By Chuck Hill
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Wines of the Week Archive
Chardonnay is a very popular wine and is quite versatile in pairing with foods of all types. Many wineries today have cut back on the use of new oak (at least, we didn’t seek out wines with lots of new oak), and the resulting wines are much more food friendly with creatures from the sea. Also reviewed are some other varietals that pair well with oysters and/or mussels.
We slurped delectable Kumamoto oysters from Taylor Shellfish and tasty Kusshis (not quite as sweet) – both modest-sized morsels that provide a taste of the sea and dance with dry white wines on the palate. Also served are Chef Ted’s wine-steamed mussels – either the local species or the popular Mediterranean cousin. For oysters and mussels to accompany your holiday festivities visit www.taylorshellfish.com.
Seven of Hearts
This single-vineyard Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley AVA south of Salem, Oregon, really impressed our tasters with complexity and character . . . and it is a great oyster and mussel wine, too! Look for aromas and flavors of wet stone, grapefruit, white peach, fresh herbs and floral notes. The production was only 63 cases, so if you spot a bottle at your local wine shop, grab it!
Amity Vineyards’ winemaker Darcy Pendergrass crafted this Chardonnay without any fancy tricks, just good, solid winemaking techniques that let the grapes do their thing and produce a terrific oyster wine. The wine was barrel fermented in neutral oak and aged sur lie to enhance mouthfeel. Aromas and flavors of melon, spicy pear, citrus and light toasty notes are the perfect balancing accompaniment to oysters.
Charles Smith Wines
you are shopping for a good food wine at a much better than good price,
any bottling from Charles Smith Wines should be on your shopping list.
Eve Chardonnay offers crisp acidity and clean flavors that go very well
with oysters and mussels . . . also with chicken, halibut, light pasta
and appetizers. Notes of fresh herbs, apple and grapefruit zest are
complemented by hints of white flowers and mineral.
L’Ecole No 41
Winemaker/owner Marty Clubb sourced his Chardonnay from two cooler growing regions in Washington – the Schmitt Vineyard in the Yakima Valley and the Evergreen Vineyard at latitude 47 on the Columbia River. Each site contributed important characteristics to the wine. Barrel fermented and aged sur lie for six months, the wine offers aromas and flavors of flinty mineral, green apple, citrus zest and a creamy lemon mouthfeel from the sur lie aging.
Look no further for a value-priced Chardonnay that will please your palate and accompany your oysters and mussels. Bright aromas of citrus, pear and tropical fruits lead to a crisp palate with apple and lemon flavors offset by hints of vanilla and a “breath of oak.”
Eight Bells Winery
Those of nautical inclination will recognize the significance of eight bells as the completion of the final half hour of a seaman’s four-hour watch. The owners of Eight Bells Winery mark this not as a change of watch, but as a change in life direction to active winemaking as a career path. Eight Bells Chardonnay offers aromas of floral perfume, spicy pear candy, mineral and citrus. The palate is pleasantly round with pear and peach flavors and a crisp finish of grapefruit and flinty mineral.
Eight Bells Winery
This blend of Pinot Gris (95%) from Methven Vineyard in Dayton, Oregon, and Viognier (5%) from Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley offers a fresh and fruity version of the main varietal featuring pear, melon and tropical flavors with notes of honeysuckle and citrus.
While this wine is a little rich for pairing with delicate half-shell oysters, it is a killer combination with mussels and an overall stunning white wine for enjoying on its own. Aromas of citrus, honeysuckle and orchard blossom lead to a lip-smacking palate of succulent stone fruits, bright pear and melon flavors.
Looking forward to the Otis Kenyon winery 10th anniversary in 2014, Steven Kenyon and Deborah Dunbar continue to produce highly regarded wines from Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley grapes. Their 2011 Roussanne offers round aromas and flavors of fresh herbs, orchard blossom, citrus and mineral. A firm backbone of acidity gives the wine a superb affinity to shellfish.
Leave it to the clever people of the Pacific Northwest to claim the name “House Wine” for a brand and run with it. The original blends of House Wine Red and House Wine White were soon joined by Fish House (100% Sauvignon Blanc) and Steak House (100% Cabernet Sauvignon). Fish House is light and crisp offering aromas and flavors of white peach, citrus zest, lemongrass and grassy herbs – very tasty with half-shell oysters.
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
One of the treasures of Washington State wine is the Cliff House Estate at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars in Spokane. The elegant 1924 mansion of inventor Royal Riblet and the expansive grounds of the estate sees thousands of visitors each year. The mansion was severely damaged by a fire in 2009 but has been rebuilt and once again offers visitors (21 and over, please) a chance to stroll the grounds and admire the panoramic view from the bluff above the Spokane River. Don’t miss the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc, a flagship white wine offering citrus, pineapple and herbs and a flavorful palate that pairs very well with half-shell oysters.
Wines from other areas:
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
This wine could be the pinnacle of Chardonnay production in the Sonoma Valley. Using the best grapes from arguably the best Chardonnay vineyard in the area, the wine is barrel fermented in French oak (55% new) and aged sur lie for 14 months. Aromas of stone fruits, citrus, mineral, vanilla and “toasted brioche” lead to a concentrated palate of lemon zest, white peach, fireweed honey and burnt crème. The wine is perhaps too rich for lighter half-shell oysters, but it is superb with steamed mussels and stands alone to represent the finest of the Chardonnay clan.
There is something about French wine. It has an indefinable character that you know when you taste it, but it is difficult to put into words. French wines have evolved to pair with foods of the regions where they are produced. It turns out they pair well with lots of other foods, too. This hallmark Chablis offers citrus, earth, river-rock mineral and hints of floral nuance – great with oysters and mussels.
In the heart of the Macon winegrowing region, south of Burgundy, the two villages of Vire and Clesse form a unique terroir on slopes facing southeast. This is one of the best white wines of the region offering aromas of floral and citrus with flavors of mineral, tart melon and herbs on the palate. It is a very flavorful accompaniment to both oysters and mussels.
“No trees were harmed in the making of this wine.” Winemaker Larry Cherubino uses absolutely no oak aging for this wine and thus the “Treehugger” part of the name. He does use extended lees contact in stainless steel which softens the wine and adds creamy complexity. Chef Ted says, “I just want to hug those dead yeast particles!” A great pairing with oysters and mussels, look for aromas and flavors of lemon, grapefruit and mineral with hints of pear.
This tempting Chardonnay is a very good value for a wine offering the richness and complexity that comes through in the glass. Winemaker Randy Ullom blends 50% stainless steel fermented wine with 50% wine that was barrel fermented in neutral oak. This creates a Chardonnay that offers the aromas of pineapple, citrus and mineral and leads to a rich palate with creamy lemon and vanilla flavors mingling with the fresh fruits from the nose – a tasty pairing with oysters and mussels.
Can you roll your Rs? Say, “Al barrrrrr eeeen yo!” Now break out the Flamenco guitar and your castanets, shuck some oysters, pour the wine, and “Ole!” usted esta en España! Well, judging from the rain and cold wind outside my window, maybe not. This vintage of Codax Albariño has lots of mineral – more than usual – and also shows crisp grapefruit and apple. It is refreshing with oysters and prepares the palate for the next succulent morsel.
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