kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


My wines weren't far off the mark...

On Friday night we went to check out the Old Ebbitt Grill's Oyster Riot, where 20+ stations of all different varieties of freshly shucked oysters were up for grabs, along with oyster hors d'oeuvres, shrimp cocktail, crab claws and all the wine you wanted. I was fortunate to serve as a judge a few weeks ago to help decide which wine pairs best with oysters (any winery was invited to submit bottles, and the top 20 turned out to be--not surprisingly--crisp whites, along with one sparkling wine. Many wines were NZ Sauvignon Blancs.)

The top vote getter was the 2008 Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. This wasn't one of my fave NZ SBs the night of the judging, but some of my other choices did land in the top ten. Here are the rest of the top vote getters, along with my thoughts/rank:

2. J Vineyards and Winery J Cuvee 20, Russian River Valley (as the only sparkler, it stood out. I ranked it 6th.)
3. 2008 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (This was my number one pick--balanced, crisp and not over the top fruity)
4. 2008 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (I ranked this as number 3. I have always enjoyed Spy Valley's wines and had the pleasure of meeting the winemaker.)
5. 2007 Domaine de Tariquet Sauvignon Blanc, Gascone (This didn't make it into my top 10, but after retasting it at the Riot I thought it stood up well to oysters.)
6. 2007 Backsberg Chenin Blanc Paarl (I also discounted this one early one--I thought it left an odd aftertaste with the oyster.)
7. 2008 Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (this was my number 8. Nicely balanced fruit and acidity.)
8. 2008 Brancott Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (this was my number 4 pick, though during the blind tasting I mistook it for a Loire white.)
9. 2008 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (I gave this one a 5. Incidentally, Kim Crawford was last year's oyster riot winner.)
10. 2008 Babich Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (I didn't put this in my top 10. Though it was the 20th wine we tasted, so my palate may have been tired at that point...)

The wine I selected as 3rd best--a 2008 Nimbus Estate Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca, Chile, was one I had never heard of before. But I really enjoyed the lemony finish, which made it a nice match for the oysters.

For the judging, we tasted each wine with an Olympia oyster. They are small and manageable, but not my favorite variety. They sometimes left a funky aftertaste in my mouth which undoubtedly affected my rank of the wine I sipped with it. I would have preferred to sample the wines with a bivalve with a cleaner taste--Friday night, we really enjoyed the Blackberry Points from Prince Edward Island, and the Salt Aires, also from PEI.

No matter, I was grateful to have been part of this longstanding DC tradition.

You can read more about the wines and the oyster riot at