This post is coming from Anne’s solo perspective, instead of us writing as a pair.This is mostly because it was Anne’s idea to do a blog hop celebrating Open That Bottle Night with some lovely women we met at the Wine Blogger’s Conference last summer. And it was Anne who has actually met Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, who started Open That Bottle Night.
I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and confess that I pretty much hate most writing about wine – at least, the traditional wine writing. You want to torture me? Tie me up and make me read Wine Spectator. There’s minimal story. The photo spreads all look the same, and, frankly, I don’t want to read a bunch of pretentious notes about wine that I either can’t afford or can’t find.
But then there was the Tastings column in the Wall Street Journal by John Brecher and Dorothy J. Gaiter. It began in the late 1990s and Michael and I were immediate fans. It talked about wine as something that was accessible, something fun and wonderful. John and Dorothy, as we came to call them even though we didn’t know them, shared our attitude, namely that the best wine was the wine you liked and that the experience surrounding the wine you drank had as much to do with the flavor as what was actually in the bottle. They even went out on a limb here and there and tasted bargain wines – the merlot experiment was not particularly successful. But, dummit, they kept trying.
More importantly, John and Dorothy told stories. They wrote about their process as they tasted that week’s flight. They wrote about their daughters bagging bottles for their blind tasting process and they worked through a lot of wine. They wrote about doing a Disney cruise with the kids and the joy of discovering that the wine on the ship wasn’t bad at all. Their rating system was what all rating systems are, at bottom, which is an opinion. But they used words from blech to Delicious! – and it was a rare wine, indeed, that earned that top rating.
And they came up with Open That Bottle Night, because almost anyone who has a wine collection has several bottles waiting for just the “right” special occasion, one that never seems to happen. It’s an event that has grown over the past however many years, and has even survived the demise of the Tastings column. Dorothy is now writing for the GrapeCollective.com, and we just found out that the last Saturday of February is still Open That Bottle Night.
I met Dorothy and John, when they came to Southern California, lo these many years ago, back when I was writing for Wines & Vines magazine. I was doing a profile on them and they had come out to judge wines for the commercial competition at the Los Angeles County Fair, so I went out to get pictures. John was judging whites, but Dorothy had just finished a panel of dessert wines and still had a glass of one she’d particularly liked. She insisted I take a snort and a sip – and she was dead on. That stuff was amazing (and, alas, no longer made) – and I really don’t like sweet wines.
For some reason, Michael and I don’t have too many issues with finding just the “right” special occasion for our bottles, so we don’t need an excuse like Open That Bottle Night. That doesn’t mean we won’t take advantage of it. As I recall, that first #OTBN, we drank a zinfandel and made dinner at home
You can read where John and Dorothy are going to be hanging out in NYC. We, here in L.A. (okay, Pasadena), are going to be celebrating at one of our fave restaurants, Cafe Bizou, mostly because they have one of the most liberal corkage fees in the county: $2 per bottle. Corkage is the fee restaurants charge if you bring your own bottle. Most run between $10 to $20 a bottle because the restaurants either want you to buy theirs (at the usual ridiculous mark up) or make the same profit. Cafe Bizou figures they’re saving a bundle by not having to keep as deep a wine cellar, so they’re fine with letting folks bring their own.
We’ll be bringing a Brander sparkling wine that I won at the Wine Bloggers Conference and a Joseph Blair 2009 pinot noir that Michael has decided it’s time to drink. I’m just hoping that Cafe Bizou will still be offering their pris fixe menu that includes a Meat Trio of rack of lamb, short ribs and something else (dang, I should’ve gotten a picture of that menu board).
So what will you be doing? For some other ideas, check out the below blogs by my colleagues. And then raise a toast to John and Dorothy, two of the best wine writers in the biz. We certainly will.