansing beer courtesy of Charles Finkel from Pike Brewing. (Where do I get one of those beer-dispensing backpacks?)

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Cafe Juanita had a menu both instructive and delicious:

Cafe Juanita

Of course there was dessert:

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How did Ethan Stowell color his ravioli dough? The secret was pig blood.

Ethan Stowell Ravioli

Joule had wonderful sauces to accompany their roasted pork. I had the one on the left with serrano chiles and fish sauce. (At least that’s what I thought it was. Regardless, it was fantastic.)

Array of Sauces by Joule/Revel

Thanks for being awesome, Cochon 555. See you next year?

Cuts of Pork

Full disclosure: Cochon 555 provided me with a ticket to this event.

Still Life With Rosé

Seattle Restaurant Sitka & Spruce in Capitol Hill

Ah Seattle, such a bizarre day from you Wednesday. A sunny afternoon, bright light streaming through the windows of Sitka & Spruce. Then I return to Esquin and barely escape a torrential downpour. No matter, I’m still glowing from a lovely lunch with fantastic French wines from importer Kermit Lynch.

The pictured rosé, the 2010 Domaine Fontsainte Gris de Gris, was actually a tank sample, thus the DIY vintage labeling. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s ready to go. Looking forward to the arrival of this rosé in about a month or so. I also really enjoyed the red wines Fontsainte produces in the Corbieres region of France. What was most interesting about these wines is that they go through a process called carbonic maceration. I know, it sounds a little…unsettling. But without getting bogged down in details, it’s a process most widely used in Beaujolais that helps produce very fresh, fruity, and lively reds. Do not fear the carbonic maceration!

Speaking of Beaujolais, we also sampled a few offerings from Domaine Dupeuble. Like the Fontsainte rosé, we tasted a few 2010 wines that were samples yet to be officially bottled. I had a similar reaction: “These are tank samples?!?” Could have fooled me. The 2010 Blanc, made of Chardonnay, was lively and bracing like a good Chablis; the Gamay, ready for a slight chill and to be passed around the table.

So are you ready for rosé yet?

Thank you to Kermit Lynch, Domaine Fontsainte, Domaine Dupeuble, and Cavatappi for providing lunch and the wines.