Old Ebbitt Grill's Oyster Riot® is one of the greatest parties of the year in Washington DC. Always held the Friday & Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Riot is DC's preeminent food & wine event. Each night, nearly 1000 people devour tens of thousands of oysters while enjoying the gold medal winners of the International Wines for Oysters Competition and grooving to some awesome tunes.
The first Oyster Riot was held in October 1995 to promote Old Ebbitt Grill's newly relaunched oyster bar which served 15 to 20 different varieties of oysters matched with up to 10 different types of wine. The Riot proved wildly popular with tickets often selling out within minutes of being on-sale the Tuesday after Labor Day.
In 2010, Old Ebbitt Grill joined the Shell Recycling Alliance, a project of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit helping to restore oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay. To help the Alliance, a new element to the Oyster Riot was introduced, a Saturday afternoon event known as " the Matinee" is held with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
In 2019, the 25th Annual Oyster Riot was rescheduled to an outdoor party to be held near Nationals Park due to ongoing renovations at the Ebbitt. The party was later canceled due to a home game for the soon-to-be-named World Series Champions, Washington Nationals.
In 2020, the Oyster Riot was canceled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
In 2021, the Oyster Riot was canceled due to the surging Delta variant.
To say we can't wait to Riot again is an understatement! Stay tuned for details on 2022.
International Wines for Oysters Competition
Old Ebbitt Grill International Wines for Oysters Competition was inspired by the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, organized over twenty years ago by seafood consultant Jon Rowley in Seattle. Mr. Rowley compared his competition to “a dating service for wines and oysters.” As far as can be determined, these two competitions are the only ones in the world in which wines are judged with oysters. In 1995, Tom Meyer, Clyde’s President, sent David Moran, Area Director of Operations, out to Seattle to be a judge in Mr. Rowley’s competition and immerse himself in Seattle’s oyster culture. Upon his return, David told Tom he would like to replicate an East Coast version of the competition on a larger scale at the Ebbitt. Tom replied, “Why don’t we just throw a great party with oysters and wine, that’s what we’re good at.” Over a few dozen oysters and a few glasses of Chablis, the International Wines for Oysters Competition and the Oyster Riot® were born! We are eternally grateful to Michael Franz, wine writer, educator, consultant, and editor of Wine Review Online, and Paul Lukacs, award-winning author, educator, wine writer, and consultant, for their guidance and palates throughout the years to bring the Competition from its infancy to the celebration it is today.
Sadly, Jon Rowley passed away on October 4, 2017. An excerpt from his obituary (Leson, Nancy, The Seattle Times, 5 October 2017):
He made his own way to Europe and began a lifelong obsession with oysters after reading Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” The day before Mr. Rowley died, he was still reading and considering his favorite passage, the one that ends “as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
On October 14, 2019, a panel of judges convened in the Cabinet Room at Old Ebbitt Grill for the final round of the Old Ebbitt Grill International Wines for Oysters Competition. Their task was to select gold medal winners from among twenty finalists. The remaining wines earned silver medals, while the bronze medal winners were chosen during the semi-final round a week earlier.
An impressive 251 wines from all over the world were entered in this year’s Competition. Within the United States, 76 wines were submitted from three states (California, Oregon, Washington). Wineries from twelve other countries entered a total of 175 wines— Argentina, Australia, Austria, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, and Spain.
Sauvignon Blanc, Spy Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2018
Sauvignon Blanc, Glazebrook, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2019
Sauvignon Blanc, Esk Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2018
White Pinot Noir, Left Coast, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2018
Grüner Veltliner, "Singing," Laurenz V, Niederösterreich, Austria, 2018
Colombard, Mont Gravet, Côtes de Gascogne, France, 2018
Sauvignon Blanc, Puiatti, Friuli, Italy, 2018
Chardonnay Brut, Rotari, Trento, Italy, 2014
Our Distinguished Panel of Judges
Bill Butcher, Bart Farrell, Michael Franz, Amy Frederick, Mary Beth Gaiarin, Kelly Magyarics, Tom Meyer, David Moran, Sally Swift, Tom Yannucci