Open That Bottle Night 2013

It’s New Year’s Day, and I am sure that many of you have been or will be commemorating with a special bottle of wine or champagne. What better opportunity to crack open something you’ve been saving, than the start of an entirely new year?

New Year’s Eve and Day are truly two of the best days of the year. New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to look to the past — reflecting on your accomplishments and challenges, and how they’ve helped you change and grow. New Year’s Day is an opportunity to look to the future — making plans and dreaming big dreams while anything is still possible. I hope you opened at least one special bottle today that will bring you joy when you reflect on the conclusion of 2012 and birth of 2013 in the years to come.

Reflecting on the New Year makes me think about a topic I touched on a few posts ago. A very important topic. Context. Like many wine drinkers, I have an emotional connection to the wines I drink and serve. Not every bottle is special, but many are, and some are so special I never thought I would drink them, not even on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve or Day. Not ever.

I think a lot of wine drinkers have this problem, which is why the Tastings columnists for the New York Times (Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher) invented Open That Bottle Night. To paraphrase:

Whether it’s the only bottle in the house or one bottle among thousands, just about all of us have that very special wine that we always mean to open, but never do. On Open That Bottle Night, thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed. With them come memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones, and bittersweet moments. The whole point of our wine column is that wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It’s about history, geography, relationships, and all of the things that are really important in life.

In other words…you’ve likely already selected what you will be drinking this evening. Maybe you already drank it, even. There are probably one or two bottles your fingers fluttered over before you said, “No. It’s just not the right time. Maybe next year. Or the year after.”

Open That Bottle Night is celebrated on the last Saturday of February, every year. While the New Year is already upon us, Open That Bottle Night 2013, just a few weeks away, is a great opportunity to drink the bottle that didn’t make it onto your table today. Here are some items Ms. Gaiter and Mr. Brecher suggest you consider before deciding what to open:

  1. You don’t necessarily want to open your most impressive wine, but the wine that means the most to you.
  2. Stand older wine up (away from light and heat) for a few days before you plan to open it. This will allow any sediment to sink to the bottom.
  3. If you are having a party to commemorate Open That Bottle Night, ask everyone to say a few words about the significance of the wine they brought.
  4. Enjoy the wine for what it is, not what it might someday be or might once have been.

In short, Open That Bottle Night is a celebration of friends, family, and memories, and your opportunity to drink that wine that is otherwise simply too important to open.

I’ve mentioned several times that my parents introduced me, and to a very significant degree, my husband Robert, to good wine. When we were first dating, we lived in Washington, D.C., and like many young professionals, we were very broke. We ate 99 cent Dinty Moore dinners every night. When we celebrated our first dating anniversary, it was a very big night out, in the sense that we were both “allowed” to get one margarita all to ourselves. All to ourselves. Robert and I still talk fondly about that period in our lives. Actually, come to think of it, we talk about it almost every day now! Because we live in an apartment again. Just like the good old days, but now we can have as many margaritas as we want!

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, for holidays and birthdays, my parents would give us very special bottles of wine, way above what we could ever conceive of affording. We hoarded them like Gollum hoards the Precious. One such bottle was a 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia, ranked the #1 Wine of the Year in the Wine Spectator year-end review of the top 100 wines tasted in 2005. 12,400 wines from around the world are blind tasted and narrowed down to a thousand, then a hundred, then the top 10. Suffice to say, it was a pretty special bottle. When Robert and I were celebrated our second dating anniversary at our favorite D.C.-area special occasion restaurant, the Tabard Inn, imagine my surprise when the sommelier came out and presented it to me. I knew they didn’t have it on the wine list. Robert had made special arrangements to bring it in. I exclaimed that our second dating anniversary wasn’t special enough to open the Insignia.

He proposed. And I didn’t argue with him about it after that.

On February 23, 2013, I challenge you to open that bottle! We’re going to be picking out something special. I’ll be looking for you to tell us what you opened too.

I’m going to leave you with a cocktail recipe from last night. We had six friends over, and we like to make a unique specialty cocktail when we have parties. We picked this particular concoction because the ingredients were easy to find at the liquor store down the street. Campari, a blend of equal parts of alcohol, sugar syrup, and distilled water infused with oranges, rhubarb, ginseng, and a mixture of herbs is spicy and bitter, making for a great apéritif.

La Rosita (from Food and Wine, contributed by Robert Hess)
1.5 ounces reposado tequila
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Campari

Fill two-thirds of a pint glass with ice. Add all of the ingredients and stir until completely chilled, then strain into a glass over ice. The recipe called for the cocktail to be strained into a chilled martini glass, but we opted for over ice instead.

Robert and I mixed ourselves two cocktails before our guests arrived and they tasted terrible. A lesson: always, always, always taste-test a cocktail before you serve it. Even if it’s from Food and Wine magazine. It was too bitter and a little too strong for our friends, who don’t neccessarily drink as much as we do. What to do? We topped off our drinks with tonic water, squeezed in some fresh lime juice, and garnished with a lime wedge. With these minor modifications, the drinks came out great, and cocktail hour was saved.

We Looked Really Young When We Got EngagedYour Campari Cocktail SuppliesThe Finished (Modified) ProductHappy New Year!

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