Betty's Wine Musings

Saturday was this year’s celebration of OTBN, also known as Open That Bottle Night. What a wonderful night it was!

Why is this event so much fun? It is the perfect excuse to bring out those bottles of wine that you may have been saving for just a bit too long. You know that bottle that you bought on your first date with your spouse some 40 years ago? ☺ Or the bottle you were given as a gift when you got promoted at work 15 years ago? ☺

For some of these bottles, there just never seemed to be a perfect enough occasion to drink them. Well, OTBN, which is held annually on the last Saturday in February, is just that occasion.

It is a night of discovery, a night of laughter, a night of rekindling fond memories, a night of getting a better sense of whether you prefer older or newer wines.

It’s important to spend the evening with people who share your affinity and passion for wine – people who will understand how dear a particular bottle is to you, people who will share your sadness if your bottle didn’t survive the aging process, people who will enjoy sharing their stories about their bottles.

David and I hosted a fantastic OTBN gathering this past weekend, where we brought together some of our most enthusiastic wine-loving friends for an evening of fun and sharing. We asked each couple to bring an OTBN bottle and a vegetarian appetizer.

As February 26 drew closer, many of us were lamenting about how hard it was to pick the perfect bottle to bring. Most of us brought several bottles, knowing full well that some could be undrinkable, some could be past their prime, and some could be stunningly beautiful.

Here’s what we ended up with.

White Wines

We tasted three white wines – a 1988 Muscat Canelli (Paso Robles), a 1992 Riesling (Germany) and a 1997 Gewurztraminer (Monterey). The Riesling didn’t survive the aging process and was poured down the sink as an offering to the wine gods. ☺ The Gewurztraminer was okay but past its prime, having lost most of its Gewurz spiciness. The Muscat Canelli was probably also past its prime, but we really enjoyed it. It had a very deep amber tone, and it tasted like a cross between Grand Marnier and tawny port. Probably not what the wine maker intended, but that’s the beauty of trying aged wines. You never know what you will discover.

Red Wines

Our two oldest reds, a 1989 Cabernet (Napa) and a 1997 Merlot (Sonoma) were well past their prime. Both tasted thin and acidic. A 2000 Cabernet (Saratoga) was also disappointing.

After three disappointing reds, we tasted some beautiful reds: a 2001 Syrah (France), a 2000 Cabernet (Healdsburg), and two 2001 Cabernets (Paso Robles and Napa). With all of these, the tannins had mellowed. The fruitiness and minerality were well balanced. The aromas were gorgeous. The finishes were long and lively. Happiness!

2000 and 2001 Cabernets aren’t very old. So we wondered whether we don’t have a taste for older wines. We think not. We think we just didn’t have a good selection of older wines.

Dessert Wine

We ended with a non-vintage red dessert wine (Fair Play) that was bought in the early 1990s. It was lovely. It had lost much of its beautiful color. But it still gave us great aromas, great taste and a great finish. Very lovely.

A big thank you to Len and Carol Walther, Jeff and Deborah Nott, Ilyse and Jerry Pender, and Frank and Maureen Drobot for helping make the evening so much fun.

Another big thank you to John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter, the former Wall Street Journal columnists who created this annual celebration in 2000, and to Liz O’Connell and Trish Barry, two Australian wine lovers, who took over promotion of this event a few years ago. I’m already looking forward to next year’s OTBN celebration, which will be on February 25, 2012.

I would love to hear how you celebrated OTBN this year. 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!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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  1. Nice article, but let me correct one mistake. The Muscat Canelli was from the 1988 (not 1998) vintage. Yes, 23 years ago, pretty old for a white wine! It was a fabulous event with like minded wine lovers who all enjoyed sharing this exceptional experience!

  2. What a fabulous idea!
    We occasionally have an OTBN at home when I just think, Why Not? We’re worth it!
    But, I love the idea of opening it up to our wine loving friends!

    1. It is so much fun to do it with wine-loving friends. I also think it’s helpful to let your friends know what the night is all about, so they aren’t surprised if they taste wines that are a little past their prime and then can contribute a few elderly bottles themselves 🙂

    1. Pauline, I completely agree. When you set things aside for that perfect time, that perfect time never seems to come. Life is short. Eat dessert first 🙂

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