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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

Hog Island Oysters Meet a South African White

Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Elgin Valley 2009

James Laube
Posted: September 7, 2010

Do you love oysters and are curious about their terroir? If you happen to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re within striking distance of Hog Island.

Located on Tomales Bay, in Marshall, Calif., close to Nick’s Cove, this is home to the Hog Island Oyster Farm. It’s a rustic setting for a picnic, where you can build a feast around freshly harvested oysters and whatever else you bring.

I’ve been there two weekends in a row, by chance. Both times I came home with dozens of these delightful delicacies from the sea to share with friends.

Both times I ordered Kumamotos and extra small Pacifics (sweet waters), and I mixed two rice vinegars, one spicy, with hair-thin slices of jalapeno, shallot and ginger, then added a dash of pepper and a squeeze of lime. (I may have added red wine vinegar, too.) With the oysters, I drank a crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Shannon Vineyards (about $30 retail). It’s a new wine to me and I know little except that it’s from Elgin Valley, one of South Africa’s cooler coastal climates, and it’s delicious and perfect for such an occasion. 91 points, non-blind.

The Shannon bottling expressed all the racy, spicy, citrusy-grassy nuances of Sauvignon Blanc, with great acidity and a full-bodied texture that worked perfectly with the meaty, salty, briny oysters—once I shucked them. The extra smalls were extra tough to deal with, and I swore I wouldn’t order too many of them again. My arms ached the next day.

Catch Hog Island on the right day, when it’s sunny and the wind is down, and it’s oyster picnic heaven. With a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, it’s even better.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated South African Sauvignon Blancs.

Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  September 8, 2010 11:30am ET
Opening oysters is all in the aim and the touch, Jim. Practice, practice!
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  September 8, 2010 7:44pm ET
Sweet water oysters from Hog Island are sooo good that they need only a touch of lemon juice to be delicious, nothing more! Anything else detracts from their wonderful fresh flavor. P.S. they are not sweet, in spite of the name, simply scrumptuous. John Vlahos

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