Open That Bottle Night (OTBN)

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Open That Bottle Night  was created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher back in 2000.  At the time, they were well respected wine writers at the Wall Street Journal.  Their idea was that most of us who enjoy wine have a bottle (or two) that we have been saving for a special occasion, but we can never quite decide what constitutes a special enough of a reason.  So we hold on to those wines ad nauseum, and they eventually decline and we cry and kick ourselves for being idiots.  So OTBN is an excuse to open one or more of these bottles so that we can avoid self-flagellation.

Well, I unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) have several of those bottles.  Most of those bottles are old (10-20 years old or more).  Don’t get the wrong idea–I can’t afford the retail price of most of the wine I drink (and neither can my wife for all of you smart alecks out there).  I just spend waaaay too much time searching for wine on the internet.  A lot of people come by wine by any number of means and some of them just want to sell it.  And I will buy it, but usually not at their price.  I am always willing to walk away, but sometimes I get some really good wines at really great prices–but we are getting way too deep into the subject of a couple of other posts.  Back to Saturday night.

So, I have a few bottles of older wine and they sure as heck are not getting any better.(Wine that is ‘age worthy’ gets better for a while, reaches its peak, and then starts to decline.  The problem–you have no real idea exactly when these stages are going to happen)  I like older wines since wine certainly changes over time.  Sometimes the changes are good, other times, not so much.  To me, whether good or bad, it is still interesting.  Well, the problem is that most of our wine loving friends do not see old wines in the same way–to them, they just taste ‘old’.  Now, I do not deny them their opinions–they have every right to be dead wrong–but this does make serving them older wines less than optimal.  It is very difficult for me to enjoy a wine when every one else thinks it tastes like an armpit.

Until fairly recently, there was really only one couple on the planet for whom I would save these wines, but they have moved overseas and who knows when (if?) they will be back in Philly again.  I tried for a while to convince our long time young-wine loving friends to come over to the Dark Side, but they have resisted (read, they remain close-minded) and if I were an objective person (never been called that to my face), I might agree.  You taste a few dogs (bad wines) and you start wondering “What’s the point?  Life’s too short to drink wine that tastes like licking the shower floor of a high school locker room.”  So I have been sitting on a bunch of wines that I do not know with whom I would drink them (particularly a bunch of champagnes).

As luck would have it, there are a bunch of winos out there, and I have an uncanny ability to find and befriend them.  So for OTBN we called a couple of these relatively ‘new’ friends up and happily, they came over (otherwise I would never pull the corks on these suckers–OK, I would have, but since my wife has never been confused with a boozer, I would be drinking these puppies alone and that’s just pathetic).  While planning what to have for dinner, we decided to serve oysters and I was going to try a new lamb stew recipe (new to me, at least).  Normally, I would not try a new recipe for the first time when guests were coming over, but I figured there would be so much wine, no one would notice if the food sucked.  Besides, since we had never served or shucked oysters before, either, the probability was very high that I would put a 17 inch gash in my hand, need to be rushed to the hospital, and end up canceling the dinner anyway.

So why the oysters?  Well, the two of us recently have become passengers on the “I love oysters” train, and I thought it would be a grand idea (just as “Let’s go see ‘Our American Cousin‘” was thought to be a grand idea once).  The oysters were just OK, though (but no open wounds).  I decimated many of the shells, but seemed to get the hang of it by the end.  The lamb stew turned out to be pretty good, I thought, but the focus was certainly on the wines so no one gave a crap.  Here are the wines (in order of consumption):


1980 Dom Pérignon–I have been sitting on this bottle for a while, and it alone was why I proposed the OTBN dinner.  Trying to open it, the cork was stubborn, to say the least.  Eventually, the cork broke (crap).   Getting the rest of the cork out was a bit of a problem, but it eventually came out using an Ah-So cork puller.  There was a slight sigh when I finally got the Ah-So in, meaning there were at least a couple bubbles left.  Poured into a regular wine glass (not a flute) and the color was quite dark.  On the nose, caramel dominated, clear signs of oxidation, but also some citrus, vanilla, and baked bread (since ‘brioche’ seems to raise the hackles of some readers here).  On the palate, the oxidation was far less prominent, and the citrus more vibrant, along with yeastiness and caramel.  Very long finish.  Outstanding.  A great older champagne that my other wino friends may not have appreciated, so this was certainly the right crowd.  94 points.

2007 Morey-Blanc Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru (100% Chardonnay)–Brought by one of our friends.  Popped and poured right after the Dom.  Slightly pale yellow, with a nose of mostly lemon zest and a touch of vanilla bean.  On the palate, striking acidity, almost mouth-puckering (which indicated to me that this wine has a long life ahead of it).  After getting past the acid, some nice fruit (mostly citrus) and the faintest indication of oak.  Once the acidity mellows a bit, this will be a blockbuster.  Outstanding.  92 points.

2005 Maume Gevrey Chambertain 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques (100% Pinot Noir)–A fabulous wine from the first ‘vintage of the century’ in Burgundy.  Brought by the same friends who brought the Corton-Charlemagne, we popped and poured this before the white was all gone.  The nose was somewhat muted, but started to give off some raspberry and ‘forrest floor’ after some aeration.  On the palate, very balanced with bright berry fruit and gripping acidity.  Outstanding.  92 points.

1994 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône blend of mostly Grenache and Syrah)–I opened this right as the guests arrived and poured less than a half of a glass right away.  I did this for three reasons: pouring a little wine out enables a bit of air to get in, which is a gentler way of introducing air into an older wine than a full decanting; I wanted to see if the wine were flawed (and then need to run down to grab something else); and I was one thirsty bastard.  There was a bit of brett on the nose, which I had hoped would eventually wear off.  It did for the most part.  The fruit, although faded, was still impressive: mostly stewed fruit and red pepper.  Average finish.  Very Good. 88 points.

2005 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Vineyard–This wine was brought by another couple of our friends.  Popped and poured.  Wow.  This is a huge wine and I think the first Alban I have ever had.  I would have said this was a fruit bomb, since there really was an explosion of fruit, but there was also incredible balance and an extremely long finish.  I usually do not drink this style (nor quality) of wine, so I am not sure how to score it, but I do know I liked it.  A lot.  Outstanding.  93 points.

1984 Cauvard Corton-Charlemagne–We opened this to ‘pair’ with the cheese.  Really, I just wanted to see how bad this one was going to be.  Most critics would agree that 1984 was easily the worst year in Burgundy in the last 40 years.  You can’t even find much information about it since it was so bad.  Well, this wine was at best odd.  It had a nose of an old Riesling.  Problem was that it was a chardonnay.  A dark color and absolutely no fruit to be found.  It wasn’t repulsive, per se, but it was not good either.  It was kind of like going out to dinner with just your brother/sister-in-law.  It could be pleasant and even fun, but it would be weird and just not right on so many levels.  Not rated.

1985 Cattin Riesling Hatschbourg Grand Cru–A very nice older Riesling.  A nose of petrol and spring flowers, darker color, and quite viscous.  On the palate, very nice but a hint of oxidation.  Very long finish.  Outstanding.  90 points.

1995 Château de Cosse–By this point it was rather late in the evening and I was not paying a whole hell of a lot of attention to this wine.  I do remember that it was certainly fine, but also a bit long in the tooth.  My wife liked it a lot better than I did for sure.  Good to very good.  86 points.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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8 Responses to Open That Bottle Night (OTBN)

  1. You had me at the Dom. I’m drooling just thinking of how incredible it would be to taste an older Dom. One day I’ll get there. I have a weakness for bubbles. You, sir, have lucky friends.


    • In my mind, most Dom is consumed far too soon. The best wine I have ever had was a 1973 Dom, just about a year ago. Phenomenal. And it was not one of the best Doms ever. I have a few more that I will therefore sit on for a while. Next up: I have a 1985 that should go for quite a bit longer (a much better year than 1980).


  2. What a great OTBN! Superb notes– felt like we were there. And what an amazing line up of wines. We are huge fans of Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s column and miss it terribly. We “grew up” in our wine tastes while reading and tasting along with them. We refer to them as “Dotty and John” around our house as if we know them, which we don’t, but that just tells you how fond we are of them. Cheers and thanks for treating us to your good time on OTBN.


  3. Kitten, you are far too kind! Thanks so much for the wonderful comment. Next time the two of you are in Philly….


  4. mkondo says:

    We are indeed feeling quite lucky. Will remember all of these wines (and the great company) for a long time.


  5. Sounds like an outstanding night! The age of those bottles puts a nice perspective on things. Nice reviews.


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