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Oysters, Caviar and Sauvignon Blanc for Valentine's Day

Enjoy this elegant, flavorful dish from Yountville's Brix restaurant, plus pick a pairing from our list of 14 recently rated whites

Laurie Woolever
Posted: February 3, 2012

As a person of good taste, you may reflexively reject the clichés associated with Valentine's Day: the cloying sweets, the marked-up roses, the dread holiday-themed tasting menus full of puns and aphrodisiacs of dubious efficacy. That you have higher standards doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a luxurious meal, thoughtfully paired with a great wine, on Feb. 14.

If you're cooking (or being cooked for) on Valentine's Day, start with this recipe from chef Chris Jones of Brix, a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning restaurant in Yountville, Calif. You'll make leek confit (finely chopped leeks slowly cooked in butter) and an easy vermouth cream sauce, seasoned with shallots, thyme and peppercorns, then poach the oysters in the sauce and top the whole thing with a dollop of salmon caviar.

"The gentle poaching of the oysters renders a creamy mouthfeel, which is continued by choosing to confit the leeks in butter," said Jones, adding, "The caviar provides textural contrast and a punch of salinity that rounds out the dish and balances the fats." He suggests pairing the dish with a Sauvignon Blanc whose acidity, structure and minerality provide contrast to the rich and slightly sweet dish. To that end, we've compiled a list, below, of 14 recently rated Sauvignon Blancs from both Old and New World regions, in the $9 to $27 price range. Happy Valentine's Day!

Warm Pacific Oysters with Leek Confit, Salmon Caviar and Vermouth Cream

Note: This recipe serves six. To scale it down for a more intimate dinner for two, use one dozen oysters, six per person. Use half the listed amount of leeks and butter for the leek confit, half the listed amount of all ingredients for the vermouth cream, 1/4 ounce of caviar and 2 slices of brioche.

For the oysters:
• 36 medium Pacific oysters (may substitute East Coast or Gulf oysters)

Place the larger half of the oyster shell on a secure work surface and hold the top half down with a kitchen towel. Insert the tip of an oyster knife into the soft area at the hinge of the oyster and gently apply pressure in a downward motion until the knife penetrates into the oyster. Gently separate the oyster from the muscle that attaches it to the shell and place it in a bowl. Pour the oyster liquor through a fine mesh sieve over the oyster in the bowl, repeat with the rest of the oysters, refrigerate and reserve.

For the leek confit:
• 4 medium leeks, white only, rinsed well and cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• Salt and white pepper to taste

Place the diced leeks in a cool sauté pan with the butter. Slowly increase the heat until the leeks begin gently simmering with the butter. Season with the salt and pepper and slowly cook the leeks until tender. Remove the confit from the pan and reserve.

For the vermouth cream:
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 whole shallot, peeled and diced
• 1 cup dry white vermouth
• Reserved oyster liquor
• 2 thyme sprigs
• 1 bay leaf
• 3 whole white peppercorns
• 1 cup heavy cream
• Salt to taste

In sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat until it foams and subsides. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook over medium-high heat until it has almost completely evaporated. Add the reserved oyster liquor, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and add the heavy cream. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes, then season with salt. Pass the sauce through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. Transfer the sauce to a clean pan.

To serve:
• 1 ounce salmon caviar
• Herbs for garnish: parsley, chive, chervil and tarragon
• 6 slices brioche, toasted

Gently heat the vermouth cream until simmering. Add the oysters and leek confit until the oysters are just cooked. Arrange six oysters each, and equal portions of the leek and cream mixture, in warmed shallow dishes, and garnish with the caviar and herbs. Serve with toasted brioche. Serves 6.

RECOMMENDED SAUVIGNON BLANCS

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More Sauvignon Blancs can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

CLOUDY BAY Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011 Score: 91 | $25
Focused and pure, offering a tangy expression of balanced lemon, white peach, tangerine, passion fruit, melon and green tea notes. This is powerful in its persistence and juiciness, yet maintains an air of elegance. Drink now. 30,000 cases imported.—M.W.

PASCAL JOLIVET Sancerre 2010 Score: 90 | $27
A bony and mouthwatering style, with lots of flint framing the lime, chive and fleur de sel notes. Shows great cut on the finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported. —J.M.

VIÑA FALERNIA Sauvignon Blanc Elquí Valley Reserva 2010 Score: 89 | $11
Juicy and nicely defined, this delicious Chilean white shows a range of kiwifruit, lemon verbena and white peach flavors all backed by a fresh, zippy, herb-tinged finish. Drink now. 13,000 cases made.—J.M.

STONELEIGH Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010 Score: 89 | $13
Fresh and bright, brimming with Key lime, guava and passion fruit flavors that are clean and refreshing. A touch of freshly cut grass and lime zest comes in on the finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases imported.—M.W.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2010 Score: 88 | $13
Fresh and lively, this is bright with apple, peach, lime and floral flavors, lingering nicely on the gentle finish. Drink now. 114,000 cases made.—H.S.

FAIRVIEW Sauvignon Blanc Darling 2010 Score: 88 | $13
This really crackles, with lots of lime, kiwifruit pulp and fleur de sel notes and a juicy, bright finish. Drink now. 14,000 cases made.—J.M.

SAINT CLAIR Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Vicar's Choice 2011 Score: 88 | $18
Juicy and refreshing, offering a terrific mix of pineapple, peach and lemon-lime flavors that are bright and ripe, with a spicy finish. Drink now. 96,000 cases made.—M.W.

VIÑA LEYDA Sauvignon Blanc Leyda Valley Classic 2011 Score: 87 | $11
This light, bouncy white shows a nice mix of grapefruit, lime and chive flavors, with a mouthwatering finish. Drink now. 20,000 cases made.—J.M.

VIÑA VENTISQUERO Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley Root: 1 2011 Score: 87 | $12
Lively, with a nice crunchy edge to the mâche, white peach and lime flavors. The finish is fresh and brisk. Drink now. 15,000 cases made.—J.M.

VERAMONTE Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley Reserva 2010 Score: 87 | $12
Bright and juicy, with lively verbena, gooseberry and herb notes, staying crisp on the finish. Drink now. 85,000 cases made.—J.M.

VIÑEDOS Y BODEGAS CÓRPORA Sauvignon Blanc Bío Bío Valley Porta Reserva 2010 Score: 86 | $10
Fresh, with good citrus and sweet pea notes and a lively finish. Drink now. 20,000 cases made.—J.M.

ROOIBERG Sauvignon Blanc Robertson 2010 Score: 86 | $9
A plump, friendly version, with lively pink grapefruit and lemon zest notes and a juicy finish. Drink now. 20,000 cases made.—J.M.

INDABA Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape 2010 Score: 85 | $10
Fresh-cut lime and herb notes lead to a brisk, racy finish. Drink now. 30,500 cases imported.—J.M.

ROBERTSON Winery Sauvignon Blanc Robertson 2011 Score: 85 | $10
Fresh and open, with kiwifruit and chamomile notes and a breezy finish. Drink now. 50,000 cases made.—J.M.

Joe Buffalin
Phoenix, Arizona —  February 6, 2012 6:58pm ET
Love the great varity of tastes that are presented in these recipes. My wife and I try them before introducing them to our friends so "keep them coming"

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