There is one night in wine that many of my wine industry colleagues and wine loving friends look forward to each year - the last Saturday night in February. It's known as Open that Bottle Night, and it began in 2000 when Dorothy Gaiter and John Breacher, whose "Tastings" column ran in the Wall Street Journal from 1998-2009, created a night that gave their readers a reason to open a bottle they were saving for "some day."
Each year, this wine tradition seems gain more ground, and through the magic of social media and Instagram hashtags, it's now easy to find out what many people drank on #OTBN.
My friends and I opened three bottles.
2011 Plovac Ploski from Vina Carić in Croatia (100% plavac mali). My friend Yvonne, who hosted us for the evening, had been to Croatia, visited this winery, and brought the Plovac Ploski home. OTBN was made for sharing a bottle like this.
This Croatian wine was nicely acidic with light tannins. It had a juicy, plum jammy taste with some spice and chocolate. It was very concentrated, a little sweet, almost port-like. Really enjoyable.
2013 Austral Red from Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington State (Rhone-style blend of 60%, grenache, 30% syrah and 10% mourvèdre). My beer, wine and spirits writing friend Tara had the bottle of Austral - something you can only get at the tasting room at the winery - and wanted to share it.
Leather, berry and clay on the nose. Blackberry on the palate. Very tannic. Went so nicely with a mild brie. It cut through the fat in the cheese wonderfully. This is definitely a wine that's meant to be paired with food.
2017 Chupacabra from Merkin Vineyards in Arizona (Rhone-style blend of 40% grenache, 40% syrah and 20% mourvèdre).I attended a wine festival on a recent trip to Arizona. I was impressed with the quality of the local wines, including those from Merkin and its main winery Caduceus. I couldn't be greedy and keep the wine to myself.
Grenache/syrah/mourvèdre - commonly known as a GSM blend - is one of my favorite blends. I loved tasting it side by side with the Austral Red. Despite being the same blend, they were very different wines. Chupacabra is lighter, juicier and less tannic. It doesn't need food to be enjoyed, but it goes nicely with food. The fruit aromas kept changing as the wine opened - started out as blueberry and plum, but after a while had a distinct cranberry aroma. Finally, sour cherry emerged after about two hours. I just love this wine, and it's a shining example of what the state of Arizona is able to do with wine.
We didn't plan our meal around wine pairings. Rather, we planned a hearty meal after a two and half hour hike through one of Fairmount Park's trails - everyone contributing something.
What you see here is the main course - a salad, pork tenderloin with sweet potato, and a quinoa, veggie and goat cheese side dish. We had cheeses, nuts and hummus and vegetables before dinner and after dinner, we shared chocolates and slices of carrot cake.
Those who wanted to pay special attention to the wines could. Those who just wanted to eat and drink and not get all geeky about what they were drinking were able to do that, too. While the wine was important that night, what was more important was the women gathered around the table enjoying community.
There were cocktails before the meal and very special digestif at the end of the meal - an amaro made in Baltimore that I'll do a separate post on. Seriously good stuff.
Did you open something special on Open That Bottle Night. I'd love to hear about it in the comments.