The Bottle That Got Opened
Can I tell you how much I love the Internet?
We all have heroes. I recall one New York Giants summer training camp at SUNY Albany. For some reason I was walking across campus and the football players had just crossed from the field to the locker room. The door closed behind them. In their wake were a handful of star struck fans.
One father was pointing to the sidewalk in front of the locker room doors explaining in solemn tones to his young son that Eli Manning stepped “right here.” Apparently to him it was hallowed ground.
Me, I couldn’t pick Eli Manning out of a lineup, and even the names on the backs of the jerseys wouldn’t help me know which player was a big deal. But Jeffrey Steingarten or Chris Kimball I’d know in a heartbeat.
I was thrilled to learn that Dorothy Gaiter had read my blog once. But now she’s not only reading, but providing my readers with personal wine recommendations? I’m bursting out of my skin. So, how could I not take the final step of Open That Bottle Night XIV, the holiday that she created.
You’ll never guess what bottle I opened.
It was not the one that I had originally suggested. The Pauliac Mrs. Fussy has been sitting on for years. Apparently I was misinformed. The work milestone has not actually occurred, but the balls have been set in motion and she doesn’t want to jinx it. That’s fair. The wine has waited this long. It can wait a little longer.
Speaking of waiting, there are three identical half bottles that have been sitting in a relatively cool and dark place for a number of years. And I have every reason to believe these are the three last bottles of their kind in existence.
They aren’t a traditional still wine, but rather a fortified one. Any guesses?
It’s the last of the old formula Noilly Prat dry vermouth. And while they may not have been expensive, they are among my most prized possessions. But opening a bottle, even a half bottle, of dry vermouth has its problems.
On one hand, I would be tempted to extend its life by doling it out spoonful by spoonful to enliven gin and make a true martini the way God intended. But vermouth doesn’t last long once opened, and there are only so many martinis I can drink these days. You may have heard, I’m getting old.
Drinking the original Noilly Prat dry on the rocks was something I did long ago when the vermouth was plentiful, but it seems like a dastardly thing to do when the supply is down to the last few bottles in existence. Really, I should invite people over for a martini party. But then I might have to vacuum.
No, Open That Bottle Night was the perfect excuse to pull out one of those bottles, crack its seal, mix up a batch of martinis and drink the rest with a simple roast chicken and haricots verts seared in the cast iron skillet. I’ll admit that I was also emboldened after hearing the rumor that Noilly is considering re-releasing this old formula as their extra-dry vermouth in the U.S.
The question remained, would this vermouth hold up to time?
I waved the opened bottle under my nose and it had the old familiar smell of the Noilly I once knew. But when I poured some into a glass, it wasn’t the same light, almost clear color. No, it was a much deeper shade of gold. And the flavor had changed too. Instead of being dry, nimble and fleeting, it now played more like a Lillet Blanc.
Still, it was a lovely experience reminiscing with Mrs. Fussy about time gone by. And the taste of the Lillet brought me back to Berkeley where I had that aperitif for the first time in a mediterranean sidewalk cafe.
Plus it’s a valuable lesson that I keep on being taught, but never fully learn. Don’t put off the pleasures of today, because you never know when they are going to take away your grape Nehi.
Thanks to John and Dottie for continuing this tradition they started. I’m looking forward to next year. Maybe by then we’ll have finally decided to grab the bull by its horns, drink our wine to the lees, and we won’t have any bottles that are too precious to drink.
Then we’ll have to go out to the store and buy a special bottle just for the occasion.