Friday, June 20, 2014

Oyster and Sauvignon Blanc Pairing with Matanzas Creek

Oysters and Wine
It's unusual for one winery to produce four different Sauvignon Blancs, but Matanzas Creek Winery took the challenge. One afternoon, I attended a tasting of their four sauvignon blancs, each paired with a different oyster. The tasting took place at L&E Oyster Bar in Silver Lake.

We started off with the Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc. In this one, there's high acidity and I definitely tasted the lime and nectarine. To produce this, the winery uses a lot of dry ice to keep moisture out during low temperature fermentation. The winemaker, Marcia Monahan, has moved towards picking the grapes based on color instead of brix.
Matanzas Creek
They paired the wine with Shigoku, a tumbled oyster from Willapa Bay in Washington. I learnt a lot about oysters during the tasting, too. So the Shigoku is the same species as the Hama Hama oysters, but farmers put them in metal tumblers. Being tumbled throughout their lives, the Shigoku develop more muscle and a thicker shell. Tumbling oysters are supposed to make them sweeter, firmer, and milder.

This was a very traditional pairing. With a high acid sauvignon blanc, it brings out the sweetness of the oyster and extract a stronger "sea" flavor. I like the Shigoku better the Bennett Valley, though.


The Bennett Valley sauvignon blanc tastes of lychee and as it ages it should taste similar to a Loire Valley wine. This wine is fermented in stainless steel. They had paired this with the Hama Hama and the pairing makes the oyster creamier with a very clean finish. On the other hand, the oyster makes the finish on the wine longer. The Hama Hama gets 75% of its food from the watershed while 25% comes from the current.

Other than the winemaker, we had Rowan Jacobsen, who wrote A Geography of Oysters, so as you can see he's got quite the expertise!

The next wine we tried is the Helena Bench, grown on volcanic soil on the hills of Knights Valley. This is a more complex wine that smells of nectarine but tastes more vegetal. There's a hint of fennel, as well. This was paired with the Boom Stick oyster, which is apparently also the same species as the Hama Hama but grown in Puget Sounds instead of canal.The pairing retains the saltiness of the oyster. This is a lower acid pairing, and so far, my favorite. The Boom Stick was really sweet with the next wine, though, the Journey Sauvignon Blanc.

Journey is richer and has a more buttery mouthfeel. There's some smokiness and ginger and is more of a food wine than the others. There's more structure and complexity and a longer finish with this one. This was paired with the Island Creek oyster from Duxbury, MA.

Apparently, east coast oysters tend to be less complex but intense and sweet. This one tastes like the beach! And this last one turns out to be my favorite pairing after all. The pairing brings out the sweetness and creaminess of the oyster.

So what about the "only eat oysters in the months with 'r' in the name" rule? It's partially true because oysters make reserve glycogen in the winter so it tends to be sweeter, while they make eggs in the summer so it's not as good. Plus, it's not as sustainable - you want them to make eggs so we can have more oysters!

After the pairing we had lunch provided by L&E. We had a feast including Tuna conserva salad with salami, mozzarella, and olive. There was also pimento cheese and dungeness crab pull-aparts.

Beet cured salmon with caper, onion, creme fraiche, and hard boiled egg. The beet-cured salmon was quite interesting. Last but not least, there were fried oyster po'boys.


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