Dungeness Crab- the West's Most Wine Friendly Shellfish
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 5:23PM
Gary Westby

Fresh Dungeness Crab at the Fish Market in San Jose

It is Dungeness crab season, and after a year with no crab last year, everyone here at K&L is very excited. My best friend Henry manages The Fish Market in San Jose, and he must get tired of me calling and texting him for crab news in the run up to the season. I am always concerned that there is going to be a strike or another problem that is going to keep me from enjoying my favorite of all seafood.

This year, the news is mostly good- the season is on, the crabs are filled out and meaty like no other year I can remember, and the prices are fair if not low. We have already eaten crab three times, and I can’t wait to get in a bunch more meals before the season ends. If you haven’t had the crab yet this year, you owe it to yourself to get some!

Cinnamon and I have a whole section of our cellar dedicated to Chablis for the crab season. We have had it on about a five year rotation that is now six years thanks to the dumoic acid problem last year. So we are buying 2014’s this year and opening our 2008’s, which are really on song. I think the pairing of Chablis and Dungeness has so much synergy that it is worth going to some trouble to ensure a good supply of aged juice… The only way to accomplish this with Burgundy is to buy it young.

 

Dungeness risotto with white Burgundy... Yum!

Our first crab we ate steamed and paired with 2008 Domaine Gerard Tremblay Chablis 1er Cru "Cote de Lechet" that we bought back in 2010. The wine is still extremely fresh and virile, and the steely edge of acid on the back is sweetened by the rich meat of the crab. With our next crab I made crab cakes and we had it with the same producers’ village Chablis, also 2008. This was getting some lovely hazelnut flavors and showing the complexity of age, but still has great freshness. We made a crab risotto the last time, with stock from the exoskeleton and piled on meat on top. We treated ourselves to a limey, fantastic, 2011 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet "Les Enseignères" that we carried back from Burgundy.

I can’t recommend cellaring a little bit of white Burgundy (especially Chablis!) enough for pairing with crabs, but the fresh stuff is pretty darn good too! Here is what the rest of the K&L crew has to say…

Alex Schroeder, our Champagne specialist in Redwood City reccomends the Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($69.99):

"The first crab meal of the season is a special affair, and a laborious one if you’re making crab cakes.  By the time you buy the crab from a reputable market, cook it, harvest the meat, turn it into crab cakes and make the sides, you’ve earned an equally decadent beverage.  Luckily, thanks to the wonderful folks at Franck Bonville in Champagne, decadence doesn’t necessarily come at a prohibitive cost.  I could hardly think of a better pairing with my crab cakes than Franck Bonville’s Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Belles Voyes.  

Belles Voyes is one of the very best values we carry at K&L and in the champagne world in general.  It’s crafted entirely from Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes from a single vineyard of 80-90 year-old vines in Oger and thoughtfully aged in used oak casks.  The label doesn’t say it, but it comes entirely from the 2009 vintage and displays everything you want to see alongside a rich crab meal.  

Beautifully subtle pear, apple and citrus notes danced with the flavors of fresh chives and spices, while the lovely rich toasty notes from long-term aging in oak casks convened perfectly with the toasted breadcrumbs of the cakes.  The Belles Voyes’ texture is so smooth, rich and sumptuous, the richness of the crab was in no way overwhelming, but rather the perfect complement.  Just when you start to feel guilty at the opulence, the delicate, crisp bubbles and vibrant acid round out the experience and bring the entire adventure into focus.  And that’s just one bite.  

So treat yourself this crab season.  You work hard and you deserve a small moment of luxury. You can certainly spend more on your champagne, but I seriously doubt you can score a better companion for your favorite ocean crustacean."

Harry- Jeff Garneau's cat, is always willing to eat some crab, but won't steal your wine!

Muriel Sarik, our newest member of the customer service team reccomends the 2015 Franck Millet Sancerre Rosé with Dungeness Crab: "Most people think of Rosés as a summer wine. But next to Champagne, I found these to be the most versatile wines in the world. Most people wouldn't think of having Rosés in winter because most wine shops run out of them by the Holidays. K&L has lots of rosés.  This Sancerre is my favorite and goes especially well with Dungeness crab. It has enough fruit to compliment the sweetness of the crab. Its dry mineral finish works with so many dishes. I made a salad with celery, cucumber, radishes and parsley on a bed of greens with a simple vinaigrette and topped it with a handful of crab. Delicious! Any crab louie or crab cakes would adore being part of this combination. Try it with crab au gratin instead of a buttery white or light red.”

Clyde Beffa, the big wine boss recommends an older vintage of Domaine Didier Dagueneau "Silex" Pouilly-Fumé… I guess that would be OK if you are all out of old J.-F. Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne!

Ryan Woodhouse recommends the 2015 Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough, New Zealand $19.99: “Whilst Dungeness crab are indigenous to the west coast of the USA the waters around New Zealand are also teaming with sea life. The folks down there eat their weight in fresh seafood each year and I think the wines from these remote pacific isles are the perfect accompaniment for fish and crustaceans alike. The pure flavors, crisp fruit and lively acidity of New Zealand’s white wines make them equally delicious with our own local Dungeness. I’m recommending the 2015 Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc to welcome in crab season this year. This wine is from one of the most iconic and historic estates in NZ. The vines are mature, 25-30 years old, and farmed organically (certified BioGro). Hailing from the region of Martinborough this is a slightly more restrained style than one would typically expect. The focus here is on bright citrus fruit, pronounced minerality, subtle white floral notes and great textural presence on the palate. The wine spends a short time on skins to achieve that textural component and is also partially fermented in neutral French oak. It has wonderful poise and focus and is just a fantastic accompaniment to the delicacy of fresh Dungeness. It won’t break the bank either, this cracking (pun intended) bottle comes in at $19.99 thanks to our direct import relationship with Ata Rangi!”

Keith Mabry in LA recommends the 2014 Château de Montfaucon Clairette "Vin de Mme la Comtesse" Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes Blanc ($29.99): “This would be my first choice to go with classic steamed or boiled Dungeness crab.  The wine has the texture of a grand cru Burgundy but a more subtle fragrance of peaches, fennel and wet stones.  It has a fine delicacy that should match well with the sweet meat of the crab that is neither overwhelming nor disappearing.”

Ralph Sands recommends the Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($34.99): “Maybe not a normal pairing but for our Anniversary/Birthday dinner this week Kim and I did Fettuccini Alfredo with a mound of Dungeness on top with the Launois Cuvee Reserve and to quote Robert Goulet… “It was marvelous!”

A toast and a nice leg piece for you!

Gary Westby

Article originally appeared on K&L Uncorked (http://blog.klwines.com/).
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