This past Saturday was OTBN 2019! That’s right! Open That Bottle Night 2019! The night each year where you get together with wine-loving friends to share special wines that you might have been saving for just a bit too long. OTBN was created in 2000 by Wall Street Journal Tastings columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher.
This Year’s Setup
On Saturday, I hosted what I believe was my ninth OTBN gathering, and we had a ball. Twelve wine-loving friends gathered together to enjoy 14 bottles of wine, along with yummy vegetarian appetizers.
Our OTBN 2019 Wines
Our wines ranged in age from the youngest, which was a 2009, to the oldest, which was a 1962!!! We had eight non-dessert wines in the 2000s and four non-dessert wines before the year 2000. We also had two dessert wines from the 1990s.
Tasting Notes on the Newer Non-dessert Wines
- 2009 Isola dei Nuraghi Carignan (also called Barrua) from Sardinia, Italy. This wine was excellent, with lots of strawberry notes and no bitterness. I had told my friend Rob that I often find Carignan to be bitter. He brought this one to introduce me to a wine that was smooth as silk. Very yummy.
- 2009 Mountford Riesling from Waipara, New Zealand. This wine had a lot of petrol on the nose, which is a very typical characteristic of an aged Riesling. For those of us who could get past the aroma, the taste was pretty good. But many of us were too challenged by the smell to enjoy the wine.
- 2008 Blackridge Vineyards BRV Cabernet Franc from the Santa Cruz Mountains. This wine was made by famed wine maker Bill Brousseau. Typical of a Cabernet Franc, it had a very vegetal nose. It also had a lot of pepper on the finish. We found this wine to be good but not great—perhaps just a little past its prime. Many people thought it would go well with steak.
- 2003 Black Opal Chardonnay from Australia (imported by Beringer). This was the first wine to be worthy of the down-the-drain award J Truth be told, its smell was worse than its taste, but it was not very drinkable.
- 2003 Twomey Merlot from Soda Canyon Ranch, Napa. Twomey is the sister winery to Silver Oaks, and it gets rave reviews. The current Merlot vintage is selling for $65. I found the 2003 vintage available at K&L for $28.99. Our take on the 2003: A good nose, but past its prime. Not enough deep chocolate tastes.
- 2001 Bartholomew Park Winery Pinot Noir from Sonoma. This beautiful winery sadly just closed. We found this wine to be remarkably good for it being a 2001. But we didn’t find any fruit on it. It was a celebration of earthiness.
- 2000 David Bruce Cabernet from Central Coast, CA. This wine was well past its prime and had noticeable gasoline notes.
- 2000 Bears’ Lair Cabernet from Napa. Not much on the taste here, and some people found the aromas to be very unpleasant.
Tasting Notes on the Older Non-dessert Wines
- 1999 Robert Mondavi Cabernet from Napa. This wine had nice fruitiness on the nose. It was past its prime but maybe only by a few years.
- 1988 Belle Vindyards Pinot Noir from Napa. This wine had a bad nose and a very unusual (gone bad?) orangish brownish color. Somebody described it as “rancid prune juice.”
- 1984 Ridge Zin from Howell Mountain in Napa. This wine had almost no nose but was somewhat drinkable.
- 1962 Echezeaux from Burgundy, France. This wine came to us from one of our tasters’ 90-year-old aunt’s San Francisco home! The wine is from the Romanée-Conti appellation, considered to be “one of the greatest wines of the world and the most perfect as well as the most expensive of Burgundy … with a forceful bouquet of violet mixed with a scent of cherry, a lively and profound ruby robe, a suaveness of exceptional finesse.” We were very excited to get to try such an old, esteemed wine. The verdict: Lovely prune juice, with a hint of fermentation.
Tasting Notes on the Dessert Wines
- 1998 Cedar Mountain Vintage Port from Amador County. This wine was an LBV port, which stands for late bottle vintage. That means the juice was put in barrels for several years to speed up the aging. We think that had this wine not been an LBV, it would have been great. Since it had aged a little more quickly, it was a bit past its prime, although still very drinkable.
- 1990 Chateau Filhot Sauternes. Many of us had nice expressions for this wine: liquid gold; sunshine and happiness. It was quite wonderful both with rhubarb pie and with Roquefort cheese.
We tool a poll to see what wines got the most votes. Here are the results:
- First place: 1990 Sauternes
- Second place: 1962 Echezeaux – I think people just loved trying such an old wine
- Third place: 2001 Bartholomew Park Winery Pinot Noir
At an OTBN, it’s hard not to think about what a wine should be tasting like. We very quickly decided that most of the wines were past their prime. But perhaps if these wines were served at a normal event, where we weren’t expecting to taste elderly wines, we would have enjoyed everything. Who knows. It’s really fun to get together once a year to try old wines. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Did you celebrate OTBN 2019? Please share your stories here.
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
WineShop At Home
OTBN is definately a tradition every wine lover should embrace! If for no other reason that to note how much wines can change over time. Aging wine is a grand tradition of its own! But, drinking wine while it is still in its prime might be the best tradition of all.
The only thing better is to share the experience with old friends and new – add a bit of yummy food and the result is the raison d’etre of the wine making tradition – good times. Cheers!