Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year, Open That Bottle Night! It is a holiday invented especially for wine lovers.
In honor of OTBN, here is a Flashback Friday column excerpt that returns to a rather fantastic celebration in 2010. Enjoy! (And use the comments section to let everyone know what bottle you uncorked this year!)
Although the wines are the official reason for these gatherings, the people and their stories are what it is really all about.
This year Sue and I will be getting together with Bonnie & Richard, Ron & Mary and Michael & Lauri at Ken & Rosemary’s house in Seattle. Everyone’s bringing wine and a story about the wine and Rosemary is making another of her spectacular meals. I’ll report the specifics in a note at the bottom of this post.
The premise of OTBN is that wine is different — or maybe that we are different when it comes to wine. Americans are famously interested in instant gratification — we want what we want when we want it. That’s one reason the U.S. saving rate is sometimes a negative number. Can’t wait — gotta have it now. That’s our typical consumption profile.
Isn’t it interesting, then, that we sometimes behave in exactly the opposite way when it comes to wine. Yes, I know that 70% of wine is consumed within a few hours of its purchase. That is unexceptional.
No, what I’m talking about is our counter-stereotype tendency to tuck special bottles away and save them for … for what? For the right occasion, I suppose. For the moment when they will mean more than they do just now. Sometimes it is about proper aging of the wine, but usually there is an intangible component that transcends the bottle’s contents. For whatever reason, it seems we need to be reminded once a year to get these wines out and enjoy them!
Frequently (in my case, at least) we hold them too long so that when the cork is finally pulled the wine within is a shadow of its former self.
The interesting thing is that it usually doesn’t matter that the wine has faded away. Turns out it was the story that mattered most. Liquid memory!
John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter invented OTBN in 2000 as a way to celebrate wine by releasing its pent up stories. Dottie and John wrote the weekly wine column for the Wall Street Journal until quite recently and each year they invited readers to send them accounts of their experiences, some of which appeared in post-OTBN columns.
It was quite an experience reading what other people were inspired to say by the wines they opened that night. Kind of a peek into their souls. I think that was the point, however. As Dottie and John wrote in their final column on January 26, 2010.
Wine isn’t a spectator sport. It’s utterly intimate. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should like, including us. Try wines broadly—there have never been so many good ones, at all prices, on shelves—and keep raising your personal bar for what is truly memorable, so that you are always looking for the next wine that will touch your soul and make you feel you’ve gone someplace you’ve never been before. It’s not about delicious wines. It’s about delicious experiences. May your life be filled with them.
Post OTBN: Here’s What We Opened
We had a delicious experience on Open That Bottle Night 2010: great wine, spectacular food and fascinating stories. By the numbers: five and a half hours, ten people, thirteen wines, 75 wine glasses. Here are the food and wine menus — you will have to imagine the stories. Special thanks to Rosemary and Ken for hosting. And thanks to Dottie and John for inventing OTBN.
Wine Menu (listed by vintage year, not the order tasted)
Solter Rheingau Riesling Brut Sekt 2006
Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 2004
Callaghan Vineyards Sonoita (Arizona) Padres 2003
Shanxi Grace Vineyards (China) Tasya’s Reserve Cabernet Franc 2003
Racines Les Cailloux du Paradis (Loire) 2003
Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 1998
BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (magnum) 1997
Champagne Charles Ellner Brut 1996
Chateau d’Yquem 1996
Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1990
Chateau Figeac St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru 1967
Chateau Cheval Blanc 1961
Taylor Vintage Port 1960
The Food Menu
Rosemary Flatbread with Artichoke and Green Olive Spread
Wild American Shrimp and Fennel Salad
Roasted Tenderloin of “Wild Idea” Buffalo
Polenta with Cremini and Porcini Mushrooms and Mascarpone
Green Beans with Sautéed Shallots
Cranberries and Cherries in Madeira sauce
“The Cheese Cellar” Cheeses
Gorgonzola Hand Picked by Luigi Guffanti
Piave High Mountain Cow Cheese
Sottocenere with Truffles, Clove and Cinnamon Rub with Ash Rind
Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote
Soft Amoretti Cookies Sandwiched with Chocolate Ganache or Raspberry Jam