Yesterday I sat at the bar with 6 other guests (they can accommodate 10) and enjoyed three flights of oysters and wine, served two pair at a time. Before the tasting, Chris Sherman (VP of Island Creek Oysters) regaled us by defining what he calls the “merrior-terroir experience.”
“Wine can give us a way to understand the experience of eating oysters. Both are a strong expression of a geographic place.”
For example, I had no idea that European Belons grow wild in Maine. Yep. (In photo above, on left.) Apparently they were brought over from Europe decades ago, but Maine’s cold winters were too cold for intertidal harvesting. The ones that escaped, so to speak, survived in a subtidal zone, and are harvested by divers. Since they live below water and are never exposed to air, these oysters have week adductor muscles and so are banded before shipping—to insure they won’t pop open. The taste was, remarkably, pure Belon: robust and firm with a strong metallic opening note. We tasted this one last, paired with a smoky, nutty sherry: Lustau Almacenista Amontilllado. Yum.
But I’m jumping ahead of myself.
Round One: Oyster #1 was an Island Creek grown in the high tidal waters of Duxbury, on the bottom near mud and eel grass. As expected, it had a strong salty taste up front, mossy and vegetal central flavors, and a sweet finish.
Wine pairing: NV Guy Bossard-Thaud Brut Muscadet, an acidic and citrusy sparkling wine that cut the salinity and brightened the oyster flavor. (Full disclosure: I’m parroting Jo’s observations here.)
Oyster #2 was an ICO Row 34, also an Island Creek, though this time grown off-bottom on racks, so it was a little less vegetal yet still absolutely delicious.
Wine pairing: 2009 Szigetti Brut Blanc de Blancs Burgenland, a truly yummy (my words) high quality sparkling Chardonnay from Austria (Jo’s words).
“It’s the West Coastiest East Coast oyster that we sell,” said Chris.
Wine pairing: 2010 Vigneto Reine Mataossu Punta Crena. a “high acidic, mineral-driven” wine from the Northwest coast of Italy.
Oyster #4 was a Spring Creek, also from Barnstable, farmed near a marshy area at the mouth of a creek. This oyster had hints of vegetals and was slightly sweeter than the Oyster Creeks.
Wine pairing: 2011 Do Ferreiro “Rebisaca” Rias Baixas, a blend of Alberino and other grapes from Galicia in Spain.
“With West Coast oysters, all the flavors come at you at once,” said Chris.
Wine pairing: 2011 Gramona “Gessami” Penedes, an easy-drinking, floral and slightly acidic blend from near Barcelona.
Oyster #6, a Wild Belon from the Damariscotta River in Maine. (Described with wine pairing, above.)
And here’s a SHOUT OUT to some of my new fave oyster-eating pals who made the tasting ever-so-much fun: Faith Drennon and Mike Bruno of Boston, Kathy Pennington of Denver, and Katie Bishop of Chicago, true bivalve lovers, oyster sluppers, and half shell dreamers!
“If I die I want to go by oyster,” said Katie. Can’t argue with that.
Deets: Land Meets Sea: Terrior and Merrior Tasting. Every third Sunday of the month. 617-532-5300 for reservations. 2:00pm-3:00pm; $35 per person includes 6 oyster varieties plus wine pairings.