As I mentioned a couple of days ago, this past Saturday was Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). OTBN was started back in the 1990’s by the then wine writers for The Wall Street Journal, Dottie Gaiter and John Brecher. Their ingenious idea: Most wine lovers have (at least) one bottle of wine that they have been saving for an as yet undetermined “special occasion.” Inevitably, this bottle remains unopened year after year since we can not determine whether a given occasion is “special enough” to warrant the sacrificing of the prized bottle. Gaiter and Brecher proposed that once a year on the last Saturday in February, we create, in essence, a “special” occasion and Open That Bottle.
I started thinking about what to have for OTBN at least a few weeks ago, knowing that I would change my mind at least 37 times before actually pulling a cork. A few days before, my uncle sent me a photo of me from the summer that I spent with his family after I graduated from high school. The photo (which I posted HERE) got me thinking a bit about the ’80’s and what a miserable time I had in high school. For some stupid reason, I started reminiscing about the decade and decided that it was not all that bad and I thought I would yank out a bottle from the decade as the centerpiece of OTBN. I was leaning toward the 1985 Château Beychevelle from Bordeaux since I had a couple of backups from California if that one did not turn out so well.
Or so I thought.
Waking up on the morning of OTBN is not quite like Christmas morning, nor is it quite like going out on a first date with someone you have been pursuing for some time. In fact it is not like either of those, but there is a certain level of excitement and anticipation. There was another reason for that sense of excitement: my son’s basketball team (that I coach) had made it to the semi-finals and the game was that afternoon. I had spent a considerable amount of time the previous week trying to devise a plan to stop the best player in the league, who was on the other team.
My son was oblivious. I had to tell him that we had a game that day.
I decided to start the day watching the U.S. men’s hockey team obliterate Finland in the bronze medal game. Sure, it was not a game for the gold, but they were so close to beating those damned Canadians, I thought I would tune in and watch the game.
Finland 5 U.S.A. 0
Since I wasted so much time watching the US team fall on its collective face, I forgot to go to the Whole Foods to get the provisions for the night’s meal. When my wife returned from taking the boys to their swimming lesson that morning, she was less than pleased to see my rather large keister planted on the couch, watching the Olympics.
Since we now had to run off to the basketball game, my wife, being the saint that she is, told me she would take care of the shopping. Walking to the game, my son and I talked a bit of strategy (well, I talked strategy and since he appeared to be awake, I assumed he was in agreement).
The game was a disaster–we got crushed. I also realized that during the game I had become that parent. You know the one–the guy who yells at his kid to play defense and pass the ball and basically become LeBron James or he was going to be locked in the basement and not get any dinner for the next three weeks.
Oops #3 through at least Oops #8.
We walked home and found that my wife did go to the store, but decided to go off script and get chicken. What was I going to say? “Wait, you went to the store since I was far too lazy and got the wrong food? What’s the matter with you?!?”
Yeah, that was not going to work.
Oops # (I lost count.).
So now I was in scramble mode for OTBN. I thought I might grab the 1988 Krug or the 1985 Dom to keep the ’80s theme going, but I was worried that older champagne is not universally appreciated and did not want another “Oops” on my hands. I also knew that one of our guests was trying to “break out of her Chardonnay rut” so I dove into the cellar and came up with the following:
1997 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Grand Siècle Cuvée Alexandra: Retail $110? We planned to start dinner at 6:00 (early, yes, but we have kids and it would also give us more time in the “drinking zone”). By 6:20 no one had arrived, so I popped the bubbly. I told my wife it was “to make sure that it was still good” but the truth was…. Well, we all know the truth. I figured I had waited the better part of a half an hour and instead of a medal, I would take a glass of Champers. My tasting note: This was a fantastic bottle of wine that we opened on OTBN. Great sparkle, good flavors, but frankly, I was hoping for more. It was Outstanding, but it was a bit lacking depth of flavor and personality that a premier champagne should have. 90-92 Points.
2003 Marcel Deiss Grasberg: Retail $30. A few years ago, I bought a bunch of Deiss wines, but they were just sitting there in the cellar. This had been sitting up for a while since I had almost popped it several times now. I figured I would throw this at our guest who was trying to get out of her Chard-only mentality. My note: Just a hint of sweetness, and I would say ample acidity (but by no means bracing). Pinot Gris dominates on the palate, but there is certainly some petrol on the nose as well. I do not have a ton of experience with Deiss, but this wine certainly worked for me. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
Our guests also brought some fantastic wines, but I am always reluctant to rate wines that other people bring since, well, I would feel like a complete jerk: “Thanks for bringing the wine, here, let me tell you if it is total crap or not since, well, I know everything.”
Their wines were all fabulous and beyond, though:
2005 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard
2005 Dominio Pingus Ribera del Duero Flor de Pingus
2005 d’Arenberg Shiraz The Dead Arm
2006 Dolce Winery Late Harvest
Do you ever evaluate/rate wines that others bring to dinner?
There you finally wrote the Oops post you should have submitted way back when in the MWWC…:) Great piece, once again!
I do write about wines other people bring to our tastings, because there’s always something I can say about them. If the general opinion around the table was disfavorable, I write that. If it was just me freaking out, I usually point that out. All my friends know how subjective I think wine tasting is, so I have yet to get a complaint….although, maybe they’re just intimidated.
At least now I understand why you never discussed the wines I brought when we last visited….in all fairness, I thought the Scharzhofberger was pretty weak, and that Pinot I brought was weird…ah well. Thanks for not shaming me in public. 🙂
I would only ever shame you in person….
And that you do very well…
As for rating wine that guests bring to dinner, some of my guests expect me to evaluate/rate their wines and feel slighted when I don’t. Generally, if the guests are wine lovers that check out my blog, I review, if not I just tell them how good it is and refill my glass with the good stuff. 🙂
I guess I should start adopting that stance, Cliff! Seems rather sound….
Great post, Jeff! I can attest to many of the oops moments you described, including being “That Parent” at my son’s soccer games…
Great line of wines, well worthy of #OTBN. I didn’t even know Pingus has second label, which seems to be affordable. Will have to look for it! By the way, you have some really good friends, considering they brought the Marcassin : ) I would be really curious to see your full review of that wine – no need to assign any points.
Regarding rating of the wines which being brought into the house – it depends on who brings it. With my friends who are into wine, they would be okay with the review (and it will not be bashing in any case) – and if someone will bring a bottle of Yellow Tail (like my mother in law), I wouldn’t rate it anyway…
BTW, as promised, will re-blog your post : )
Another sound “policy” and thanks for the re-blog!
Reblogged this on Talk-A-Vino and commented:
Last Saturday, February 22nd, was the Open That Bottle Night – the movement started by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, the wirters of the Wall Street Journal Tastings column. I this is a great way to help oenophiles to open that special bottle in their cellars without really waiting for the moment which might never come. To support the OTBN idea, I’m going to reblog all of the OTBN posts which I will see from my fellow bloggers. Below is the one written by Jeff, better known as The Drunken Cyclist. Enjoy!
A great selection of wines, both yours and your guests. I never hesitate to rate other’s wines. They know I am going to offer them the best and they make an effort to show up with decent stuff, or a bottle of scotch instead. Salut…
It is far easier for me to honestly rate a sample sent to me than to rate a wine that a guest/friend brought over. Have to get beyond that!