Saturday, February 25, 2023

OTBN - Open That Bottle Night - 2023

 OTBN - Open That Bottle Night - 2023

The last Saturday in February brings the annual OTBN wine event – Open That Bottle Night – the 24th such event since its creation in 2000 by Dorothy Gaither and John Brecher wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal.

And, for the twelfth straight year, since 2011, members of our Pour Boys (TM) wine group assembled to share and compare special bottles of wine, that have been held in our cellars, waiting for the special occasion to open, so as to eventually succumb to the inevitable, its time, open that bottle (to)night!

As is becoming our custom, we’re starting to follow the seasons, and congregate in the south during the winter, and the north during the other seasons. As such, we gathered again at Bill and Beth C’s in Charleston, SC for this years' gala.

This year’s event was hosted by Bill and Beth C at their home on Seabrook Island, SC. The Saturday night OTBN dinner was held at the Seabrook Island Clubhouse Ashley Room private dining room. 


Several members were not able to attend due to family and other commitments but we'll look forward to having them participate in our other scheduled events this spring, summer and fall, back in Chicago-land.

This year, while we defy any theme other than the spirit of OTBN, we narrowed some of our selections to a couple of vintages, since we all have rather deep and broad cellar collections that offer at times perhaps an overwhelming range of choices.

To that end we brought a couple mini horizontals - multiple labels from the same vintage - a selection of 1995 Napa Cabernets and one of 2015 vintage premium Chardonnays - Mayacamas Napa Valley Mt Veeder and Sea Smoke Santa Barbara County Santa Rita Hills.

The Chardonnays from two of our favorite producers were an ideal comparison tasting of two diverse contrasting styles, and perfect accompaniment to the Seabrook Club Sea Scallops and the Salmon entree selections. 

We tasted the Mayacamas wine at the estate winery with Bill and Beth during our Mayacamas Mt Veeder Napa Valley Winery Visit during our Spring 2011 Napa Valley Mt Veeder Wine Experience. Both Bill and Dan are collectors as members of the Sea Smoke wine club and source this iconic premium label.

The Napa Valley Cabernet Savignon Horizontal flight from 1995. 

This year, a few new designations or declarations emerged, perhaps for the future. From our selection of a dozen and a half bottles of wine, to be enjoyed over the course of the weekend, not just limited to the Saturday evening gala, we discovered, or decreed some new notables or mentions from our wine flight.

The Highest Achievement or Achiever award, or recognition went to Freemark Abbey Bosche’ Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1995. This wine stood our from the other two similarly situated labels – same grape varietal, same vintage, similar or neighboring proximity appellations.

The also rans were Del Dotto Napa Valley Rutherford appellation Cabernet Sauvignon, and Plumpjack Reserve Oakville Cabernet.

The Del Dotto probably was most predicable, meeting or pretty much living up to expectations, consistent with my earlier recollections. Folks thought it had a mustiness to it that I attributed to Del Dotto's preponderance of oak. 

We visited the estate together during out Del Dotto Rutherford Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017.

Reading my earlier tasting notes on this label, indeed I cited the preponderance of oak in the tasting profile when I wrote in 2011, "Only starting to show a hint of age but still life left in this sixteen year old - dark garnet color, medium-full bodied, oak predominates the taste accented by spicy black cherry, berry, plum and cedar with hint of leather, cigar box and vanilla with well-integrated tannins on a long complex finish." RM 91 points. 

Like tonight, this was consistent with my previous tasting fifteen months earlier in 2010. "Starting to show a hint of age but lots of life left in this fifteen year old - oak predominates the taste accented by spicy black cherry, berry, plum and hint of vanilla , with smooth polished well-integrated tannins on a long complex finish."

The Plumpjack, being the Reserve single vineyard designated bottling from McWilliams Mt Eden vineyard, probably underachieved, especially when considering the lofty expectations set by the producer at the winery when they pressed to supplement or top up our holdings for a mere $700+ per bottle.

We tasted and acquired this wine during our first visit to the Plumpjack estate back in 1999 when we actually hosted winemaker May Pisor for a winemaker dinner with our wine group at Meadowood Country Club in Napa (right).

The Freemark Abbey Bosche' was full, round, complex, yet polished and elegant, showing no signs of diminution whatsoever after 28 years, and was even better the next evening!  It showed very similar profile and characteristics as the TOR, below. This is not surprising perhaps since the Bosche' vineyard is adjacent to the Beckstoffer ToKalon vineyard

Once again, perhaps this should not have been a surprise. Tonight's tasting notes are remarkably consistent with my previous tasting of this label nine years earlier when I wrote: "At a horizontal tasting of Napa Cabernets, this label proved to be one of, if not the tasting highlight (s) of the evening. My own Cellartracker notes and rating from 9/2/2013, about eleven months ago accurately apply to tonight's tasting - I wrote: "An eye-opening standout of th(at)e evening featuring a horizontal tasting of five 95 vintage Napa Cabs, this was medium to full bodied with bright vibrant forward ripe plum and black raspberry fruits accented by tones of currant, clove, hints of vanilla and sweet oak with smooth polished silky tannins on the finish. Lots of life left in this eighteen year old."

These were great comparisons and accompaniments to the Seabrook Club filets of beef entrees. 

While interesting, and somewhat complex, the Plumpjack was what I will politely call, delicate, subdued in its nuances, certainly a style and profile very different from the boisterous blustery bold fruit bombs we so often favor and enjoy – more akin the style of some of our other highly regarded selections, below.

Perhaps the most highly acclaimed or rated bottle of the evening (WOTN- Wine of the Night) was the Bacchus label by Joseph Phelps, brought by Dan from his wine club vertical collection of this label. Our visit, private tour and Joseph Phelps Napa Spring Valley Winery Tasting was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience together in 2017.

Next in line might be the TOR To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon predominant Cuvee' Bordeaux varietal blend. This is produced by vintner and proprietors Tor and Susan Kenwood, part of a portfolio of a dozen labels of single vineyard designated wines sourced from some of the premier vineyards across Napa Valley and crafted by Winemaker Jeff Ames. 

This label is sourced from six blocks of 83 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and two blocks of Cabernet Franc from the world renowned To Kalon vineyard. To Kalon owned by Andy Beckstoffer provides under grower/producer contracts, fruit for some of the most storied labels in Napa Valley such as Opus One. It is sited across Highway 29, St Helena Highway, from that property, adjacent and behind Robert Mondavi Winery, up against the Mayacamas foothills. It is also source for the Poetic Justice label below.

Here is where the surprise of the evening, or weekend emerges. 'Hooray for Bosche,’ the single vineyard designated label from long-time favored and widely held and collected producer Freemark Abbley. Wine buddy Bill holds an extensive collection of this producer, followed by me, with labels dating back three decades. These pages are filled with comparison tastings of these labels over the years between Bill and me. 

We also made a discovery of a new label (to us), Poetic Justice from the Bounty Hunter, from a collection from the producer that Bill acquired as part of a winning bid at a fund raising charity auction. Lucky us, as this was an exciting new label/producer discovery, perhaps a new category for us for future wine tastings. 

This was released negociant style by Bounty Hunter, notable long time Napa Valley reseller of super premium boutique and bespoke wines. This label release was a collaborative project with legendary winemaker Philip Melka crafted from fruit sourced from the To Kalon vineyard. We've acquired several super labels from him over the years and have attended a couple premier tastings currated by him.

Bill's Cellartracker notes for this tasting that captured this perfectly. "Wow! What a pleasant surprise. This was full of red fruit, raspberry and cherry. Full bodied with well integrated tannins. This was delicious on a pop and pour basis. 73% Cabernet Franc and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. All the flavor was there and plenty of body. Missing a little complexity and depth but really delicious." WCC 92 points.

Lyle brought from his cellar the Dissident from Mark Ryan. We tasted this and the Poetic Justice in a run up to the dinner. This exceeded expectations, providing a very nice complex but balanced approachable wine for casual sipping in the afternoon with cheeses and fruits.

Mark Ryan wines are the artwork of Mark Ryan McNeilly, a self taught winemaker who learned the craft working with well known producers, acquiring Bordeaux varietal grapes from renowned vineyards in the Columbia Valley Red Mountain appellation. He produces an extensive portfolio of wines from across the region, but is most notably known for several art crafted Bordeaux Blends.

We discovered, tasted and acquired this wine when we visited and conducted a Mark Ryan Columbia Valley Wine Tasting in his Woodinville, Washington tasting room during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour in 2018.
Today's tasting was consistent with my notes from that experience: "Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, dark berry, black currant and black cherry fruits are accented with notes of spice, mocha and hints of cedar with subtle tannins on a lingering finish." RM 91 points. 

The closing wine flight for the dinner, and over the weekend, was a collection of dessert wines and a big brawny Aussie shiraz, the premium Clarendon Hills Astrallis label, best suited for the after dinner chocolate course.

The weekend featured several selections of artisan cheeses, charcuterie, fresh fruits and assorted nuts, biscuits and crackers. 


What fun, and how ironic that our long favored cheese purveyor, Murray's Cheese, where we shopped and dined at their wine and cheese shop and restaurant wine and cheese bar in Greenwich Village in NYC numerous times over the years, was subsequently acquired by Kroger, and as such, their artisan cheeses are now available here at home at our local Mariano's, and down in South Carolina and their local Harris Teeter, as well as at specialty wine and cheese shops! 

And the Dow Vintage Port and Astrallis with Chocolate cake! Recognition for Linda's birthday (and my recent retirement).

The wine flight for this year’s events:

Chateau Leoville Barton St Julien Bordeaux 1986 - we'll hold this as part of a vertical or horizontal for an upcoming event.

Mark Ryan Dissident Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

The trio horizontal wine tasting of 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons

-        Del Dotto Rutherford Napa Valley Estate

-        Freemark Abbey Bosche' Vineyard from Oakville Appellation

-        Plumpjack Reserve Oakville McWilliams Mt Eden Vineyard

Joseph Phelps Bacchus Oakville Cabernet 2012

A duo of Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Oakville Cabernet Sauvignons

Bounty Hunter Poetic Justice 2009
TOR 2009 from magnum

Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Cab 2008

And the dessert, cheese, chocolate courses flight:

Clarendon Hills Astrallis Syrah 2011
Alois Kracher Chardonnay TBA Trocken Bereen Auslese #7 Nouvelle Vague 2001
Alois Kracher Chardonnay TBA Trocken Bereen Auslese #9 Nouvelle Vague 2002
Dow Vintage Port 1994

Previous Pour Boys OTBN Events

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

Pour Boys OTBN 2011 - Open That Bottle Night.


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