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.
· P* Phyllis and Christopher (hosts)
· ** Kat and Dan
* ·* Bette and John
· S* Suzy and
· 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
Domaine Du Duc De Magenta – Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru 2004
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.
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
King Estates Pinot Gris - 2002
Firesteed Pinot Noir – 2006
Bette had made some dense crackers with gorgonzola baked in. These crackers helped prepare our mouths and greatly enhanced the wines.
In the 1960s when John was at the
Third Pairing – Suzy and
Senorio D Las Vinas Rioja Crianza
One of Suzy and Griff’s children had been in
Fourth Pairing – Kat and Daniel
Sister Creek Reserve 2004 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend
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!
Kat is a
Fifth Pairing – Cathy
Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
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.
Cathy is a “
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
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!