Saturday, February 26, 2011

OTBN - Winners and Losers - Everybody Win(e)s

Its that time again... OTBN - Open That Bottle Night, conceived for those that have a special bottle of wine or champagne hidden away being saved for a special occasion that for whatever reason hasn't happened.  Every year since 2000, on the last Saturday night in February, Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) has been celebrated - the time to uncork and enjoy that cherished but here-to-for elusive bottle. OTBN was conceived by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, wine columnists for the Wall St. Journal ( They realized they weren't alone - having that special bottle set aside for an occasion that just never happens. On this night, you don't need an excuse or a reason - just do it! Take advantage of OTBN to open that bottle and enjoy it! Enjoy it by yourself, or better yet, enjoy it with someone special, or with a group. Have everyone bring such a bottle and let the story telling begin, because amazingly, every OTBN bottle has a story or some meaning. Let the fun begin. 

So I spent the morning digging around in the cellar and found many candidates. So I decided to set aside those anniversary year bottles - those of the birth-years of the kids, and other special anniversary years. Those bottles have a reason for opening and their circumstances are set.Tonight is for that bottle lacking a reason - but for its own reason its special in some way. 

Here is a selection of bottles I found that were candidates - according to the criteria that they are getting old, need to be consumed and since I've been holding them for so long, they must be worthwhile and be for waiting for a reason. Why else would there be twenty, thirty-five (41 actually) year old bottles languishing down in the cellar!?! Several Bordeaux - two from 1982 - okay set those aside - birth year of #1 son, a 1975, and a 1970 - okay high school graduation year.. tonight?

Okay, so here is my runner-up for OTBN 2011 - a 1978 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon - it certainly must be time to drink this, ya? Fill level looks good, there is hope... 

Here is my selection for OTBN 2011 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1978 .

More to follow as the saga/evening unfolds and the OTBN selection (s) is unveiled - er uncorked !

 Final Flight - OTBN Selection -  Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1978, Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1978, Cliff Lede Howell Mtn Chardonnay 2004, Freemark Abbey Edelwein Johannisberg Riesling Late Harvest Gold 1999 Domaine Bruco Clair Cazetiers Premiere Cru Gevrey Chambertin Borgnogne 1993 and Freemark Abbey Bosche Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1986 (brought by Bill), Redheads Studio Return of the Living Red Cabernet Touriga NV (brought by Dan), and Clarendon Hills Baker's Gully Vineyard Clarendon Syrah 2003.

The wines accompanied a dinner of beef tenderloin, medallions of lobster, twice baked potato, and salad, followed by fresh fruits and chocolate fondue. Starters included artisan cheeses - Fair Oaks Farm five year old aged sharp cheddar,  blueberry infused goat cheese, and a selection of olives. Attendees were Rick & Linda, Bill & Beth, Dr Dan & Linda, and Lyle and Terry.

Most Interesting Bottle - Redheads Studio - Return of the Living Red N.V. - RM 91 points
Interesting blend of NV (non-vintage) Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga, a 'lost' varietal - hence the name. Dark garnet color, full bodied, thick chewy, almost shiraz like coating the tongue - forward black and blue fruits, ripe black raspberry turns to a tone of spice, hint of cedar and kirsch on a full, moderate soft chewy tannin finish. Brought by Dr Dan. The bottle was a gift from his brother. 

Clarendon Hills Baker's Gully Vineyard Clarendon Syrah 2003 - RM 91 points: Dark garnet inky color. Full bodied, thick chewy, almost coating the tongue - forward black and blue fruits, ripe black raspberry turns to a tone of spice, hint of cedar and kirsch with a slight metallic/mineral undertone - ends with a full, moderate soft chewy tannin finish.

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1978  - RM 88 Points - Medium bodied - slight opaciity - garnet color - subdued black cherry fruit was overtaken by leather and a subtle tone of cigar box tobacco turning to anise on the moderate finish. Surprisingly moderate in density, color, fruit and finish. I remember buying this bottle on release (for $11.99) I have one more bottle left - the fill level was good and the cork fine although starting to be a bit soft. Still life left but I don't see long longevity in this wine

Jordan Vineyard & Winery Estate Bottled Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1978 - RM 88 Points.Opened two hours and it wasn't ready to drink although was approachable - it needed four or five hours to open and truly reveal itself ... fill level was good - low neck - cork was firm and tight - moderate garnet and slightly brownish color with slight opacity - medium bodied. After the funk wore off the subdued fruit of black berry and black cherry started to show - offset by leather, tobacco, hints of anise and tar on a modest finish. Nearing if not at end of life but not yet deteriorated. Still bears the original price tag of $19.95 although I don't remember purchasing this bottle. A perfect selection fitting the occasion OTBN. Given its age I was surprised it held up as well as it did. Another testament to the provenance and suitability of our cellar to age wines for decades. Lyle picked this as his favorite!

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Bosché Vineyard 1986 - RM 90 points. Dark purple color - medium - full bodied. Surprising vibrancy, breadth and depth to this 25 year old! Full forward fruit of black raspberry, black berry, and black cherry with a subtle tart tone, hints of leather and anise with moderate well integrated tannins on a lingering finish. Perhaps the surprise of the OTBN evening.  

Domaine Bruco Clair Cazetiers Premiere Cru Gevrey Chambertin Borgnogne 1993

Freemark Abbey Edelwein Johannisberg Riesling Late Harvest Gold 1999 - RM 90 - Weak tea colored, medium-full bodied honey citrus flavors - slightly more subdued than last tasting two years ago, with a slight smokey finish.

Wine and Dine Virginia - Corkage Fee Bill Passed - Hooray

In a time when it seems government is becoming more and more obtrusive its refreshing to read that the Virginia State legislature just passed a corkage fee bill to allow BYOB in restaurants. Hooray for Virginia and its legislators - presuming the governor has the good sense to sign it! Isn't it fitting or at least ironic that I read this on OTBN day as I troll the cellar looking for a special bottle for this evening.

A Corkage Fee is charged by a restaurant for serving a customer's BYOB (bring your own bottle) wine. A corkage fee will reflect the restaurant's policy and willingness to accommodate such practices. Naturally restaurants rely on beverage revenues to support their business so it is reasonable and customary to charge for the handling of BYOB wines. My strong and emotionally charged opinion is that proper protocol dictates that restaurants should honor and accommodate collectors who bring special bottles from their cellars - aged, hard to find, or notable wines, or vertical or horizontal selections for special dinners. It is reasonable for them to discourage BYOB customers who simply reduce their cost of dinner by buying 'retail' and offsetting the restaurant margins on the wine. Reasonable corkage fees should range from $10 to $25 for a moderate to upscale restaurant. Reasonable margins on wine would render this practice unnecessary except where the wine-list does not offer sufficient breadth or depth or selections for one's preference or taste. Naturally we frequent restaurants proportionately to their reasonableness and liberalness of their corkage policy. Many restaurants allow BYOB with a very modest or no fee. This should be taken into account and factored into the tip and or patronage loyalty. Read my Wine Journal on and see how we seek out and support restaurants that offer BYOB with liberal (fair) corkage fees. Usually restaurants are reasonable in these matters. Those that are not should be avoided as there are many alternatives in the marketplace. 

Of course with the privilege of bringing your own wine comes obligations of proper BYOB corkage fee etiquette. See