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Open That Bottle Night Eve, 2022

February 25, 2022 2 comments

And just like that, Open That Bottle Night 2022 is upon us.

Considering the current state of the world, I’m really not in the mood to write about wine when people are dying because of some egomaniacal fucking moron… but based on my inability to do much anything about it, let’s still talk about Open That Bottle Night.

The Open That Bottle Night, or OTBN for short, created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, Wall Street Journal wine writers back in 1999, is always celebrated on the last Saturday in February. OTBN was created to help people to part with that special bottle while it still might taste great. Over the years, it became literally a holiday celebrated all around the world, with people reporting on all the amazing wines, and most importantly, amazing experiences of getting together with friends (here are my reports from the last 3 years – 2019, 2020, and 2021, plus many special reports from 2016).

This year, we had been invited to celebrate a birthday of a dear friend on that exact Saturday of the OTBN, so I have no options but to celebrate the night before or after, or maybe even both (this friend doesn’t care about wine, so combining the birthday celebration with OTBN is not an option). Thus I’m sitting here the night before the OTBN, sipping my OTBN wine and enjoying every little drop of it.

Deciding on the wine worthy of OTBN is always incredibly hard. I love aging wine, so I have a good selection, but it doesn’t mean that deciding on the bottle is easy. There are bottles that I determined to share with friends (actually, all of them, but I have to make exceptions, especially considering the lockdown life of the past 2 years). There are bottles which I don’t want to open too early. There are bottles I’m still not ready to part with. I’m telling you, people  – it is difficult.

I don’t have any wine record-keeping system. I have a loose idea of the bottles I have, but I’m always ready to be surprised. Tonight, I opened one of the wine fridges, and pulled out the bottle which I had completely forgotten about – and as a bonus, this bottle also comes with a story.

Let me tell you the story first. Take a look at the label – you can see that it looks crooked and dinted. So the rips in the label are from the shelves in my wine fridge, and they are not so interesting. But otherwise, the appearance of this label has a reason. Alban wines are allocated and are hard to get. When I got my allocation some time back, I only wanted to take 2 bottles, so the friend asked if she can have the rest. She filled up the form in her name, got the full allocation, and then shipped my two bottles back to me – a bottle of Patrina Syrah and this bottle of Roussanne. For some mysterious reason, she decided to reuse the inflatable packaging which is sometimes used to ship the wine instead of cardboard or styrofoam. The problem with that air-pumped enclosure is that it is not really reusable and not that reliable. When I got the box, the red liquid was slowly sipping through – you can imagine the fate of Patrina… At least the bottle of Roussanne was intact, with the exception of the label…

Pulling this bottle out from the bottom shelf was a moment of happiness. I love Roussanne, one of my favorite white grape varieties, and for some reason, I had been really craving Roussanne lately. So seeing this bottle which I completely forgot about was a moment of joy – this was IT. A perfect bottle for OTBN.

What can I tell you about this 2013 Alban Roussanne Edna Valley outside of the fact that it offers immense pleasure? We can start with a beautiful golden color. The nose of gunflint and honey at such intensity that you simply don’t want to put the glass down. Sniff, swirl, sniff, swirl, ahh. Gunflint, honey, salinity, and sapidity on the palate. This wine is fresh. This wine is alive, with a cut-through acidity on the long, long finish. This wine is viscous, roll-off-your-tongue goodness – after taking a sip, my wife said “ooh, this wine is fat!”. This wine is perfectly OTBN worthy. Not only that – this wine is perfectly Top 10 wines worthy.

So here is my OTBN story. Even if you don’t feel like celebrating, life is now. It is happening, and no moment will repeat itself. Pull that special bottle. Open that bottle – the special moment has arrived, it is now. Cheers, my friends.

Wednesday’s Meritage #159

January 26, 2022 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

January is almost over, and as many people talked about “dry January”, it was reasonably dry – not in terms of wines, but in terms of wine events. However, February promises to compensate abundantly and offers lots to look forward to.

Let’s start with the grape holidays. Next Tuesday, February 1st, is International Furmint Day. Furmint is one of the most famous Hungarian grapes, best known as the grape behind Tokaji, heavenly nectar. Furmint also can be vinified dry, although much harder to find compared to Tokaji. Either way, you have a holiday to celebrate. Two weeks later, on February 16th, we will celebrate one of my favorite grapes – Syrah, via International Syrah Day. Syrah should be much easier to find, so no excuses. There is also Global Drink Wine Day on February 18th, but for someone who drinks the wine every day, that is not something I can particularly celebrate.

Continuing the theme of celebrations, let’s talk about celebrating not a particular grape, but the whole wine region. Monday, February 7th, will mark the beginning of the New Zealand Wine Week. Two webinars will be offered – one focused on the New Zealand wines on the global wine scene, and the second one diving deep into the world of New Zealand Pinot Noir.

To complete the subject of celebration, the last one for today is the main wine holiday of the year – Open That Botte Night, or OTBN for short. The holiday was created 22 years ago by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, writers of the Wall Street Journal’s Tastings column. The goal of the holiday is to help people to happily part with their prized bottles, taste those wines themselves, and share them with friends, hopefully while both wines and people are in their prime. OTBN is always celebrated on the last Saturday in February, which will be February 26th this year. It is time for you to already start thinking about those special bottles you would want to open.

The next event I want to bring to your attention is Oregon Wine Symposium. While this is definitely a technical event, focused on the winegrowers, winemakers, and winery owners, the event offers excellent educational content for any wine lover. This year’s event will consist of two parts. Virtual part with all the educational content will take place February 15-17, and then the Oregon Wine Symposium Live portion will follow on March 8-9. Virtual sessions will cover in-depth Oregon wine industry, looking into the overall state of the industry, the direct-to-consumer market, the management of the supply chain, and lots more. Again, this is a technical event, offering lots to learn for those who want to learn.

Last but not least will be the first trade tasting I plan to attend in person this year – the Tre Bicchieri 2022, taking place on Friday, February 25th. This event is a culmination point of the Gambero Rosso wine publication, offering an opportunity to taste the best of the best Italian wines selected during the prior year, those awarded three glasses rating by the publication. Tre Bicchiery is one of my favorite tastings of the year, usually full of great discoveries – here is the retrospective of the events I attended in the past. Considering that there was no Tre Bicchiery event in 2021, I can only hope that we will see some great wines at the event, and I will actually be able to plan my attendance properly to taste the most coveted wines, instead of finding a table with only empty bottles, as already happened at my first Tre Bicchieri event, and the empty bottles at the table were the legendary Masseto. The event will travel around the USA, with the stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Houston, so hopefully, you will get your chance to attend.

That’s all I have for you for today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

Open That Bottle Night 2021 – What A Night!

March 10, 2021 10 comments

Traditions, traditions, traditions.

Traditions need wine. Wine needs traditions. Makes sense? If not, express your disdain with a flaming comment. But if you are an oenophile (wine aficionado, wine snob, wine geek, …), you understand and can easily relate.

Open That Bottle Night, or OTBN for short, is one of the shortest living traditions of the wine world, where thousand years might be a good measure for some – OTBN was first celebrated in 1999 when it was created by the wine couple – Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine writers behind the “Tastings” column in Wall Street Journal. The OTBN was created to help wine lovers part with the special wine bottles which might otherwise become a waste.

There are two parts to any wine tradition – the first is a special wine itself, always carefully selected to match the tradition, and the second is sharing – sharing of that bottle with the world. Not with the whole world at once, but with the friends.

Let’s talk about finding and sharing.

Finding a proper bottle is never easy – and it might be even worse for the holiday such as OTBN, which was created specifically to help us part with the special bottle, the bottle which has a special meaning for us – no matter why and how, but special in whatever way. Sharing is typically not a problem – unless it is 2021 and the world is still mostly in lockdown – and that includes all of one’s wine friends.

I was lucky for the past many years to have wonderful celebrations of the OTBN with the friends, sharing the most amazing wine experiences (here is the first-hand account for 2017, 2019, and 2020). The only possible way to share OTBN 2021 was the one using for the majority of the gatherings during 2020 and 2021 – the virtual one. I’m not complaining – I’m grateful that at least we have the technology with allows us to spend time with each other face to face, no matter how physically distant we are. So sharing portion was rather easy, and now let’s talk about finding.

Finding is not even the right word. Finding is easy – but selecting is not. OTBN asks for that special bottle. Deciding on what makes one bottle more special than the other, when your cellar is full of unique bottles all present in the quantity of 1 (one), is the hard part. After some amount of deliberations, which included pulling numerous wine fridge shelves back and forth, back and forth, I settled on these four bottles:

Let me explain my selection logic so you will see why it is such a daunting process for me.

First, the white wine, as I’m a big proponent of the balanced diet. 2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC might be called my unicorn wine, at least when it comes to whites. The first time I tried a different vintage of this exact wine when it was 10 years old and this wine became one of the brightest memories for me – the beauty and interplay of bright fruit, honey, and acidity were simply unforgettable. When young, this wine from the Loire, made out of the rare grape called Romorantin, is a single note acidic. With age, it develops into an absolute beauty. When I opened the bottle of this wine back in 2015, the wine was superb. When I brought it to Jim’s house for the OTBN 2019, 4 years later, it was “interesting” but absolutely not exciting. I was hoping for redemption, so this was an easy choice.

My next selection was 2008 Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage AOC. When I see Hermitage written on the label, you can literally hear me sigh. Hermitage to me is synonymous with the Syrah, and I love classic Syrah. And so does my wife – Syrah is her favorite grape. I have very few Hermitage wines in my cellar – and this one was calling my name for a long time (meaning: it was pulled off the shelf and placed back many times). Considering that 2008 had a rainy growing season and the vintage has low ratings (WS86, for example) and “Drink now” recommendation, this was an easy decision – no point in waiting any longer.

How many unicorns can one have? Well, having a unicorn would be nice, but I guess I’m talking about chasing them. So how many unicorns can one chase? Clearly, it seems that I’m chasing many. Good Amarone is the wine I’m always chasing. Giuseppe Quintarelly Amarone is more of an ephemeral dream for me, considering the price and availability – and it is definitely one of those unicorns I’m talking about. With 2004 Zýmē Kairos Veneto IGT, I’m getting as close to that unicorn as I can. This wine is produced by Celestino Gaspari, the winemaker for Giuseppe Quintarelli. As the label says “Produced from 15 varietals of grapes of Verona, it is a reflection and interpretation of our soil and the culture of its terroir”. In case you are curious, the 15 grapes are Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, SauvignonBlanc, Chardonnay, Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, CabernetSauvignon, CabernetFranc, Merlot, Syraz, Teroldego, Croatina, Oseleta, Sangiovese, and Marzemino. This was my last bottle, and I scanned the pages of this very blog for a good 20 minutes last night as I couldn’t believe that I could’ve never written about this wine before – apparently, I have not. Anyway, I was afraid that it might be the time for this wine, thus it was added to the OTBN group. By the way, another interesting tidbit about this wine is that the name “Kairos” means “timely”, “appropriate”, and “the perfect moment”.

Every good plan A needs plan B, right? The backup. Have you ever went to a friend’s house with a bottle of wine, while another bottle stayed in your car just in case the first one would be corked? Yep, that’s the plan B we are talking about. 2004 Vaucher Pere et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin was my plan B. I don’t have a lot of Burgundies, so opening one is always a special moment. 2004 vintage was so so, with WS88 rating and “drink” recommendation, so this bottle was rightfully on the OTBN list, should the need and opportunity come.

Now you know all about selecting, and I want to say a few more words about sharing. Sharing wine is one of the best pleasures of drinking wine. The approving, understanding nod from the fellow wine lover after he or she is taking the sip from the bottle you brought really fills you up with joy. It might be even more satisfying than your own enjoyment of the same wine. Yet in today’s world, sharing the wine face to face is literally impossible, OTBN or not. To at least share the moment, I reached out to the technology which seemed to save the world from going mad – a virtual get-together over video. Zoom is my tool of choice, so after sending the invites to the group of bloggers, we got together at 7 pm on the OTBN Saturday.

We were not a big group – even in the virtual world, people are busy and have their own plans. But I’m really grateful to everyone who was able to spend that special Saturday time together – some for the whole 2 hours, some for 20-30 minutes, talking about wines, sharing life stories and experiences, and most importantly, having fun. You can scroll through the pictures below, I’m sure you will see some familiar faces.

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So how was my OTBN? In other words, let me tell you more about the wines.

The miracle didn’t happen, and the white wine didn’t become suddenly magical. If I need to describe this 2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC in one word, the word would be “strange”. At some moments, it was oxidative and plump. In other moments, it was acidic. It never showed that amazing lemon and honey notes I was expecting. I still have one more bottle, but now I really need to forget it for as long as possible and see if the miracle will happen.

The Hermitage was … superb. First of all, opening it was a breeze – cork was perfectly intact, regular waiter’s corkscrew worked just fine. Drinking this 2008 Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage AOC was a great pleasure – a touch of pepper, a distant hint of a barnyard, round and delicious fruit. The wine was just right – perfectly balanced, round, and smooth. I don’t have a lot of experience with Hermitage, but this wine was clearly one of the best renditions of Syrah I had in a long time. “Elegant” would be the single word descriptor I would use.

The Kairos was the bottle I was concerned about the most. It could’ve been gone by now, especially considering such an eclectic blend of grapes. When I started opening this 2004 Zýmē Kairos Veneto IGT, first I decided to use the regular corkscrew, which worked perfectly fine for the Hermitage. Looking at the way the screw was going in, the cork seemed to be too soft, so I decided that it was the job for Ah-So – I’m glad this decision was not an afterthought I usually have after the cork is already broken in half – Ah-So worked perfectly well and the cork came out with no issues.

And the wine… The wine was magical. Dark fruit with a hint of dried fruit on the palate, perfectly firm and structured, powerful and elegant, with clean acidity and an impeccable balance. The wine was delicious on Saturday, and I also enjoyed that over the next two days. So now I regret not having any more bottles left – but I’m glad I had this special experience. Magical would be the word.

As two bottles of red had no issues whatsoever, the Burgundy was left aside and now will be waiting for its special moment to be opened and enjoyed.

And that, my friends, concludes my OTBN 2021 report. While the sharing was virtual, the experience and pleasure of the wine and the company were real, and it will stay in my memory as yet another great OTBN night. Hope you had fun too. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage #156

February 17, 2021 2 comments

Meritage time!

Once again I’m starting with Open That Bottle Night. February 27th, rain, snow, or shine, will be the time to open that special bottle. If you are not familiar with Open That Bottle Night, please check the previous issue of Meritage or this post. I plan to have a virtual OTBN with friends – anyone who is interested in joining, please send me a message (email, Twitter, Insta – all work), and I will let you know how to connect. Now, I need to make up my own mind and decide what I’m going to open – easier said than done, believe me.

Next, in a bit of a “local news”, I would like to promote the series of posts which I had been running for a long time on this blog – the wine quizzes. These wine quizzes used to be a weekly endeavor until they became just a few a year and then stopped completely. I restarted the series about half a year ago, with the hope of posting a new quiz once every two weeks. I had a number of the wine quiz themes over the years, with one of my favorites asking the readers to identify the wine producer by the image of the top of the bottle – foil, cork, or wax – here is an example of such a quiz. But now I have a new twist on that theme, asking the readers to identify the producers by the fragment of the image of the label, which should be easier than doing it using the bottle tops. Here is an example of such a new quiz. So all I want to do is to encourage all of you who are reading this right now to give it a try – you have nothing to lose!

And now, for the real, global wine news, how about some global wines, or maybe rather “Wines of the World”? It appears that Penfolds, one of the most iconic Australian wine producers (Grange, anyone?), just unveiled the line of California wines. The wines are made from the grapes coming from the vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles. Continuing Penfolds naming tradition, the wines are identified by the bin numbers, starting from Bin 600 Cabernet-Shiraz, priced at $50, and going to the flagship Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon at $700 per bottle. The top two wines, Quantum Bin 98 and Bin 149 have some of the Australian wine as part of the blend, hence the “Wine of the World” moniker. For more details, you can read the whole story in the Wine Spectator here.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage #155

February 3, 2021 1 comment

Meritage time!

I know it is somewhat early, but let’s start with one of my most favorite wine events of the year – OTBN. We are in February already, and that means that OTBN – Open That Bottle Night – is around the corner. OTBN is an event which is more than 20 years old, invented by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine writers behind the “Tastings” column in Wall Street Journal, to help wine lovers to part with those special, cherished, treasured bottles which all of us try to hold on to for as long as possible – and thus often missing an opportunity to drink the wine at its prime. OTBN is celebrated on the last Saturday in February – February 27 this year.

For many years now OTBN had been an important event in my book, as I’m unquestionably one of those hoarders who can never decide on the right time to open the special bottle. Celebrating OTBN paved the way to experience some truly special bottles such as the 1982 Olga Raffault Chinon or 1999 Soldera Brunello. This year, however, will be very different, as it is hard to get together in person. So I would like to suggest that whoever wants to join the virtual OTBN celebration on February 27, please send me a note (you can use the Contact Me form, email, or DM on Twitter) so I will be able to get you a meeting invite closer to the date. And you can already start thinking about that special bottle you will pull from your cellar to celebrate OTBN 2021.

OTBN only happens once a year, but then if you need help deciding what to open, you can turn your attention to the “grape holidays”, as I like to call them – a celebration of individual grapes that are taking place throughout the year. To help you keep track and make sure none of the grapes will be upset with you, here you can find a full list of the dates and grapes to celebrate. Actually, I already missed the Furmint day on February 1st, so yeah, time to focus…

A few more interesting tidbits. James Suckling published the list of all 100 and 99 points wines from 2020. There are 133 wines on the list, 52 of them are 100 points, and 81 are rated at 99. In order to see all the tasting notes you need to be a subscriber, but the list itself is available for free.

On an unrelated note, Wine Spectator produced a video introducing the Spanish wine region of Cariñena, the second oldest winemaking region in Spain and “the region to watch”. The video is short but contains a good amount of information about the history of the region, grapes, winemaking, and more.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

What a night! Notes from OTBN 2020

March 14, 2020 13 comments

Open That Bottle Night is the best wine holiday out there. It is nice to celebrate all the individual grapes – Chardonnay Day, Albarigño Day and the likes – but that can’t compare with an opportunity to open a special or the most special bottle you have in your possession, and most importantly, share it with fellow oenophiles, the people who appreciate and respect that special bottle.

I’ve been lucky for two years in the row to be invited to someone’s house to celebrate OTBN – last year Jim VanBergen of JvBUncorked fame was our host, and this year John Fodera of the Tuscan Vines hosted of amazing wine night.

John did a great job organizing this memorable night for the group of people most of whom he never met face to face (yours truly included – we had been following each other for close to 10 years, but managed to avoid any face-to-face contact until now) – he developed a loyal group of followers as Italian wines expert, and I’m sure everyone was happy to finally meet him in person.

John managed to come up with a great program. After the round of Lambrusco bubbles (which is the rave nowadays) we started the evening with two blind tastings. We had 2 groups of 3 wines each, trying to identify at least a place and type of wine, and ideally even the producer. We also voted for the group’s favorites. I generally suck at blind tastings, so I did poorly (as expected). I also decided not to use the external factors in the tasting (I.e., John is Italian wine guy, so we should simply expect all the wines to be Italian; another guess would be that as John’s blog is called Tuscan Vines, all the wines will be from Tuscany).

Here are my notes for the first flight:

Wine 1: Touch of mint, full-body, good structure, a touch of black currant – super Tuscan?

Wine 2: great concentration, dark fruit, layered, silky smooth – Montepulciano di Abruzzo?

Wine 3: nice fruit, bright, good structure. Super Tuscan? New World?

Needless to say that I was absolutely wrong with all three. Again, I could’ve used a bit of psychology and figure out that John would be pouring only Tuscan wines, but I deliberately refused to do so. The wines were perfectly polished and complex, all three, without screaming “I’m Chianti” with the appearance of leather, tobacco, or tart cherries. To make a long story short, all three wines happened to be Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from 2016 vintage, provided to John by Chianti Classico Consortium. In the order of appearance, these were the wines:

2016 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Colonia Gran Selezione DOCG ($NA, 100% Sangiovese)

2016 Rocca delle Macìe Riserva di Fizzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG ($NA, 95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot)

2016 Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG ($NA, 100% Sangiovese)

I want to add that the second wine, Rocca delle Macìe Riserva di Fizzano, won a popular vote with 5 votes out of 10 – this was also my favorite wine.

The next flight consisted again of three wines. Here are my notes:

Wine 1: dark fruit, eucalyptus, crushed berries, green tannins – Bordeaux blend, can be from anywhere

Wine 2: Roasted meat, plums, salami, plums on the palate – Grenache/GSM? Can be from anywhere

Wine 3: too aggressive, green tannins, black currant. Bordeaux blend, can be from anywhere.

Again, I should’ve expected another line of Italian wines, but I thought John could play some tricks, so I didn’t go with an obvious idea of Super Tuscans. And I was wrong. All three wines were well-known Super Tuscans (these three wines were courtesy of Kobrand Wines):

2017 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno Toscana IGP ($75, 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot)

2016 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana IGP ($54, 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot)

2016 Lodovico Antinori Tenuta di Biserno Il Pino di Biserno Toscana IGP ($70, Cabernet Franc with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot)

I really didn’t appreciate the tannic nature of wines number one and number three, and those tannins were not only aggressive but literally biting. Oh well. Wine #1, Oreno, was the crowd’s favorite (7 votes out of 10). This time around my vote didn’t match the majority, as I went with the wine #2, Guidalberto, as this was the only drinkable wine for my palate.

After finishing the tasting and discussing the results, it was time to eat. First, there was pasta bolognese, which John masterfully prepared:

And then there was meat. John decided to spoil the group with 2.5” porterhouse steaks, to make Bistecca Fiorentine:

We went to work the grill which was an interesting adventure, mining the grill to prevent flare-ups on a cold night. We actually had to make two attempts to get the steaks right, as they were still mooing after the first pass. But we managed to produce something delicious in the end and not ruin the amazing steaks.

Now, time to meditate. Nope, this was not an organized food prayer session. What happened was that the bottle of Soldera Brunello di Montalcino was poured out of the decanter. Mike Giordano brought a bottle 1999 Soldera Brunello de Montalcino in a completely unassuming, low-key, way. Gianfranco Soldera was a legend, who bought a property called Case Basse in Montalcino in 1972, with an aim to produce the best Brunello wines. By 1990s Soldera wines reached cult status, coupling impeccable quality with small production. Talking about Gianfranco Soldera and his wines would be best suited for a separate dedicated post, as controversy completely surrounded him; I have to say that I never expected to taste his wines – until this memorable OTBN.

Just look at this color…

1999 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino DOCG was truly a meditation wine. “Meditation wine” might not be a simple term to explain in words, but if you like wines, there is a chance that you experienced it at one time or the other. The nose, the aroma, and the bouquet of this wine were simply magical. Taking the whiff from the glass, the time was stopping – no need to try to analyze the amazing palette of flavors to come up with individual descriptors – this wine should be described purely on the sensory level, as every smell was bringing a pure, hedonistic pleasure. I didn’t care for food, I didn’t care for talking – I just wanted to take another smell, and another, and another. When I finally took a sip, the wine was magnificent on the palate too – a perfect balance of plums, cherries, textural layers, structure, sage, and rosemary – a perfect harmony of flavors. It is quite possible that this was my wine of the year 2020 – I know it is only March, but this was an experience that is seriously hard to beat. I don’t feel that I should even try rating this wine, but if I would dare, this would be my second ever 10- (don’t ask me why not 10, I have no idea what my perfect 10 wine should smell and taste like).

After the meditation session, just a few words on the dinner. In addition to the delicious meat, John made a couple of side dishes – the sautéed white beans were an absolute hit, adored by all literally as much as the beef. John actually promised to share a recipe – you can find the recipe in this post.

This was not the end of our wine program. We also had 2016 Campochiarenti San Nicola Chianti Colli Senesi – Campochiarenti is a producer John is always raving about in his posts, so it was definitely interesting to finally taste this wine (Campochiarenti wines at the moment are not imported into the US, but available directly from the winery). The wine was classic and simple, and for about $12 (if it will be imported into the US, this is the expected retail price) it will be definitely a great value. I brought a bottle of 2010 No Girls Grenache from Walla Walla in Washington, which was very tasty but radically non-Italian, so I don’t think it was well-received. I also brought one of my recent finds – 2016 Pedra Cancela Selecção do Enólogo from Dão, which was an old world and a lot closer to the overall theme, and an amazing QPR at $9 per bottle at the local Bottle King store. 2010 Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino was delicious, but it was a tough call to get everyone excited after experiencing the Soldera. Lastly, we had 1999 Natale Fantino Nepas Nebbiolo Passito Piedmont which was interestingly dry and light, but not necessarily my favorite.

That gives you more or less a full picture. We also had a wonderful spread of Italian desserts, and truth be told, for the first time ever I tasted cannoli which I liked. It appears that the good cannoli should be filled with cream at the moment of purchase and not before – now I will know.

And now we are done. How was your OTBN 2020? Cheers!

Wednesday Meritage – OTBN, Tre Bicchieri, Cru Bourgeois 2020 Classification, and More

February 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

Let’s start with my perennial favorite – Open That Bottle Night, or OTBN for short. OTBN movement was started by the Wall Street Journal wine writers, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, back in 1999, to encourage wine lovers around the world to open up that long stashed special bottle which might be long gone while waiting for a special enough day. OTBN is always celebrated on the last Saturday in February, which will be falling on the February 29th this year. I had been a passionate supporter of this special wine holiday for many years. Last year, we had a great celebration hosted by Jim van Bergen of JvBUncorked fame. This year, John Fodera of Tuscan Vines will be hosting a wine dinner I’m very much looking forward to attending. The only question left is what bottle is special enough to be open this coming Saturday, but this will be hotly debated until the very moment of leaving the house. Oh well, these are the first world problems of the wine lover. I hope you have some special plans too.

Next, let’s talk about the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchiery event. Gambero Rosso is a wine publication in Italy which every year rates about 45,000 Italian wines. Out of all these wines, about 1% receives prestigious Tre Bicchieri (three glasses) designation – 465 wines attained these honors in 2019. To celebrate the best of the best in Italian wines, Gambero Rosso conducts an annual Tre Bicchiery tastings around the world. Such tasting is coming to New York this coming Friday, February 28th – it is open to the trade and media only, so if you belong to one of these categories, don’t miss this fun tasting. You can register for the New York tasting using this link. After New York, the show will make a number of stops in California – here you can find the full list. If you are interested in learning more about Tre Bicchieri 2019 awards, here is a very informative link for you.

Our next tidbit is about French wines. On a perfectly unique date – 02/20/2020 – Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc announced its new classification of the Crus Bourgeois wineries. Crus Bourgeois is a classification which is one level below of the famous 1855 Crus Classés (Classified Growths), but still represents a high level of quality and is difficult to attain, as an application process is quite rigorous. The new 2020 classification is awarded for a period of 5 years. It includes 249 Châteaux with a total production of 28 million bottles. Out of 249, 14 Châteaux are classified as Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, 56 as Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, 179 as Cru Bourgeois. You can find all the interesting stats here.

Now, a bit of the advice – how to store wine. I’m sure many of you have a few bottles which you want to keep for some time – the reason is not important, it is your wine – but not everybody has a wine cellar in their house or an apartment. Even if you don’t have a wine cellar, it is not a problem – you can still preserve your wines in the perfect condition for the years to come. The folks at Redfin, real estate news and analysis firm, asked winemakers, wine experts, sommeliers and wine writers for advice on storing the wines at home, and assembled all the recommendations in the form of the blog post, which you can find here. I’m sure not all of those recommendations are universally applicable to everyone, but I’m also sure you might some useful details there.

Not to be outdone, one last note for today – about Georgian wines. If you are living in or will be visiting New York on Monday, March 2nd, you are in luck – Georgian wine tasting will be hosted at a restaurant called Chama Mama in lower Manhattan. There are actually two tastings – one for trade and press from 4 pm until 6 pm (you can find information here), and one for consumers from 6 pm until 9 pm (here is the link to buy tickets). I always consider Georgian wines to be some of the best in the world, so if you can make the tasting, you can thank me later.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

 

OTBN 2019 – What a Night!

February 27, 2019 14 comments

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) is my favorite “wine holiday”. Of course, the absolute majority of celebrations in our lives – holidays (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving…), birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, promotions – include wine, but strictly in the supporting role. All the “grape days” are about wine, yes – but typically restricted to a specific grape. OTBN is a special day when the wine is a front and center of our celebration – OTBN is all about showing respect to those special bottles which all need the special, perfectly appropriate moment to be opened. OTBN allows us to say “the perfect moment has arrived” and just open That Bottle.

OTBN 2019 lineup

Almost full line up – few bottles are not shown

While I’m celebrating OTBN for a long time, this year’s event helped me to better appreciate the true purpose of this “holiday”. Okay, I have to say that I never had such a massive amount of wine opened for the OTBN – we went through 14 bottles – and each bottle was special in its own way. But until now, all of my OTBN experiences where strictly positive – the majority of the wines opened for OTBN were either at its peak or well drinkable at the moment but still promising to improve with time. But this year, in addition to absolutely stunning, mature, unparalleled wines we had wines which were either past prime or in the strange sleeping mode (yes, I’m an optimist),  adding a good reason to follow the founding principals of the OTBN and pull the cork from That Bottle now.

Here are my notes for the wines we opened this year, together with a bit of explanation as to what made this wine special and my impressions.

2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatori Metodo Classico Trento DOC (100% Chardonnay)
Why: I was looking at this bottle for a long time. Ferrari makes some of the very best sparkling wines in Italy, and this is their flagship wine. At 18 years, it is a good age for the sparkling wine – and OTBN is a perfect reason to open a wine like that.
How was it: Amazing. Light bubbles, but the balance is amazing, light toasted notes, wow. The wine stayed fresh throughout the whole evening and was one of everyone’s favorites.

2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Puligny-Montrachet Le Trezin, Cote de Beaune
Why: Jim had multiple bottles of this wine and was worrying about Premox (Premature oxidation). Thus he put it out just to try.
How was it: Superb. delicious, classic burgundy, beautiful, elegant, round. Another one of the top choices for everyone.

2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC
Why: This is one of my favorite wines. When it was 10 years old, was literally blown away
How was it: Underwhelming. A touch of petrol, clean, good acidity, bud no bright fruit. Still delicious in its own way – I would gladly drink it any time. But – lucking the “umpf” which was expected… Still have 2 more bottles – will open later on and see.

2014 Damien Laureau Le Bel Ouvrage Savennières AOC
Why: Well, OTBN is an all-inclusive celebration. I rarely drink Savenniers, so it is always fun to experience something new.
How was it: Ok. For the 5 years old Chenin Blanc from the Loire, it was quite decent. Nice white wine – can’t say much more than that.

1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva Rioja DOC
Why: why not? Lopez de Heredia is one of the very best Rioja Producers, and their Viña Tondonia Blanco might be one of the best white wines in Spain – at least from point of view of the wines which can age
How was it: A flop. Unless there was a flaw with this particular bottle, this wine was past prime and had no joy in it.

2015 Royal Tokaji The Oddity Hungary (100% Furmint)
Why: Furmit is the grape used in the production of the Hungarian Tokaji wines, some of the very best dessert wines in the world, easily rivaling the best Sauternes. Problem is – it is very difficult to prevent Furmit vineyards from the Noble Rot settling on the grapes – and thus it is rare – and difficult – to produce dry Furmint wine. Here comes The Oddity – dry Furmint wine.
How was it: Very good. Nice, clean, great minerality, balanced well-integrated palate, good acidity. Thank you, Lori, for this delicious find.

Kistler Chardonnay with Glass

No filter – look at the color of this 24 years old Chardonnay

1995 Kistler Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley
Why: Kistler is one of the best Chardonnay producers in California, so this alone is enough to include such wine into the OTBN line up. But then California Chardonnay rarely built to last for so long, so it was definitely the time to open this bottle.
How was it: Amazing. Almonds, apples, still present vanilla, a touch of smoke, good acidity – amazing for 24 years old white wine

2008 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune Arbois Jura
Why: Trying to explain the wine such as Vin Jaune to the uninitiated wine lovers presented an interesting challenge – I failed to explain what “oxidative” means. Anyway, putting this aside – Jura wines are rare. Vin Jaune wines are rare. Jacques Puffeney wines are beyond rare – 2014 was the last vintage which he commercially produced. This wine is absolutely OTBN worthy (thank you, Jim!)
How was it: Amazing. An oxidative nose which was also incredibly attractive, mature fruit, good acidity, elegant, present, delicious wine.

1971 Carretta Nebbiolo

No filter – just look at the color of this wine! Amazing.

1971 Tenuta Carretta Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC
Why: 1971. Need we say more? Yes, the wine of such age is absolutely meant for OTBN.
How was it: Amazing, absolutely amazing. We poured it without decanting. The wine changed dramatically over the course of an hour. My first impressions were: pungent, with clean acidity, mature restrained fruit, still has lots of life left. Wow. About 15 minutes later, the wine totally changed and was the most reminiscent of a nice, concentrated Rosé – cranberries, a touch of strawberries, good acidity, very refreshing. Another 15 minutes made this wine most reminiscent of Jura red, a Poulsard if you will – light, great acidity, a touch of red fruit. Truly an amazing experience. And don’t forget to look at the color of this wine…

1986 Château Bel-Air Lagrave Moulis-en-Médoc AOC
Why: 33 years is a very respectable age for any wine – you really want to ask such wine “how ya doin”
How was it: Wow. Young, beautifully balanced, beautiful Bordeaux, just perfect. In a blind tasting, I would never identify this as a 33 years old wine. Yes, you can call me a failure.

1996 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Léognan
Why: My exact question – why? Only because we could?
How was it: not ready. Needs time, mostly locked up. You would never think that 23 years old Bordeaux is not ready to drink, but it was not.

2004 Château Latour à Pomerol Pomerol AOC
Why: Same as previous wine – really, why?
How was it: Not ready. Closed nose, mostly cherries on the palate, need another 10-15 years.

2006 Telavi wine Cellar Satrapezo Saperavi Kakheti Georgia
Why: One of my most favorite Georgian wines. Limited production, a beautiful example of Georgian Saperavi. Most of the wine lovers are still unfamiliar with Georgian wines, so I really wanted to introduce this wine to the people.
How was it: Excellent. Still tight, beautiful fruit, big wine, could use more time. I was a bit concerned that this wine is reaching its peak – I was wrong. I’m sure another 5 years would do wonders here. Oh well…

2005 Weingut Petri Herxheimer Honigsack Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Pfalz Germany (100% Scheurebe)
Why: For one, it is very appropriate to finish a great wine program with the dessert wine. And then how many of you even heard of Scheurebe? Scheurebe grape is a cross between Sylvaner and Riesling. It is quite rare, so yeah, a perfect choice for OTBN.
How was it: Spectacular. Not only it had great acidity which is essential in enjoyable TBA-level sweet wine, but it also showed a mix of honey and herbs – rosemary, sage, thyme – just an unbelievable concoction and ultimate pleasure in every sip. Thank you, Stef, for this treat.

Obviously, I can’t complain about such an amazing OTBN – however, as you saw, we had our share of disappointment. At the same time, the good greatly overweight the bad – 1971 Nebbiolo, 2001 Giulio Ferrari, 1995 Kistler, 2008 Vin Jaune, 1986 Bordeaux were all personal favorites and I would be glad to experience those wines again at any time.

Now that I told you about our OTBN, how was yours?

Open That Bottle Night – OTBN 2019

February 21, 2019 Leave a comment

Wine fridgeWine lovers – this is your public service announcement, so listen carefully.

Open That Bottle Night is Saturday, February 23, 2019.

I repeat – OTBN is taking place this coming Saturday! Are you ready?

Okay, so all of you who are familiar with the OTBN, please say “thank you for the reminder” and quietly retreat to your cellars in attempt to solve the unsolvable.

For those who don’t recognize the OTBN term, let me explain.

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) movement was originated by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, writers of the Wall Street Journal’s Tastings column. Back in 2000, they decided to help people to put their best wine bottles to the best possible use (e.g., drinking and enjoying them) by designating last Saturday in February as special “pull that cork” day.

All of us, wine lovers, have that “special bottle”. The birth year vintage, a gift from a special friend, a bottle brought from the special trip, a bottle signed by winemaker, special wedding present, or something special we managed to score many, many years ago – it is really not important what makes that bottle special. However, with all those “special bottle” designations, we keep waiting for that special, right, proper, one and only moment to pull that cork – and subsequently, we are risking one of two things:

  • we might not be around to enjoy that special bottle of wine (not trying to use any “scare tactics” – this is just a part of life)
  • the wine might not be around for us to enjoy it – ever heard of “past prime”?

Nobody knows what is the “right time” for the wine. We have our expectations, of course, but it is in human nature to doubt oneself, and thus we keep arguing with ourselves about the “right moment”. The “right moment” is also something entirely individual – the right age of the wine, a long-fought-for job promotion, wedding anniversary, significant birthday, or simply the right company. And so we are waiting and waiting and waiting – and risking one of the two outcomes I mentioned before. This is where OTBN comes to the rescue. OTBN makes an opening of that prized bottle a good enough reason in itself – it is really a celebration of life as it happens.

Ever since its creation, OTBN was getting an increased following from all over the world, with people from China, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Europe and, of course, the USA, gladly reporting about the opening of those long-cherished bottles – and their personal life stories.

It is the right time, wine lovers, to get that bottle ready. If you need any additional instructions, the Wall Street Journal took care of it by publishing the guide to the OTBN, so now you are guaranteed not to make any mistakes. Go, start thinking about that special bottle you are going to enjoy this Saturday – to celebrate life. And don’t forget to share your special moment with all of us. Will be waiting.

Open That Bottle Night – 2018 edition

February 25, 2018 11 comments

We all have THAT bottle. How I mean it, you ask? Simple. We all have bottles which have special meaning for us. This one was brought home from the vacation 5 years ago. That one was given by a generous friend with the recommendation to wait for a special moment to drink it. Those in the corner came from the parent’s cellar.  Ahh, these I found on a garage sale  – would you believe it? Oh yes, and those I got during a great sale – yes, one of each, as I couldn’t afford to buy any more of them.

Wine is a perfect vehicle for creating special moments. Maybe the best there is. But this also is a problem in itself. We get attached to those special bottles, always doubting if this is the right moment to open them and keep waiting and waiting for a perfect one. Yes, the wine improves with age, but nothing is forever. There is always a chance that at the proper moment, the wine might not be there for us anymore, and we might not be there for the wine.

To help people with THAT bottle dilemma, Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, the journalists behind Wall Street Journal’s Tastings column at a time, created a special event which they called Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) back in 1999, celebrated always on the last Saturday in February. Now, almost for 20 years, OTBN helped wine aficionados around the world to ease the pain of parting with those special bottles and actually enjoy the wine in its prime time (or at least that is the intent and the hope). 

The OTBN is truly all about the wine, so the oenophile gets its chance to agonize about the impossible choice, going from one bottle to another bottle and finding the reasons why this is not yet the time to claim for it to be THAT bottle. I went multiple times through all my wine fridges, joyfully finding and immediately grudgingly rejecting my choices. Three days later, I just grabbed two bottles which jumped to my attention and said “this is it! no more!”.

Let’s talk about our OTBN wines – there should be at least some reason for the wines to be “it”, right? So the white wine was interesting in many ways. First, it came to our house via the Secret Wine Santa exchange, courtesy of inimitable Drunken Cyclist. The wine is made out of the rare grape (Malvasia) which is absolutely uncommon for California; the wine is Skin Fermented, which seems now to be a popular term for what was known before as “orange wine” – the grapes are fermented in contact with skin, which is not typical for the white wine. Lastly, the wine comes from the Suisun Valley, which seems to be an up and coming region in California – for example, Caymus, a California wine powerhouse,  recently released the new wine called Grand Durif (Durif is original French name for Petite Sirah), made from the grapes grown in the Suisun Valley.

2015 Onward Skin Fermented Malvasia Suisun Valley (12.8% ABV)  – light golden in the glass (nothing says “orange wine”), beautiful tropical fruit on the nose – guava, passion fruit. On the palate, initially showed light fizz which went away in about 15 minutes. Cut through acidity, peppery spiciness, white underripe fruit, there is a touch of funk or maybe rather oxidative notes which hint at extended skin contact; overall – different and delicious (Drinkability: 8). Also much rounder on the second day. Probably requires food.

Now, the red doesn’t really have a story. I have no idea how did it make it into our house. Yes, it is a Brunello, which is generally good (one of the 3 big Bs of the Italian wines – Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello); Argiano seems to be a good producer even though I don’t know much about them. Lastly, the wine has good age on it, however, it is not much of an age for any of the big Bs. Oh yes, and it was my only bottle, which squarely puts it into THAT category.

2003 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14% ABV) – needed a bit of help from the decanter to open up (about an hour) – dark concentrated garnet color, no hint of age, deep tobacco and roasted meat on the nose, leather, cherry, cherry pit and a touch of plums on the palate. Right after opening, the wine seemed that it was either at prime or maybe already even past prime – after 3 hours in the decanter and a glass, the wine started closing, with fruit disappearing and fresh, young tannins taking its place. This wine would probably last for another 10 years – but I stand no chance to find out as this was my one and only bottle. Still, the verdict is simple – delicious (Drinkability: 8+/9-).

That sums it up, folks. I love OTBN, as the wine is meant to be drunk, and OTBN helps us to get THAT bottle out and experience it before its too late. How was your OTBN? Cheers!

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