SINCE the beginning of time -- or at least since the invention of the oyster knife -- living, briny oysters have powerfully attracted the sensual predators among us. And in recent years, that attraction seems to have grown stronger, especially in the cooler months, with oysters offered in just about every other restaurant. Here, on the West Coast -- from Point Reyes to British Columbia -- the oyster beds produce some of the best eating in the world.
Which raises the question of which wine to drink with them.
Whites are the easy answer, of course. It's hard to go wrong with a crisp yet full-bodied California Sauvignon Blanc such as Clos du Bois "Sonoma County" (2001, about $9) or Napa Wine Co. "Napa Valley" (2001, about $18).
But you have to be careful. Most other seafood can also pair well with a luscious Chardonnay. Not the briny little oyster. Even the most intensely oceanic oyster is overpowered by rich fruit and oak.
Oysters are at their best with the crispest, most minerally whites. A Pouilly-Fuisse, for example. The weathered clays and gravels in the villages surrounding the mighty limestone monolith called Solutre, in southern Burgundy, yield brilliantly crisp Chardonnay with delicate flinty overtones and piercing minerality. Among my scenarios of heaven would be a frosty bottle of '00 Vincent Chateau de Fuisse (about $20) and a platter of Hog Island Sweetwater oysters from Tomales Bay.