powerfully flavored wild Belon oysters
Most of my family holidays are spent on Peaks Island, Maine. A 30 minute ferry ride from the city of Portland, it is one of the most populous of the 365 Calendar Islands. In the summer tourists rule the place, gobbling up lobster and overloading the ferry, winter belongs to the wicked Nor Easter storms and the fishermen. Albeit unknowingly; I must thank my parents, for relocating from Southern California, to this, one of America’s great food destinations.
Recently, my mom made friends with a favorite local oysterman. It was rumored that his were the best, so for this most recent visit she order 3½ dozen for just 4 of us. The guy hand delivered his day’s catch to the door. Most were these deliciously fresh, even sweet locally farmed ‘America’ oysters, but the real treat were the dozen strongly flavored wild Belon. Forgoing the typical compliment of Muscadet, or Chablis, I selected something more appropriate for the season. After all, in Maine, winter is the best season for oysters; so why should we drink summer wine?
Receipt for the oysters
My wife Kristyn and I were on the Peljesac Peninsula in Southern Croatia a few summers ago. While there, we visited with farmer and winemaker Frano Milos. He mentioned the locally popular combination of raw oysters and the rugged Plavac Mali based red wines, like his own. Strange as the match sounded, the coves of this rocky peninsula are bivalve paradise, our curiosity was spiked. Unfortunately, all the restaurants we visited serving them had discovered, only white wine should be served with oysters.
Milos family vineyards and their view of the sea
Our Maine oyster feast was the perfect opportunity to test this “scary” pairing. Some were baked with butter and herbs, most of them were eaten raw with, champagne mignonette, lemon juice and Tapatilo, or just raw. We opened the 2006 Milos Plavac, along with a few whites for backup. All who experienced the harmony of this unlikely duo were shocked and delighted. The tea and spice scented Plavac was the first bottle drained. My favorite match was with the raw, unseasoned, wild oysters. There is a simple answer for the success of the combination; ‘brininess’. Any proper Plavac Mali should have a touch. Some of the most delicious, the Milos wines included, are actually salty.
Peljesac wine are some of the most transparent expressions of place and people being bottled today. Paradoxically, it is this individuality that enables them to relate so brilliantly to the culinary traditions of other places. For me, winter oysters in Maine will never be complete with out some hearty Plavac. This makes the world feel smaller, but in a good way.