Pairing Wines with Crab 

An array of lighter wines goes nicely with shellfish.

Crab season is in full swing in the Bay Area. And what dining experience can top an elemental feast of Dungeness crab drenched in butter and garlic, lubricated with a generous supply of wine. But which wine?

Fredi and I set out to answer that question at a New Year's Eve crab feast hosted by him and his wife, Wendy. We selected an array of whites, sparkling whites, and one light red to go with our feast. But as anyone who has ever shelled crab will understand, once we dived into the main course, our hands quickly became far too messy for any of us to write anything down. So all of our pairing notes came from our appetizer course of cheese, shrimp, scallops, and other light snacks. Happily, since shellfish dominated the pre-meal snacks, the pairings also worked well with our dinner.

Fredi and I were both quite impressed with the 2008 Bogle Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99). Our host, a reluctant white wine drinker, thought it was a nice, crisp sipping wine, and I appreciated the absence of the perfumey aroma that often characterize cheap California Sauvignon Blancs. Judy and Lisa found it initially bitter but ultimately fruity, and along with Wendy they commented on its oddly clear color.

Nancy liked the 2008 McManis Viognier ($10.99) best, and Wendy thought it paired nicely with our pan-seared scallops. Lisa said it was crisp and citrusy, and Fredi agreed, but thought it lacked complexity. I missed the tangy electricity that characterizes many Viogniers.

However, I thought the 2008 Librandi Cirò Bianco ($9.99) tasted more like a Viognier than the McManis, and Judy and I both loved its tart, citrusy edge. Fredi liked the well-balanced acidity and flowery nose. Nancy was unimpressed.

The 2008 Hess Select Chardonnay ($8.99) also was a crowd pleaser. I thought it was intriguingly smoky and Wendy liked its hints of oak. Several tasters thought it paired well with the evening's cheeses, which included some Machego and a pungent blue. Lisa and Judy found it light and spicy, and Fredi detected a hint of sweetness and butter.

The evening's most popular wine was our lone red, the 2003 Windy Hill Pinot Noir ($7.99). Judy and I loved its earthy, almost dirty flavor, and Lisa enjoyed its light, spicy tang. Wendy proclaimed it the best budget pinot she's ever found, although Craig thought it was over the hill.

As the New Year approached, we finished out the evening with two sparkling wines, a Zonin Prosecco ($5.99) and a Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava ($7.99). People's note-taking skills had definitely suffered by midnight, but both wines were deemed exceptional values and Judy called the Prosecco "bubbly bliss."

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