Sunday, February 28, 2021

Covid forces Virtual OTBN for 2021

Covid forces virtual OTBN for 2021

OTBN - Open That Bottle Night, 2021 - the annual wine tasting extravaganza was held according to custom, on the last Saturday night in February.

This is the 22nd year for the annual event wine extravaganza, originally conceived by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal. OTBN - Open That Bottle Night, is 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. Gaiter and Brecher 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 even better, with a group of special friends. Have everyone bring such a bottle and let the story telling begin, because so often, every OTBN bottle has a story or some meaning, or not.

Covid protection protocols dictated a whole new paradigm for social gatherings this year and as such, we met virtually via an internet network collaboration app with our fellow Pour Boys wine group. 

Linda and I traveled to Indiana to join Dr Dan and Linda, while Lyle and Terry in Chicago, and Bill and Beth on Seabrook Isle, SC, joined virtually via our tele-session. 
Pour Boys Wine Group OTBN 2021
Needless to say, the remote virtual gathering undermined the ability to share and taste a broad selection of wines.
Unlike previous years where the group brought a broad and deep selection of wines that allowed for multiple flights of different wine tastings - champagne or sparkling wine to start, a white flight with the pre-dinner starter course, a red or blend flight with the dinner course (s), and a dessert flight with the final course, tonight's selection was subdued and more singularly focused based on a limited selection appropriate for two couples. 
Each couple had their own wine and food pairing for the evening - Bill and Beth a Cliff Lede Stags Leap 2010, Lyle and Terry a Substance "CS" Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, Washington.

I brought a red and a white to Dr Dan's, and as usual, he pulled a broad selection of wines from his cellar for the evening - a white, several reds, and a dessert wine. 
Prior to dinner, Dan and Linda served a broad selection of artisan cheeses with fresh fruits, mixed nuts and broad selection of chocolates. 
Tonight's dinner was more subdued with comfort food fitting the deep freeze and deep snowpack we've been enduring the last month - a hearty tomato basil soup and a robust chicken pot pie.
Pairing with the cheese course and the pivot to the dinner, we each served an expressive white - Chardonnays from Sonoma County and Russian River Valley, which provided and fun and interesting comparison in contrasting styles.  

What a fun and interesting comparison in these two Chardonnays, the golden butter colored Freestone and the straw colored Rochioli. 

Both were bright, vibrant and expressive and the group was mixed on which was bigger or more fruit forward - each bold with sprites of bright fruits and accents.
Freestone Sonoma County Chardonnay 2008
Last year I took a inconic historic Joseph Phelps flagship Insignia Napa Bordeaux Blend Cabernet from the 1989 vintage, served alongside a 2004, at OTBN 2020 which was also held at Dr Dans. 
While Phelps produced Napa Valley and Carneros Chardonnays from 1974, they sought a site more suited to Chardonnay. They explored sites across Sonoma County finally settling in the town of Freestone on the Sonoma Coast, where, in the late 1990’s, few vineyards existed.
In 1999 they purchased land in Freestone when the area was primarily comprised of cattle, pasture and forest land. The area - just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean - was socked in by fog that lingered into the early afternoon on most summer days. The climate and Goldridge soils were thought to provide a terrior suitable for Burgundy varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
In 2000, the Pastorale Vineyard, a former dairy farm, was planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 2007, the Freestone Winery was built by the Hensel Phelps Construction Company, the company originally founded by Joseph Phelp's father and managed by Joe for decades until he sold the business in the mid-eighties to focus solely on winemaking. Joe Phelps stepped down as Chairman of Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 2005. 
Winemakers notes for this release: "Our 2008 Chardonnay reveals the purest expression of Freestone terroir that we have captured with this varietal to date. The first dip of the nose into the glass reveals aromas of orange blossom, lemongrass, savory herbs and white flowers. The subtle oak nuances lend an appealing sweetness to the delicate bouquet. Lean and focused, with richness and depth in the mouth, on the palate this wine has a lot of verve. It is dense yet also has great intensity with a complex mineral-like finish and mouthwatering acidity; a lovely balance between power and finesse."

Golden colored, medium bodied, complex, rich and dense with citrus, apples, pear and floral notes with a subdued notes of oak on the moderate finish. 

RM 91 points.

Rochioli Russian River Valley Estate Chardonnay 2016
Rochioli Vineyards & Winery sits just ten minutes south of Healdsburg, further inland up the Russian River Valley, where they produce estate sourced Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The Rochioli family legacy began in 1911 when current proprietor and winemaker Joe Rochioli's grandfather, Joe Rocchioli Sr. immigrated to America along with his parents, Michele and Menichina Rocchioli (they later dropped the second "c").  Originally from a small village just outside of Lucca, the Rocchioli’s were one of many Italian families that arrived in New York, made their way across the country, and settled in Northern California.

In those days children worked from a young age, and so Tom's grandfather, Joe, still only 10-years old, labored alongside his father on a farm called Wohler Ranch, in the Russian River Valley.

 In 1934 Tom's grandmother Neoma gave birth to a son, Joe Rochioli Jr.  Shortly after, they moved to a 125-acre property nearby called Fenton Acres, the site and same location where Rochioli Vineyards is today.  

In 1959, Tom's father, Joe Jr, and grandfather, Joe Sr, planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc grape vines.  The Cabernet did not grow well and was pulled out in the 1970's.  Sauvignon Blanc, at the time, was a strange new white grape that nobody wanted and was used mainly for blends.  It was soon discovered by a few famed wineries and became desirable as a high quality grape. Today, these same vines are still in production and are considered some of the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines in California.

The Rochioli's passion for fine wine and high quality grape growing began in 1968 when Joe Jr. began planting Pinot Noir. He had his own ideas as to what would grow best here and planted fine Pinot Noir clones from France. This was revolutionary as there was very little known about the grape in the US and he was considered a pioneer at the time for doing this. Rochioli had the foresight to know that the soil and microclimates of this unique spot in the Russian River Valley were very special and would one day produce some of the world's greatest wines. Shortly after growing Pinot Noir successfully, he  planted Chardonnay.

I have written often in these pages about another American Pinot Noir pioneer, Josh Jenson of Calera Winery,  and the chronicles of his endeavors to plant Pinot Noir that was featured in a book on the subject, the Heartbreak Grape

By the early 1970's, Rochioli were selling Pinot Noir grapes to Davis Bynum Winery and shortly thereafter they started producing wine under their own Fenton Acres label. In the early 1980’s they began selling to Williams Selyem Winery, and others.  

Tom Rochioli went to college and worked at a major financial institution for a year, then returned to the family farm with a new idea. Based on the quality of the grapes they were selling, they knew their grapes were very good and were making great wines, so they set upon producing their own wines under the Rochioli name.  In 1983, they changed the name of the property from Fenton Acres to Rochioli Vineyards.  At that time Tom took over the family business operations and soon after became the winemaker.

In 1987,  they release their first estate wine with the 1985 Rochioli Pinot Noir.  It topped Wine Spectator’s list of Pinot Noir and was named ‘The Best Pinot Noir in America’.  The Rochioli brand struck gold and was validated as a premier label. With three generations of dedication to the land, Rochioli Vineyards and Winery earned the reputation as one of Sonoma County's finest wineries.

This 2016 Rochioli Estate Chardonnay was awarded 94 points and 'Editors Choice' by Wine Enthusiast , 92 points by Vinous, 91 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 90 points by Jeb Dunnuck.

Straw colored, medium bodied, notes of stone fruit and lemon curd citrus, hints of peach, honeydew melon and finishes with a sense of bright pineapple and a hint of what I might call cotton candy.

RM 91 points.

Chateau Tanunda "The Chateau" 100 Year Old Vines Eden Valley Barossa Shiraz

In the true spirit of OTBN, Dan pulled from the cellar this classic very limited release and highly allocated 100 year old vine shiraz from Chateau Tanunda. 

We discovered this wine together with the other Pour Boys at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Chicago when it was being poured by Chateau Tanunda's Dagmar O'Neill

Only 100 cases were produced that year and only a few were allocated to be shipped to America, a portion of which to the Midwest. We orchestrated a purchase of the entire allocation, nine three packs in OWC's (shown below) which we split amongst the 'pour boys' wine team, pictured below. This was Dan's last bottle, and at this time, I am holding my last bottle as well.

The Barossa is home to some of the world’s oldest Shiraz vines and the grapes for this wine come from hundred year old vines from a high altitude, one acre single vineyard in the Eden Valley.

The 'pour boys' sighted at WS
Grand Tour

Full bodied, complex, concentrated, full lingering tannins predominate the dense, black and blue berry fruits with hints of licorice, plum, spice and spicy oak.

RM 93 points.


Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

Furthering the spirit of OTBN, I brought a bottle of 1995 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet. This particular label and release have some significance to Dan and me. I gifted him a magnum of this wine for his (second) wedding dinner. It was a fun label as the producer Jim Pride, like Dan was also a specialty dentist. Alas, as we started down the Shiraz path for the evening, and with but a limited number of reveler participants, the Pride was set aside to be held in Dan's cellar for another time. 

d'Arenberg "Dead Arm" Shiraz McLaren Vale South Australia 2010 

Dan also opened this Australian Shiraz, Dead Arm from d'Arenberg, another label with which we've had much fun over going on three decades. We first discovered this label with the 1994 vintage and have shared a dozen vintages together since. 

We've had great fun gifting or sharing this label with several folks, playing on the name 'Dead Arm', most notably perhaps, with a former major league baseball catcher who went on to be a noted manager. I sourced this for his personal cellar, to share with some of his battery mates, major league pitchers, in jest! 

As I have written in these pages, the label 'Dead Arm' is named for the vines that survived a grape vine disease that afflicted the vineyard back at the turn of the last century. Typically a grower would pull out and replace the afflicted vines with new plantings. D'Arenberg kept the vineyard intact and found that one half, or an ‘arm’ of the vines slowly died, but, leaving the surviving remaining half of the vine. The resulting vine produced rich intense fruit due to the vibrant roots delivering nutrients to but half the vine with the resulting low yielding fruit achieving amazing  amplified intensity.

d’Arenberg is one of the most significant wineries in McLaren Vale South Australia. It dates back to 1912 when Joseph Osborn, a teetotaller and director of Thomas Hardy and Sons, purchased 25 hectares (54 acres) of well established Milton Vineyards in the hills just north of the townships of Gloucester and Bellevue, (now known as McLaren Vale). Joseph’s son Frank Osborn left medical school, trading in scalpel for pruning shears to manage the property. He increased the vineyards to 78 hectares. Fruit was initially sold to local wineries until the construction of a winery and cellars was completed in 1928.

In 1943 Frank’s son Francis d’Arenberg Osborn, universally known as “d’Arry”, returned from school at age 16 to help his ill father run the business. He took over management responsibility in 1957. In 1959 d’Arry launched the d’Arenberg label, named in honour of his mother, Frances Helena d’Arenberg.

d'Arenberg wines gained cult status when the 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon won the 1969 Royal Melbourne Wine Show and the 1967 Red Burgundy (Grenache based) was awarded 7 trophies and 29 gold medals in Australian capital city wine shows.

By the 1970’s d’Arenberg wines had gained a significant national and international profile. The fourth generation, d’Arry’s son Chester d’Arenberg Osborn continued his family’s winemaking tradition. having grown up helping his father in both the vineyards and the cellar.

d'Arenberg was named Winery of the Year in 2003. In June 2004 Chester’s father, d’Arry was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his contributions to the wine industry and to the McLaren Vale region. After more than 65 consecutive vintages, d’Arry continues to create an internationally recognized wine brand commonly known as the ‘Red Stripe’ due to the distinctive diagonal red stripe that adorns the label.

d'Arenberg "Dead Arm" Shiraz McLaren Vale South Australia 2010

This is one of our favorite big full throttle but elegant Australian Shiraz'. This vintage release was awarded 96 points by James Halliday, 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and by Vinous, and 90 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Deep garnet-purple colored, medium to full-bodied with bright vibrant black berry and black currant fruits with spices, smoky minerals, licorice, cola, bittersweet mocha and hints of pepper turning to firm powdery tannins, refreshing acid and a long finish. 

RM 92 points.



Violetta, Late Harvest, Napa Valley Dessert Wine 2003

To close out the evening, Dan pulled from the cellar this Violette dessert wine from Grgich Hills, named for the legendary winemaker producer Mike Grigich's daughter Violet who is also President of Grigh Hills winery and vineyards.

Of course, wine folks know Miljenko “Mike” Grgich who first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976, the now-historic blind tasting in which a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich,  as the finest white wine in the world. The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world, and not incidentally, put America wines on the map with their newly validated respectability.

The whole story is told manificently in the class based on history fictional movie "Bottle Shock". 

This is the Grgich classic late harvest dessert wine, produced from the result of Botrytis cinerea, a beneficial mold that evaporates moisture while concentrating the flavor in the berry but yielding very little juice from which to yield from the grapes. The thick, rich juice is aged in French oak to develop subtle flavors and textures. 

Winemakers notes: Luscious, ripe fruit aromas of sweet pear, candied pineapple and ripe honeydew melon follow through on the palate with undertones of white flowers melded with balsamic notes and a hint of petrol. Accentuated by uplifting acidity, these dense, ripe fruit flavors beautifully balance the residual sugar. The finish is creamy and complex with a refreshing, lingering minerality. 

Whisky colored, medium bodied, sweet, dense ripe fruits, apricot accented with an exotic layer smoke and fig and what I can only describe as an essence of cognac. 

This is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Riesling. 

RM 92 points.

This can almost be a whole meal course in of itself, it was ideal served with decadent chocolate bunt cake to celebrate Linda's belated birthday! 


Here's a compendium of our previous Pour Boy's OTBN galas. 

Pour Boys' OTBN 2020 ~ Open That Bottle Night

Pour Boys OTBN 2019 - Open That Bottle Night

Pour Boys OTBN 2018 - Open That Bottle Night

Pour Boys OTBN 2016 - Open That Bottle Night 

Pour Boys OTBN 2015 - Open That Bottle NightBordeaux Anchors OTBN 2015

Pour Boys OTBN - Open That Bottle Night 2014

Pour Boys OTBN 2013 - Open That Bottle Night 2013

Pour Boys OTBN 2012 - Open That Bottle Night



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