Shuck and Slurp – What a way to spend an afternoon in Christchurch, New Zealand!

It’s been a year since the “big” Christchurch earthquake that we all heard about in the US but Christchurch has actually suffered from over 10,000 earthquakes since September 4, 2010 when the first 7.1 quake hit. Then on February 22, 2011, the horrific and shallow 6.3 quake hit in the middle of the day.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  There were 191 earthquakes that day alone (yes, 191).  So many buildings collapsed and sadly so many lost their homes and many lost their lives. And, just when everyone started to settle back in and take a deep breath, another 6.0 earthquake hit just a few months ago on December 23, 2011, during the holidays.

So many people have been affected, both physically and emotionally.  However, this has not dampened the spirit of the people.  With the continual earthquakes, rebuilding has been very challenging.  But, those who have been more fortunate and not lost as much have made continual efforts to help their community and friends.

One story I had been told when I was in Christchurch last year, just two weeks after the February earthquake, was about a friend of the wine community.  On the day of the earthquake, a local woman whose husband is a winemaker in Waipara, was walking in town and doing her normal shopping when the earthquake hit.  An overhang fell on her and she was paralyzed. As cliche as it sounds, this could have happened to anyone and unfortunately, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now a year later, while she is back home, her life and her family’s life has changed and she requires constant care, needs her home retro-fitted and requires pain management, all rather costly.

So, at a recent dinner party, the owners of Mountford Estate, Dancing Water, Torlesse and Northfield were inspired by a lovely friend of theirs from the US who had heard about this woman and was heading home to Boston to do a fundraising dinner party.  The winery owners immediately decided to create an event to coincide.  With the support of the local wineries, Shuck and Slurp was organized in only two weeks. Fifteen wineries participated, fresh bluff oysters were sent up from the South from Barnes Oysters and a live auction took place. Close to 100 people attended the first annual Shuck and Slurp and it is estimated that more than NZ$10,000 was raised this first year which will go directly to this woman.

Pictured above: Organizers Clare Bisso and Ross Trowsdale from Dancing Water, myself, Organizer Kathryn Ryan of Mountford Estate and Sylvain Taupenas, Assistant Winemaker at Muddy Water/Greystone Wines.

Pictured above: Jess Hishon (Mountford Estate), Monique Vongehr (Mountford Estate winemaking team), Blake Lissington (Dancing Water), Matias Di Bernardo Amato (Mountford Estate winemaking team) and Sylvain Taupenas (Muddy Water/Greystone Wines).

In addition to all of the Bluff oysters and wines, there was a Bluff oyster shucking competition. Led by the New Zealand Bluff oyster shucking champion Mark, who set the record 20 years ago by shucking 100 oysters in 2 minutes 28 seconds, attendees were taught how to shuck Bluff oysters and then put to the test to see how many they could do in one minute.  The best shuckers were Jess Hishon of Mountford Estate who shucked 11 oysters and Stephanie Grant of Ataahua who shucked 12 oysters!  A special mention also goes to Vivian Pharis of Torleese who may not have set the record of oyster shucking in one minute but shucked more oysters throughout the day (we estimate at least several hundred out of the total 2400 oysters consumed that day).

In addition, there was a blind wine tasting competition that paired 11 Waipara wines with Bluff oysters.  I was honored to be asked to judge the competition along with two locals, winemaker Kirsten Creasy of Hill Laboratories and Zachary McMillan of Pescatore at The George in Christchurch.

In terms of best pairing, the following were the results:

1st Place: Tiki Estate Pinot Gris 2011  

2nd Place: Ataahua Sauvignon Blanc 2010

3rd Place: Mountford Estate Homage a l’Alsace 2009

Due to the overwhelming success of the first annual Shuck and Slurp (again, organized in only 2 weeks), the wineries are already planning next year’s event and talking about taking Shuck and Slurp on the road around the world in order to raise money to help individuals affected by unexpected circumstances.  If you would like to make a donation to help this local woman and her family, please go to (She and her husband are very private and have never gone public or asked for help so I will not mention their names.)

To see all of the photos from the day’s event, click here.