Thursday, December 15, 2011

Broiled Oysters Paired with 2009 Mayo Family Winery Emma's Vineyard Napa Valley Unwooded Sauvignon Blanc

Broiled Oysters-3

This pairing was inspired by two recent events.  The first was the Old Ebbitt Grill annual Oyster Riot, and the second a visit to Senart’s Oyster & Chop House on Barracks Row in Washington DC.  In the last month, I have consumed more Oysters than I normally slurp down over the course of several years.  What have I been thinking?  I love oysters!

I attended the Oyster Riot with a group of friends that made for a wonderful evening.  Not only is this event a celebration of oysters, it features the top wines from an international competition of oyster and wine pairing – right up my alley.  Unsurprisingly, the wines were dominated by Sauvignon Blanc – a pairing that virtually guarantees success.  The real surprise was the variety of flavors represented by oysters harvested up and down the East and West coasts of the U.S. and Canada.  I had no idea there was such a diversity of flavor from the humble oyster.

Broiled Oyster Ingredients-4

The three dimensions on which the flavors varied were salinity, sweetness, and earthiness – in order of prominence.  The oyster riot features stands of oysters each labeled with the location they were harvested making comparisons easy and quite enjoyable.  The first two dimensions of flavor were easily distinguishable – salinity and relative sweetness jumped out immediately.  More subtle was the component of earthiness – a mushroom-like flavor that was particularly noticeable in the Rhode Island oysters.  Coincidentally, the Rhode Island oysters were my favorite closely followed by a selection from British Colombia.

Broiled Oysters-4

More recently, Chef Sue, Golf Buddy Steve, Formerly of Austin Dawn and I visited Senart’s Oyster & Chop House following an exciting victory of the New England Patriots over the Washington Redskins.  I am a fan of both teams, but was happy the game was close and the Pats came out on top.  I instantly targeted the broiled oysters on the menu to cap off a great day – and what a good choice they were.  I also came to the conclusion “hey, I can make these!”  My approach to preparing the broiled oysters is directly inspired by the expert preparation at Senart’s Oyster & Chop House and is a near relative to Oysters Rockefeller.

2009 Mayo Family Winery Emma's Vineyard Napa Valley Unwooded Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a classic pairing for Oysters.  The 2009 Mayo Family Winery Emma's Vineyard Napa Valley Unwooded Sauvignon Blanc is no exception.  The great folks at Mayo Family Winery recognize this holy marriage as well - as they state on the bottle “Serve this crisp, fruity, elegant wine alongside oysters on the half shell…”

Notes from the winemaker:

“Emma's Vineyard in Napa Valley is the source of Sauvignon Blanc grapes that always possess a citrus character we love so much and you will too. This wine has always been one of our most popular bottlings for its expressive and refreshing qualities. The 2009 vintage is made from the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines on the property and delivers stone fruit notes, a fresh palate presence and hints of grapefruit and lemon. Perfect for the last warm days of the year.”

2009 Mayo Family Winery Emma's Vineyard Napa Valley Unwooded Sauvignon Blanc-1

So why do Sauvignon Blanc and oysters work so well together?  The answer is that not all Sauvignon Blancs work well. To achieve a well balanced pairing, seek out a Sauvignon Blanc that features fruit that is not over ripened and sweet.  A light bodied, crisp, grassy, Sauvignon Blanc with healthy acidity and minerality will echo the flavors in the oyster while offering a balancing level of acidity much like the wedge of lime we often add.  A joyous experience – precisely accomplished by the 2009 Mayo Family Winery Emma's Vineyard Napa Valley Unwooded Sauvignon Blanc.


Broiled Oyster Ingredients-3


  • 12 fresh oysters in the shell
  • 6 ounce package of baby spinach cleaned and dried
  • Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 strips bacon
  • White caviar
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Halve the bacon lengthwise then cut into one inch lengths.
  2. Render bacon in a large skillet over medium low heat. Do not allow the bacon to crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Finely dice when cooled.
  3. In same skillet with remaining bacon fat, add minced garlic and sauté until just browning.
  4. Add spinach, wilt, and sauté. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and reserve.
  5. Clean the oysters under cold water and scrub with a brush to remove whatever may be left clinging to the shell.
  6. Shuck the oysters with an oyster knife and a oyster glove or knife glove. Shucking oysters can be a challenge until you find the little opening near the hinge. Insert the knife, and twist to open. Using an oyster knife and a oyster shucking glove is important to keeping you from the emergency room and unwanted stitches. Retain the oyster in the deep side of the shell.
  7. Assemble the oysters by placing a small bed of spinach in the bottom of the shell, add the oyster, then a one inch square sliver of gruyere cheese and top with diced bacon from step 2.
  8. Place under a broiler for five minutes or until cheese melts. For those of you who do not like the slimy texture of oysters, no fear. The broiling process takes care of this.
  9. Remove from broiler top with caviar and serve with a wedge of lemon.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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