Thursday, March 13, 2008


Open That Bottle Night – Feb 23, 2008

The event

For the Wall Street Journal Open That Bottle Night party we chose to invite some friends over (originally planned to be 12, but because of flu season, reduced to 9) with the following instructions. “Please bring a bottle of a wine that is special to you, an appetizer that goes with it, and be prepared to share with the group why it is special.”

Everyone who came entered well into the spirit of the event with some delicious wines, excellent appetizers and much swapping of stories and general camaraderie.

The guests

· P* Phyllis and Christopher (hosts)

· ** Kat and Dan

* ·* Bette and John

· S* Suzy and Griffin

· C* Kathy

The party of the first part

The evening was divided into three quite distinct sections. The “Party of the First Part” was some general mixing/mingling and getting to know people. We held this in the kitchen with some relatively boring wines (provided by us!) and some appetizers – a caponata with toasts and garnished with olives carved to look like baby rabbits on a some mixed greens, and baked cheesy puffs called gougeres.

We played a variant of the guess who I am game where a label with a name is placed on your back and through elimination you have to figure out who you are. In this case we put grape varieties on the labels so everyone needed to figure out what kind of grape they were. The Gewürztraminer caused the most difficulty.

As people arrived, we placed their appetizers on the dining table which had been tastefully(!) covered with pages of a Wall Street Journal. The wines were sequenced for tasting, and the appetizers assigned sequence numbers. The mixing/ice breaking certainly worked well! After about 5 minutes there were no strangers.

The party of the second part

The “Party of the Second Part” was the main event. It was here that we were tasting the wines and listening to their stories. Now this was not a sophisticated tasting. It was as much about the stories, the reasons why things were special, the sharing of experiences, and the food pairings. We arranged the wines in the optimal (or close to it) tasting sequence.

First Pairing - Phyllis and Christopher

The wine

Domaine Du Duc De Magenta – Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru 2004

The food

A salad of baby spinach, oranges, toasted almonds, tomato, avocado and grilled chicken served as a summer roll in rice wrappers. The salad dressing was a mixture of orange and key lime juice with a little extra virgin olive oil. The wraps were softened in the dressing instead if the more normal warm water.

The story

This specific bottle was not in itself special, but the style and vineyard is. When Phyllis and Christopher were “dating” this was the first expensive bottle of wine that Phyllis had had. In fact it was the first bottle of white wine that benefited from being served warmer than ice cold. The experience of having something that luxuriant opened her palate to the delights that can be discovered in a bottle of wine.

Second Pairing – Bette and John

Bette and John brought 2 wines (one red and one white) from Oregon.

The wines

King Estates Pinot Gris - 2002

Firesteed Pinot Noir – 2006

The food

Bette had made some dense crackers with gorgonzola baked in. These crackers helped prepare our mouths and greatly enhanced the wines.

The story

In the 1960s when John was at the University of Oregon, all the land around was “truck farms”. Fresh peaches, plums and other fruit in the late summer – a really wonderful place to eat from the land. Bette was an East Coast Girl, so when John introduced her to the delights of Oregon, she was amazed. Move on to their 40th. Anniversary and they went back to Oregon. The area is now planted with vines, and making high quality wine. They tasted their way up and down the valley, settling on the Firesteed winery as a favorite. The story ends with a knock on the door about 2 weeks after the trip, and there is a delivery for Bette – 2 cases of the Firesteed Pinot Noir.

Third Pairing – Suzy and Griffin

The wine

Senorio D Las Vinas Rioja Crianza

The food

Suzy and Griffin brought puffs filled with a little white cheddar and shrimp. The wine was light enough to go perfectly with the puffs. They were much admired and few left!

The story

One of Suzy and Griff’s children had been in Spain last year. On a visit, they had become quite taken with this wine, and wanted to bring some home. Cutting to the chase – 17 bottles of it. So the bottles were packed in checked luggage (of course since security prohibits carrying liquids – especially 12 liters of liquids) on the plane too. Come to customs on reentry to the US, and they nonchalantly admit to having 17 bottles of wine – no problem for the inspector, and they were in – and able to share a bottle with all of us.

Fourth Pairing – Kat and Daniel

The wine

Sister Creek Reserve 2004 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend

The food

Kat cannot eat dairy or wheat, so she always finds innovative ways of preparing things that would typically use bread or cheese. This evening she made stuffed mushrooms – stuffed with hot Italian sausage and topped with crushed tortilla chips – instead of breadcrumbs. The group was pretty quiet (for a change) while chowing down on these!

The story

Kat is a Texas girl through and through. On a road trip she discovered this little winery in Texas (near Sisterville) , and while she didn’t hold out much hope for it, she gave it a go. It was surprisingly well balanced and full flavored. It certainly gave the rest of us a new appreciation for the wines of the second largest state.

Fifth Pairing – Cathy

The wine

Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

The food

Moroccan meat balls with plum sauce. The wine is such a big Cabernet Sauvignon that something with really bold flavors and, as advised by Chef Syre, the Executive Chef at the Four Seasons, without tomatoes. The small lamb balls were spiced with fresh mint, garlic, cinnamon, and cumin. The plum sauce added a little fruitiness without being overly sweet or cloying.

The story

Cathy is a “California Cabernet girl”. One day she was eating at Café Annie in Houston (one of the best restaurants in the state of Texas) and wanted a bottle of the Silver Oak Cab. To the restaurant’s embarrassment they were out of the Silver Oak. The sommelier suggested that she try the Long Meadow Ranch Cab, and that even though it was more expensive than the Silver Oak, he would let her have it for the same price. He thought it was a better wine.

The trouble is that the 2003 is now sold out, so Cathy had to scramble to find a bottle to bring. A few years back she had given a bottle to one of her better customers, so she called to ask if he happened to have any. Now we understand why there is none available, the customer had bought several cases. Fortunately he was delighted to return the favor to Cathy – thus giving us all a terrific experience.

The party of the third part

Now that the tasting was over, the party moved on to the conversation and carousing stage. We had placed some dark chocolate M&Ms on the coffee table – so it seemed natural to drink something bold with them. Since we had not yet had a Shiraz, I pulled one out from the collection – in this case an Ausvetia 1998 from South Australia. It was a bit long in the tooth, but went absolutely beautifully with the chocolate. While Zinfandel is often the chocolate choice, I really like a full-on Australian Shiraz.

Even the clean up wasn’t terribly hard – we had used disposable bamboo plates, so it was easy to toss them. Just a lot of wineglasses to wash!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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