What kind of a wine contest requires judges not to pay too much attention to what they are tasting?
It was the 17th annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, where wines were rated only for how they played up the briny, creamy, succulent components of freshly shucked oysters.
The judges (I was one; Jonathan Gold was another) were urged to chew each oyster thoughtfully, then quickly taste one of the wines. There were 20 white wines (no sparklers) served in flights of five to make sure that all remained as cold as the oysters.
"A dry, crisp, clean finish is the ideal," instructed competition founder Jon Rowley. "This isn't about the wine, It's about the next oyster. Is this wine going to exalt the next oyster, or it is it going to get in the way?"
The 120 West Coast wines entered in the competition were winnowed down to 20 in a preliminary judging in Seattle.
The finals started at the Water Grill in Los Angeles, followed by judging panels in San Francisco and Seattle.
Taylor Shellfish Farms of Shelton, Washington, the competition sponsor, provided hundreds of kumamoto oysters for the judges to consume while blind-tasting the wines. Kumamotos were selected because they are small.
The 10 winners were announced May 5. Half are from California. Three are from Washington State, and two are from Oregon.
The California winners are, in alphabetical order:
Brassfield Estate Winery 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Kunde Family Estate 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Pine Ridge Vineyards 2010 Chenin Blanc and Viognier
Robledo Family Winery 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Three Pears 2010 Pinot Grigio
Washington State winners are:
Cadaretta 2010 SBS (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Hogue Cellars 2009 Pinot Grigio
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Oregon winners are:
King Estate Signature Collection 2009 Pinot Gris
Van Duzer Vineyards 2010 Estate Pinot Gris
Seven of the wineries had produced winners in previous competitions. The newcomers are Cadaretta, Pine Ridge Vineyards and Three Pears.