Decoding the Wine List: Sip This and Eat Oysters

L.A. wine gurus tell you what to drink and how to pair it at Ox & Son, Connie & Ted’s, and Tipple & Brine

You might be the default expert always tasked with selecting a wine when out to dinner, or perhaps you’re the lover of wine with little care for the myriad foreign words on a wine list. Whatever is true for you, let your eyes glaze over the menu because we’re asking wine experts from restaurants around Los Angeles to divulge a favorite category-specific wine on their list and some dishes that would make an excellent pairing.

This month’s wine picks focus on varieties that pair well with oysters, and the selections are exciting: Rather than the classic pairing–Chablis, a crisp, bright, mineral-driven Chardonnay from France–it’s time to think outside the Chablis or Champagne bubble.

We reached out to L.A. wine pros and got suggestions that range from Northern California to Provence to Japan and will make your next oyster outing a revelatory experience. So set aside the wine list and ask for these wine gurus—tell ’em you’re keen to try that pairing you read about on Liquid L.A. Let us know how it goes.

Ox&SonBodkin NV Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée Agincourt, North Coast, California 
Pick by Brandon Bernstein, general manager; Mark Mittleman, managing partner; and Stephen Jordan, sommelier, Ox & Son 

The grape: “100 percent Sauvignon Blanc”

Backstory from Mittleman: “This wine was selected to help diversify our sparkling list. We wanted to do something that you don’t see at too many places, very similar to how chef Bradley Miller’s food is, in that it’s something—a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc!—you most likely won’t find anywhere else.”

Tastes like: “This unique and stylish twist on Sauvignon Blanc has a core of racy crispness driven by lively acidity, accented with lemon-lime aromas (no fresh-cut grass, no worries) and citrus/passion fruit flavors. The pronounced citrus tones team with a note of toasted hazelnuts to accent the enchantingly plush mouthfeel of the wine.”

On the wine list: Available by the glass and bottle

At Ox & Son, pair it with: “We pair it with our oysters. Generally, we have Kusshi oysters in house. Kusshi work especially well with the Bodkin because they have such a fresh flavor. What many don’t know about Kusshi oysters is that they are fed by a glacial fjord. These oysters come out of British Columbia, and you can truly taste just how clean and fresh these oysters are, due to the glacier’s water runoff.”

Connie&TedsJokigen Saké, Junmai Ginjo, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan
Pick by Hoang Nguyen, beverage manager, Connie & Ted’s

The rice: “Oyama-Nishiki–cultivated by local farmers in Toyama (western shore, central Japan) to thrive against the region’s cold winters and hot summers. Brewed with subsoil water from the Chokai mountain range.”

Backstory: “Yamagata is fast overshadowing Niigata as the premier saké region, and Jokigen is gaining a reputation for helping return the craft to terroir-driven sakés. I prefer Ginjo vs. Daiginjo as less rice is polished away, allowing you to taste more of the regional characteristics of the rice that the Toyama farmers–and nature–work so hard to imprint. [Sake specialist] Kris Elliot, who frequents Japan in search of new sakés, turned me on to this. He and I went through a bevy of sakés and oysters searching for a brew that could harmonize with most of Connie & Ted’s oyster selections, [which] can number up to 18 varieties–when the weather cooperates.”

Tastes like: “Well-structured, vibrant, and deep. The nose is of early-morning jasmine, and cherry blossoms. It tastes of jackfruit and honeydew melon. Elegant and complex, yet still gripping firm to its bucolic origins.”

On the wine list: Available by the glass and bottle

At Connie & Ted’s, pair it with: “Definitely Virginicas (East Coast oysters) like Duxbury from Massachusetts. Grown in grassy, nutrient-rich waters, it’s a plump oyster with pronounced brine and a sweet lettuce finish. Ditch the lemon and sauce. You want to taste the ‘merroir’ of this Crassostrea unadulterated. Then pour some saké into the shell and drink it with the oyster liquor. Amino acids and glutamate meet, marry, and dance.”

Tipple-&-BrineDomaine Gavoty 2012 Cuvee Tradition Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France
Pick by Carone Lowrey, manager and wine director, Tipple & Brine

The grape: “A classic Provencal rosé blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah.”

Back story: “I really wanted a representative Provencal rosé on the list that could balance bursting fruit aromas and flavors with a nice zip of acidity to pair with many of our rustic, briny, and earthy flavors. I loved this wine from the moment that I tried it. When I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself lounging outside on a patio on a bright summer day sipping this rosé and I knew it was an experience I wanted to create again and again.”

Tastes like: “Ripe red strawberry, juicy yellow peach, sweet cranberry, and watermelon on the nose. This wine has a velvety mouthfeel that rounds out the fresh fruity flavors and aromas with a bit of limestone minerality and a hint of leafy aromatic herbs. A touch of acid cuts through the lusciousness of this wine, tempting your palate for a bite of something truly delectable.”

On the wine list: Available by the glass and bottle

At Tipple & Brine, pair it with: “This versatile rosé is crisp and refreshing enough to complement a dozen plump and creamy Pacific oysters with a dash of house-made ginger mignonette (oyster selections rotate daily). It also pairs exceptionally well with the herbaceous and savory flavors in our mushroom toast, salsa rustica-drizzled roast cauliflower, crispy Brussels sprouts, and roasted chicken.”