Maine's 19 mile long Damariscotta River is a drown river valley and a tidal river and accounts for 80% of Maine's farmed oysters. In the language of the native, Abenaki people, Damariscotta means "river of many fishes." Middens (heaps of discarded oyster shells) dating back over 2,200 years and over 30 feet deep spotted along the river's banks testify to the river's abundance. The Damariscotta is more properly an estuary where freshwater and salt water ecosystems mix than a river. Tides up to 11 feet high and carrying up to 30 billion gallons of water surge through the estuary each tidal cycle. Extensive areas of the estuary's upper reaches become unnavigable during low tides. The Damariscotta River Association works with local communities to preserve water quality and has established Conservation Lands dotted throughout the river's watershed. The watershed also holds a large number of beautiful public trust lands packed with miles of hiking trails.
Oysterater lists 10 oysters from the Damariscotta river: Glidden Point, Permaquid Point, Dodge Cove, Pemaquid, Noreumbega, Damariscotta, Ebenecook, Wiley Point, Whaleback Cocktails, and Wawenauk. The oysters are all Atlantic oysters (Crassostrea virginica). These range from traditional bottom-planted oysters noted for slow growth, strong shells and rich flavors to newer suspended methods that grow faster, produce a thinner shell and have a lighter flavor.
Oysters named Damariscotta come from small-time harvesters and may be wild oysters. These look wild. The shell are tough. The shapes and sizes vary and they have a rough look. One has a hunk of mussel shell embedded in it. The caps look rugged, dark green seaweedy algae covered with traces of barnacles and irregular shapes and sizes. The cups range from shallow to deep. The meat is cream to light tan with with light gray-green to nearly black colored gills.
The aroma has a trace of fish, tidal pool and seaweed with hints of bacon, cheese and sweat. The liquor is medium salty, brothy with some meat flavors. The meat is firm, briny, buttery, and rich. It has a nice, plum full texture. Biting down releases a nice sweet flavor and traces of roast pork, washed rind cheese and mushroom. There is plenty of umami throughout. A medium mineral note in the middle emerges medium plus in the finish and becomes a touch astringent. There is a little gristle on the end but the rich flavors more than make up for it.
I am drinking a Nectar Creek Cluster - a cranberry and strawberry session mead (5.1% alcohol by volume). It is light and refreshing and its carbonation cleanses the palate making it ready for another oyster. The mead's cranberry and strawberry notes highlight the oysters' pork and cheese notes. A more robust mead with more flavor and alcohol or a malty beer such as a Dunkel weizen, a bock or an English brown ale might engage the oyster more. I knock the oyster a little on its texture but it still rates at least 85 based on flavor.