It used to be that downing oysters was recommended only during the “R” months, starting with September and shucking along through April. That reasoning stemmed from factors including red tide, the warm spawning period, and the absence of refrigeration.

But modern farming and harvesting, stricter guidelines about safety, and much more monitoring make the beloved bivalves a year-round treat.

The best way to savor the subtleties and the varieties is to eat them raw. Skip the cocktail sauce that overwhelms shrimp cocktails. Be judicious if you want to bathe them in mignonette sauce. And just uncork a bottle of Champagne, Chablis, Muscadet; stick with gin or … open a bottle of Scotch.

Yes, Scotch.

Some single-malt Scotches have marine, saline, smoky, slightly peppery accents that complement Atlantic coast oysters. Talisker, as much a part of the identity of Scotland’s Isle of Skye as are the steep, craggy terrain, the rush of waterfalls, and the coastline of oyster farms, is an ideal choice.

Visit realoystercult.com. For $79, you’ll receive 30 sustainable Atlantic oysters, 10 each from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Brunswick; and a kit that includes a knife, shucking gloves, and droppers for whisky. The package also comes through with a 10 percent off code to buy Talisker, typically $70 to $80 for the essential 10 Year Old.

Add a drop or two to the just-shucked oyster and enjoy it from the shell. Fill the empty shell with a little more as a chaser. Or just keep a dram of Scotch at the ready for a few more oysters. Talisker also complements oysters when contributing to a highball cocktail finished with some cracked black pepper.

Happy September.


Italy may not be in your travel plans right now. But a taste will do.

The 2016 Masciarelli Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva DOC (★★ $32) and the 2015 Marina Cvetic ISKRA Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG (★★ $38) are very satisfying, full-bodied,  dry red wines, aromatic and earthy, with hints of pepper. The ISKRA is a bit richer and more complex. Both are ideal with red meat, pasta Bolognese, a “Sunday sauce” ragu, lasagna, and pizzas with your favorite toppings.

Lighter and more rustic is the 2019 Cantine Ermes Vento di Mare Pinot Noir Terre Siciliane IGP (★ $11-$13), made with organic grapes. It goes well with hearty, red-sauced pastas and meats, as well as pizzas. For a fizzy, easygoing refresher, there’s the producer’s Vento di Mare Moscato Frizzante Terre Siciliane (★ $11-$13). It has notes of peach and apricot. Pair the moscato, chilled, with fruity or creamy desserts

Red berries highlight the 2016 Villa Patrizia Istrico Montecucco Sangiovese (★★ $22), a pleasing, straightforward, balanced number that calls for grilled red meat, followed by cheeses.


You’ll want to keep the summer grilling going well into fall when you pour the fruity, berry-driven, and versatile 2019 Decoy California Cabernet Sauvignon (★★ $25), a Sonoma County, Central Coast, and Mendocino County production. Plummy with a suggestion of oak, this is a lively partner for skirt steak, flank steak, and burgers.

The fragrant, peppery 2019 Decoy California Zinfandel (★★ $25), is full of red fruit and spice notes. Serve it with short ribs, brisket, beef kebabs, and roast beef. The savory wine works with beef with Asian seasoning, plus a steak au poivre.

The 2019 Decoy California Merlot (★★ $25), uncorks ripe with plum and black cherry. It’s an easy-drinking red that’s a match with hamburgers, pork chops, loin of pork, and tomato-based Italian fare, pizzas, and panini.

And the 2019 Decoy California Red Wine (★★ $25) is a harmonious, supple blend. This one brings together cabernet sauvignon (35%), merlot (27%), zinfandel (16%), petite sirah (8%), malbec (5%), petit verdot (5%), syrah (2%) and carignan (2%). The eight-grape showcase is loaded with blackberry, cranberry, and a whiff of spices. Enjoy it with skirt steak, marinated or not; and flank steak.

Napa Valley and Los Carneros are the sources for the intense, rich 2019 Cuvaison Mariafeld Pinot Noir (★★★ $60), a single-clone beauty that traces its heritage to Switzerland. Black cherry and blackberry spur the concentrated red, which will age amiably for several years. This pinot will be a treat with roast duck and roast chicken, grilled salmon and grilled tuna.

Napa and Carneros also yield the bright, crisp 2019 Cuvaison Kite Tail Chardonnay (★★★ $50), a high-flying white with citrus and lemongrass accents. The wine was made from two separate harvests, resulting in a rich, elegant, and aromatic winner. Lobster, steamed or broiled, would complement it.

Grilled red meat is the best company for the 2019 J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon (★★ $17) and the 2019 J. Lohr Estates South Ridge Syrah (★★ $15), two well-priced ways to continue the barbecue season. The syrah is very good with roast pork, too. Both are fine with an order of burnt ends. And the producer has released a food-friendly white, the 2019 J. Lohr October Night Chardonnay (★★ $25), from the Arroyo Seco AVA of Monterey.  It peaks with shellfish, particularly crab and shrimp.


For the second year in a row, Oktoberfest has been cancelled in Munich because of COVID-19.

But you still can savor the seasonal flavors of Marzen beers, whether from Germany or the United States. Prepare the roast pork and the wursts. Invest in big, puffy, soft pretzels.

And look for these malty Oktoberfest beers: Alesmith Aleschmidt Oktoberfest, Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Victory Festbier, and Brooklyn Oktoberfest, among American stars; and the classic German ‘fest brews from Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Ayinger, Augustiner, Lowenbrau, and Hofbrau.

To your health …


For 34 years, Peter Gianotti reviewed wines, spirits, restaurants, and books at Newsday. He twice won Press Club of New York awards for food writing. Before he became a food critic, Gianotti was a Washington correspondent, a financial writer, and New York City reporter for the newspaper. His books include “Food Lovers’ Guide to Long Island” and “A Guide to Long Island Wine Country.” Gianotti received his B.A. from Fordham University, where he taught journalism; and his M.S. from Columbia University, where he also was a Bagehot Fellow. Harry, his Creamsicle-hued assistant, prefers the bouquets of riesling and pinot noir.

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