The sky was Oyster Grey as I pulled up to Anthony’s on Shilshole to cover the preliminary judging on day one of Oyster Wine 2011. The perfect shade for tasting wine and oysters. The view from the Cascade Room, stellar, with floor to ceiling windows allowing us to drink in the splendor of Puget Sound. The judges started to file in, one by one. They made their way to their seats and Jon Rowley started things off by welcoming all of us, and covering “The Rules”. I felt his true appreciation of the oysters and the beautiful wines to pair with them. One of his main points to the Judges for consideration while tasting – “It’s all about the next oyster”.
The Lucky Judges are selected by Jon each year, and what an honor to be asked, Tom Arthur, General Manager of Elliott’s Oyster House, Lane Hoss, Vice President of Marketing for Anthony’s Restaurants, Chuck Hill, a Seasoned Wine Reviewer and Published Author, Chris Nishiwaki, Food and Wine Writer with Contributions to Seattle Met and Wino Magazine and Gerry Warren, who truly has so many credentials..I can’t list them all here, Past President for Enological Society of the Pacific NW, Founder and now Regional Governor of Seattle Slow Food Chapter and Judge for Wine Competitions in the NW and California. All accomplished and qualified to be Judges at this event!!
Once the judges settled in, the servers arrived to pour the first flight. A plate of icy cold oysters is placed on each table. As I watch them…I see their contentment grow. They seem to smile and gaze out at the beautiful view, all while tasting some of the best the Northwest has to offer. It is not as easy as you might think “Judging” wines that pair well with oysters. The “Bliss Factor” is what they look for. With so many beautiful wines here in the Northwest, narrowing down 10 for the final winners out of approximately 125 entries??? Really tough with so many wonderful wines this year.
I was graciously served my own icy plate of Oysters and was so fortunate to taste these fresh delights with 5…OK, in the end 10 or so Wines. Jon kept adding more glasses on my table…I certainly wasn’t going to turn them down!! As I tasted, I got a good feel for what Jon was talking about…it really is all about the next oyster. This is no easy task, but certainly a delicious one.
Each wine had it’s own subtle complexity. It was clear listening to the judges after they were through with their assignment – Each one of them had their own distinct opinion of certain wines. Since this was a blind taste test, with each wine being assigned a “letter”… the objective each day of tasting was to select the top wines of the day, and eventually, narrow it down to 20 wines for the “Final Judging”. 3 of the wines earned a “5 out of 5″…meaning, all 5 Judges agreed they were winners. Not something that happens often in this competition, so you know it is a special wine when that happens.
The 20 Finalists were selected yesterday – 4/6. Jon told me that the Finalists were just delighted to have been chosen. Now, on to San Francisco and Los Angeles for further evaluation. On April 28th, the Final Judging take will take place and on the 29th the scores from all three cities combined will determine the winners. The 10 highest scoring wines are equal winners of the competition and receive the “Oyster Award”.
I’m so thankful to have been invited to participate and cover this beautiful Northwest Competition. I learned so much from tasting and especially from listening to Jon and the Judges. Really an experience I will cherish.
A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO TAYLOR SHELLFISH FARMS - THE SPONSOR OF THIS EVENT…it is the Taylor oysters that make this competition special.
Good Luck to all the Finalists!!! Winners will be announced on May 1st!