My view at yesterday's Oyster Wine finals. Pretty awesome, right?
The room was church-quiet, the reverential silence punctured only by the sound of slurping as a group of judges worked diligently to find the perfect oyster wine. This was serious business, yet it was all I could do to not break out into the chorus of "Me So Horny"!
I spent yesterday afternoon in my version of hog heaven, as a (moaning-with-joy) judge at the finals of the 17th annual Oyster Wine competition. This event, organized by legendary seafood ambassador Jon Rowley, evokes the ghost of Hemingway to find a wine that does the beautiful oyster proud, washing away the metallic quality of the shellfish, leaving the sweetness and the taste of the sea.
About a dozen seasoned palates gathered in a private dining room at Anthony's on Shilshole Bay, and as the rain turned to sun and back to rain again, we ate dozens of Kumamotos from Taylor Shellfish while blind-tasting through four flights of whites from California, Oregon, and Washington. Judges had done the same earlier this week in Los Angeles (including LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold) and San Francisco, making this muther a full-on West Coast extravaganza. We were instructed not to smell the wine before sipping, which is the exact opposite of other wine competitions.
"It's not about the wine," Rowley said. "It's about the next oyster. You're looking for that bliss factor."
That's the just the kind of esoteric thing Hem would have said.
The oysters were exquisite, salty and sweet and kinda velvety when chewed. And the wines did what they were supposed to, like waves crashing onto a lonely beach, refreshing. (Yes, that's my attempt to make like Papa.)
It was difficult to choose a Top 10 from this stellar bunch of wines. But somehow we all managed to do just that--and in under an hour, too--before heading down to the bar for a beer and to compare notes.
I lingered, scarfing one last oyster and feeling a little bit blue. I hated that it was over. I wanted this afternoon of hushed slurping and sipping and channeling Hemingway never to end.
Results will be announced Sunday on Rowley's Web site, OysterWine.com.