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More Stories about Open That Bottle Night

(from Paul K in Boston, Feb. 2008)

Open That Bottle Night is Every Night

As Americans, we are no strangers to the high art form of celebrating. Be it Christmas, Thanskgiving, New Years, Passover, the Jewish high holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or when a certain Boston baseball team ends a 90-year drought and delivers the city’s first World Series. Bostonians are peerless when it comes to dropping everything and slaying the fatted calf, as it were, to celebrate all occasions, big or small. Save for the throat-numbing cold beer around the 4th of July barbecue or the bubbly glass of new Year’s champagne, the drinking of wine and the toasting of these celebrations with our favorite glass of red or white has taken center stage on the celebratory table.

And yet, with all this wine and all this celebrating, I find it ironic that we have not found an occasion that is singled-out as a celebration of wine itself. When we raise our glasses in honor of a new-born baby, a freshly-minted college grad, or a recently-engaged couple looking down the barrel of “love and happiness,” I can almost hear the forlorn cry of that chewy pinot noir that is tumbling out of my wine glass and over my lips, whimpering softly; “what about me, when are you going to celebrate my existence?”

Until Congress declares the newest national “Take the Day Off, Put your Feet Up and Uncork that 20 year-old bottle of Mouton” national holiday, wine drinkers near and far will have to take solace in “Open That Bottle Night.” Created by Wall Street Journal wine writers, John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter (the nearest thing to royalty or rock stars in the world of grapes), OTBN is that one night where John and Dorothy encourage us to dig deep into our wine collections and pour that one bottle we were saving for optimal aging or a specific celebrated event. Or for those of us like myself who are more wine drinkers and appreciators than collectors; it’s an evening where you may go beyond your normal $10-15 range and consider a wine in a price range with which you are normally unfamiliar; say the stratospheric $25-30. This is a night, after all, where the wine basks in the white-hot lights of stardom and we should make them feel special..

I think John and Dorothy were genius when they devised a night set aside to extol the transformation of nature’s most common fruit into an elixir that gives millions so much enjoyment and pleasure, and from reading their column over the years where they share others’ experiences on this night; I gather that I am not alone in this appreciation. Of course, as a wine drinker, I am of the belief that each bottle that I open, and every glass that I pour and share with my wife, family or friends is cause for celebration. Pardon me as I wax philosophic, but I am always moved by the experience of drinking wine and each month when I walk out of the BRIX wine store in Boston’s South End with my hand-picked case of wine (there are no better folks at helping those of us who are wine-challenged than the “BRIX Chix” and their stalwart associates?) I do my best to fight back the tears. Seriously, whether it’s a stray glass that I drink as an accompaniment to my cooking the nightly family meal or the bottle that we open to drink with that meal, in my mind, the wine and the drinking of it is, well, the straw that stirs the drink.

Of course, there are some nights that are more special than others and in my case; I have a monthly “OTBN” that I cherish. When my mother-in-law moved to Boston from her native Shanghai she was a babe in the woods when it came to understanding and accepting American culture, which included the inclusion of wine with family meals. Despite being a novice in this area, she embraced this custom and looked forward to each meal where I would always let her do the honors when it came to tasting the wine before I also poured it for myself and my wife. She quickly accepted this tradition and when she moved out of our home into her own retirement digs she also became a regular wine consumer. So now, when our family goes to her home for our traditional Friday-night dinner, she is the one doing the pouring from her own wine cache.

Over the years since she began living on her own, a couple of things have taken place. First, her interest in wine has spread to a handful of her Chinese friends who also live in her building. Second, at her age, she does not always feel up to “throwing down” the Friday-night feed, and she and her elderly friends often find it difficult to uncork the wine they buy. On more than one occasion I arrived at Mom’s home with a line up of wine bottles on the dinner table waiting for me to open them. They are from her friends and in need of some serious muscle. I also have begun to help Mom make the Friday meal and about a year ago decided to become both cook and a strong-armed sommelier for her and her friends. (I know I could suggest screw tops, but it would deprive me of such pleasure.)

At my urging, Mom started inviting her three wine buddies to bring their latest catches up to her apartment and stay for dinner; which I prepare. I also, of course, open their wine which they happily take back home after dinner is finished.

There are so many things that touch me about these ladies and this experience. First, I always bring a few bottles of wine to help move this event forward. One is for us to all share as I prepare the meal. The sight of them sitting in a row outside the kitchen, wine in hand, gabbing and laughing in their native tongue, and watching me as I turn chicken, rice, and assorted vegetables into something edible, is a picture in my mind that is etched forever. Mom tells me that they find it funny to watch this very tall American in the kitchen cooking; a domain in their culture that is usually occupied by women and not men.

When we first started this, Mom’s friends had never eaten food that was not Chinese, so I knew I was on shaky ground when considering what to cook. I’m happy to say; however, that there have been more hits than misses and over time these lovely Chinese ladies have learned to appreciate my cooking. And, of course, there is the wine. Like me, these ladies are neophytes when it comes to discerning which wine is the best selection for the meals I cook. None of us could tell you if the fruit is forward, backwards, or sideways; or how it finishes, lands on the tongue or resonates on the palate. We’ll leave the critiquing for those more qualified, like John and Dorothy. We’re just glad to be around the table and the essence of the wine for us is that it is an important part of these evenings as it fills in the spaces between spoken words and bites of food. When I open those bottles what is unearthed is so much more than just the aftermath of crushed grapes. It’s an experience that nourishes our hearts and brings us together as family and friends. Now, that’s worthy of celebrating.

(from Donna B., somewhere in the U.S.)

We are enjoying a Martinelli Zinfalndel, 2003 Guiseppe and Luisa, that we got when we were out in California for open-barrel weekend a few years ago.  Just the two of us at home, with left over pizza!

(from Bubba and Ellis of Florida)

Opened a bottled of Due Cani Cellars 2007 Hayley Vineyard Pinot Noir... The nose is so aromatic with lavendar and bright red fruites.  Give it some time to open up and it has amazing cherry, rasperry amd tea flavors with a earthiness that will only get better over the next few years. 

(from Carmen D in San Diego)
February 20, 2009

I am visiting friends at Big Bear, CA for a skiing weekend. Catherine & Michael have a beautiful ski-in, ski-out cabin right at the slopes.

After a few runs on Fri morning with Michael, an expert skier, and Wolfgang, his tax consultant from Orange County, an expert snow boarder, both cajole me to go tree skiing with them. Being Austrian, I am a good skier myself, yet unfamiliar with the canyons at Big Bear. As both promise to guide the way, and wait for me, if necessary, I am in for the adventure.

After a long traverse, we begin our downhill run ... I hug a tree on the first turn ... Michael and Wolfgang are history ... An hour and a bruised knee, thigh and calf later, I meet them back at the cabin, a Magnum '96 Laurent Perrier waiting for me (in addition to apologies for "loosing" me in the Canyon).

As the bottle might have not been opened without my incident, I highly recommend skiing adventures in addition to Open That Bottle Night ;).

(from John T, somewhere)
We chose a 2001 Lafite Rothschild for this year. A bit tight but very big and tons of finish!

(from Jark J., somewhere)
Love OTBN and look forward to it every year!

This year we opened a 1982 Chateau Margaux.  Feel free to post our tasting notes on your website from our blog at:  The notes should be up late tonight, or by lunchtime tomorrow!


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