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Open That Bottle Night XI

February 21, 2010

You may be asking yourself, where did February go?  The last weekend of the month is almost upon us.  Which means next Saturday, February 27 to be exact, is Open That Bottle Night.

It doesn’t feel quite the same without John & Dottie ringing in the festivities with their Tastings column in the Wall Street Journal.  But to honor their legacy, I – along with countless thousands – will continue the tradition they started almost eleven years ago.

For those who do not know, Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) is a holiday that was specifically created for people to enjoy that very special bottle of wine that they have been waiting for a special occasion to open.

The problem is, and perhaps you can identify with this, that no occasion ever really feels special enough to open that tucked-away bottle.  Perhaps it is a very expensive wine that you were hoping to drink at its perfect peak, maybe that peak has passed, maybe it’s not expensive at all but is full of sentimental memories that you fear will vanish with the liquid in the bottle.

Regardless, the time to drink it is now. Well, by now I mean next Saturday.

Here is the ten step program to help you enjoy OTBN, whether this is your first time participating or your eleventh.

1. Choose the wine.
The Fussys have selected the 2001 Lazy Creek Vineyards unfiltered Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer from their collection.  Two years ago the winery was purchased and a new winemaker brought was hired.  This bottle is the last we have from the Lazy Creek we knew. They made outstanding Pinot Noir, un-oaked Chardonnay and dry Gewurztraminer.  Visiting the winery was a bit of a tricky affair.  “If the gate is open, come on in” was (and still is) the policy.  And as you drove past the gate, down a country road, you saw a farmhouse, a pig, some chickens and a dog.  If you asked nicely, they would let you feed the pig.  Her name was Sophie.

2. Get the bottle on its feet.
If it’s an older wine, there can be some sediment in the bottle.  You want that sediment to be on the bottom, so it won’t muddy up your wine.

3.  Cool it down.
Put the wine in the refrigerator for two hours before uncorking.  That should produce a temperature of about 55 degrees.  If you prefer your red wine a bit warmer, 45 minutes in the refrigerator should bring it to “cellar temperature.”

4. Cork calamity.
Old corks can be crumbly corks, and may just disintegrate at the sight of a traditional corkscrew.  You could practice with a two-pronged opener in preparation for the big day, or you could prepare yourself for the worst and have a carafe and a coffee filter handy.  These tools will allow you to pour the wine, cork bits and all, without drinking mouthfuls of woody pieces.

5. Otherwise DO NOT DECANT.
Here is what John & Dottie said on the subject, verbatim, “Do not decant — at least at first. Many OTBN wines are old and fragile. Air could quickly dispel what’s left of them. But if you are opening a younger wine, taste it first; if it seems tight, and especially if you don’t plan to linger over it for a few hours, go ahead and decant.”  Claro?

6. Welcome to your wine.
Hopefully you will enjoy your wine for what it is, and not bother yourself with what it might have been or what it could have become.  If you do not enjoy your wine at first, give it time.  There have been stories of some older bottles that have improved as the night wore on, but on the flip side also tales of wines that started marvelously only to come crashing into banality.

7. Remember what made this special.
You were holding onto this bottle for a reason.  Share the memories with your friends and loved ones.  This is what the holiday is about: remembering the things that make a wine special, because those things rarely have anything to do with what is inside the bottle.

8.  Have a contingency plan.
If you’ve run out of patience, and the special meal you made is getting cold, it may be time to open a slightly less special bottle of wine that might actually taste good with the food.  Still, I beg of you, do not dump the old wine.  It may get better as you are putting away the last of the dishes from the evening.

9. Tell people about it.
John & Dottie used to encourage people to write them a note about their OTBN experiences.  But seeing that they are no longer at their old email address I suggest one of two things.  Either leave a comment here about the experience or post a comment to John & Dottie’s facebook page (which has remained conspicuously silent for far too long).

10. Start thinking about OTBN XII
Because now, you are an expert.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tonia permalink
    February 21, 2010 1:54 pm

    This is great! But, I don’t have any bottles which I’ve saved. Every day for me is OTBN…. they’re all special. :-)

  2. Lindy permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:06 am

    Our first OTBN was in 2002 and we had to be out of town on business. We chose a restaurant with an exceptional list of Italian wines because we had decided to order a Barolo. J&D had written of the region and the wines and we were intriged and couldn’t wait for the end of the day! As the day progressed we had 3 associates that wanted to partake after we had explained our plan. Bonus! As it turned out, we enjoyed 3 different Barolo’s and shared great stories with people we barely knew. Fast forward to this year. We have been saving a 2000 Barolo for that special “time” and this year seemed perfect to toast John and Dottie and the wonderful path they started us on.

    We traveled to meet special friends at their home for the weekend. Our favorite Michigan winemaker is Larry Mawby and his sparkling wines are incredible. A bottle of Talisman with our seafood bruschetta was a great starter. Tom and Jen had a bottle of Laughing Magpie a blend of Shiraz and Viognier, we had our Barolo. We opened both and gave them a test tasting and declared them “GOOD”. Tom put the final touches on the Chicken Ragu, I put the simple fresh salad together and we began to eat, drink, talk and talk, and the wines grew lovelier and lovelier.

    We shared our stories about wines we have remembered, and discussed where we all wanted to go on our next wine journey/travels, it was a perfect night. The evening started with a toast to John and Dottie and good wishes for their future. We ended with a decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding that Tom created with cinammon bread…over the top with a lovely light dessert wine (sorry forgot the note with the name) that had a hint of cherry or strawberry depending on who you asked.

    OTBN is a New Years Eve of sorts for us, we wish you all a great year of wine, friends and memories.

    To your health. Lindy & Chris

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