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Precious Wine

January 30, 2011

There is expensive wine and then there is precious wine. The two of them are very different things. Precious wine may be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. A precious wine is any wine that one deems too special to drink unless one is celebrating some momentous occasion.

There is a problem with that though.

Momentous occasions are few and far between. And let’s say you have a precious bottle of Champagne reserved for a special occasion. You may find that when this event rolls around your wine is neither chilled nor do you have any tasty accompaniments to really make it sing. So you decide to leave the cork in the bottle and let it sit for the next one.

In the meantime, that bottle is getting older and older. And that is not always a good thing. Too much good wine goes wasted, as it sits in people’s closets waiting for just the right occasion to open it. Does this sound familiar to you?

I’m no stranger to this phenomenon. Which is one of the reasons I love John & Dottie’s Open That Bottle Night. This year will be the twelfth annual, and it is celebrated on the last weekend in February. Anyway, I was just thinking about the most precious bottle of wine in the house, and what I’m planning to do with it on February 26th.

This year Mrs. Fussy and I will open one of two remaining bottles of wine from our wedding in June 2001.

It’s not one of the wines that we served at the wedding. The remainder of those were consumed many years ago. Rather, this is the end of a case of wine that we received as a wedding gift. It was a present from Raf, and the idea was that we would have a bottle a year every year of our marriage, so we could watch it deepen, develop and evolve. This was an incredible gift.

In our case there were ten bottles of the 1998 Domaine du Gros Nore Bandol and two bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We tried to stick to the plan and drink a bottle a year, but it didn’t quite work. Part of the problem had to do with timing. Intuitively it made sense to enjoy these wines on our anniversary, but the summer months, even in Northern California didn’t really make us thirsty for a big red wine.

It was also summer when we left Northern California over three years ago. And we realized that most of the wines in our collection would not make the long trip to upstate New York on a moving van. At that point we did what any reasonable wine lovers would do. We started drinking. Still, a handful of these wedding wines remained, and we arranged to have them sent overnight across the country to our new home in the capital of New York State once the weather got cooler.

Ideally, we will find a way to share the very last bottle with Raf who gave us this present in the first place. So I expect this will be the last bottle we will enjoy by ourselves.

Life has changed so dramatically since the time we were married and opened the first bottle of this wine. We had our first child. Mrs. Fussy got her Ph.D. I left my job to pursue her dream. We bought a house. We had our second child. I started writing about food and wine. Loved ones have passed away. Friends have married. Children have been born. New friends have been made. And the Bandol is still here.

For the twelfth OTBN, my wife and I will pull the cork of another bottle of this wine. It’s winter after all, and in the grips of an Albany winter, we thirst for something hearty and satisfying. I will attempt to make a daube Provençal, with two things in mind. One, Raf once made me a daube that was simply fantastic, and this too will make me think of him. Two, I enjoy pairing wines with traditional foods from the region of the wine.

There will be no grand party, no invited guests.

Instead it will be me, Mrs. Fussy and our two beautiful children. They may or may not like the daube. But I will give them a taste of the wine, and explain to them that it is older than both of them put together. We will have a glass with our meal, and then put the little ones to bed. Hopefully once the house is a bit more peaceful, we can sit on the sofa, and contemplate the depths of the wine in relative calm, thinking about how both it, and us, have deepened, developed, and evolved.

And if it is only a shadow of its former self, that’s okay, it’s just wine. We all get a bit tired with age, especially with kids. But no matter how tired my wife and I are, our bonds of love have never been stronger. Regardless, it will be a pleasure to drink this wine with my bride and remember how much younger and more innocent we were all of those years ago, surrounded by friends and loved ones, as we committed ourselves to one another for this crazy journey.

The last bottle from the case is going to be a bit trickier to drink, as it will require two families with young children, one in California and one in New York, to come together for a winter meal. Maybe next year, or the year after that. But I hope to make it happen.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2011 12:56 pm

    Precious indeed! What a great idea for a wedding gift. Raf sounds like a great and thoughtful friend. Will be sharing that tip with my followers.

  2. January 30, 2011 1:08 pm

    I love the idea of Open That Bottle Night!

  3. January 30, 2011 1:35 pm

    My husband and I used to drink wine with dinner at least once a week, sometimes more (i.e., we would open a bottle, have a glass each, then put it in the wine cooler and finish it off a couple days later), but life started messing with that in a number of different ways. We stopped making trips to the liquor store for additional wine while we worked through the surplus we had stocked up.

    Right now we have so many bottles of Long Island Merlot and Cab Franc, and Finger Lakes Riesling and Gerwurztraminer that we haven’t had much non-New York wine (unless we’re out somewhere, that is) in a long time. In fact, I used to LOVE Pinot Noir, but it had been so long since I had a quality one (many NY vineyards try to do this, and it’s really ill-advised), that upon trying a few sips of a friend’s at the Wine Bar on Lark a couple weeks ago, I found I did not like it NEARLY as much as I remembered. (It was from her favorite vineyard in her native Oregon, I may add, no slouch of a Pinot!)

    Anyway, I’ve been trying to drink and enjoy more wine, and suggesting we have it more often with dinner, and we’re FINALLY chipping away at our massive stash. February 26th we have plans to go to a party (where we will probably bring beer, though we could bring wine – either way, it’s a pre-set “special occasion), so maybe we’ll elect for a different “open that bottle night.” :)

  4. January 30, 2011 1:39 pm

    Oh, and BTW, since your wife has her PhD, doesn’t that make her DR. Fussy? Though that doesn’t work as well with “The Profusser,” I suppose. :)

    (It does, however, explain why she loves good food and wine as much as you do, but is willing to drink sub-par coffee. My husband, who also has his PhD, is one of very few academics I know that wrote a, as he calls it, “caffeine-free dissertation.”)

  5. January 30, 2011 1:50 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts you’ve written. It makes me want to start collecting wine so that I actually have something to drink on OTBN. Unfortunately, these days it’s a miracle if there’s one unopened bottle in addition to the one I’m currently sipping.

  6. January 30, 2011 5:36 pm

    Great post. Wonderful subject. Enjoy the evening.

  7. January 30, 2011 11:13 pm

    On deck for OTBN– 2006 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine

    I wouldn’t call this bottle precious, but given the retail cost and unique flavor character of the wine I cannot ever imagine the proper occasion to drink it. I received the bottle about 10 months ago in generous trade for covering a co-workers shift. Since then, I’ve contemplated opening the bottle on occasion, for no particular reason, but stop myself each time. Icewine from a top Canadian producer screams “special occasion” to me, so here the bottle still sits. I’m considering Valentine’s Day, but, if not, then OTBN will be a fitting end.

  8. January 31, 2011 7:17 am

    Thought you might be interested that we have been in contact with OTBN founders and with their blessing spreading the word again about OTBN on 26 Feb.

    Hope you’ll help us spread the word and get involved.

    http://www.openthatbottle.net/Open_That_Bottle_Night/News_files/OTBN%20press%20release%20.pdf

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