This past weekend marked the 13th annual Open That Bottle Night, inspiring me to make the following confession to you…
I have a problem when it comes to wine. A problem that my husband diagnosed years ago when we first got into wine, but only now have I recognized the severity of this… “problem”. It has nothing to do with consumption, but rather my wine purchasing habits. And I am sharing this with you, today, as a public service announcement. Because people, this. is. important.
I suffer from a common problem I like to call “the girl who walks into a winery, falls in love with a particular wine, but only buys one bottle (instead of a case)”.
I admit I’m being a bit of a drama queen right now, but bare with me.
This is a problem because anytime my husband or I feel like opening up something special or unique, we constantly face this battle – going into the cellar to discover there is only one bottle of a particular special wine. When it’s gone it’s gone. It is irreplaceable; therefore drink something less special – something purchased at our corner wine store with no personal attachment – and leaving the “special” bottles untouched. When you have only one bottle left, it becomes a dilemma. Do you open your one and only bottle? Is tonight special enough for the [fill in the blank wine].
This is also a problem because I believe that the only true way for you to discover how well a wine ages is to buy multiple bottles, then open up a bottle a year after you bought it, then another 2 years after, and then 5+ yrs, and so forth. Compare your notes to when you first bought it. Taste for yourself how it is after 5 years, then 10, etc., and determine for yourself how well it ages. That is if you are interested in how well a wine ages, something many wine consumers ask when I host classes. I preach this to my friends and clients, but I am admitting this here, today – I am guilty of not following my own advice way too often.
In my defense (and I hope I speak for others) there are reasons for this problem.
When I started getting into wine as a hobby I was living in a small and very expensive apartment in San Francisco paying my way through graduate school. Buying a bottle of $40+ wine was a pretty big investment at the time (and still is today). A case (12 bottles) of said wine would equal more than my monthly grocery bills. So instead, I would allow myself one, maybe two or three, bottle(s) of a wine in that price range.
These wines then become the singular bottled memory of a great trip to wine country. They become special (regardless of whether you spent $10 or $60 on them). It then becomes difficult to decide when to finally open that bottle. These types of bottles are one of the many reasons Open That Bottle Night was created. The bottle I opened this weekend made me face my problem square in the face.
Created in 1999 by Dorothy “Dottie” J. Gaiter and John Brecher, the former writers of the Wall Street Journal’s tastings column, Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) encourages wine lovers from all over the globe to stop putting off opening up that special bottle of wine and finally drink and enjoy it. The event was first held on a Saturday in 1999, and has been held every year since on the last Saturday of February. It is a great event for people like me needing a little extra encouragement to finally open up those special bottles they have been holding onto.
I gave little thought to OTBN until Saturday morning when I saw folks all over twitter and facebook prepping their bottles. I wanted in on the fun too. I asked Sean what we should open, and he was no help. “You’re the sommelier, you decide”. I hate when he says that. That’s his sarcastic way of telling me he doesn’t feel like getting off his butt and going to the basement. So I wandered into the basement myself, alone, to peruse what we had going on in the cellar (aka, our wine fridge). I haven’t explored our cellar in quite some time and was astonished to see bottle after bottle that would be perfect for OTBN. That “something special”. Something we’ve been holding onto and putting off drinking. We had a lot of wines that qualify. The problem was, there were many singular bottles. The “just one” bottle we bought at the winery years ago, sparking a memory of a great afternoon in wine country. Living proof of the problem Sean has accused me of having right there in our wine fridge. Bottle after bottle with no siblings. Just a bunch of sad lonely solo bottles, waiting for their special day to come when we finally deem them worthy of drinking.
I ran upstairs, empty handed, and announced to Sean “we have a lot of good wines down there, but they are all solo bottles.” His response shouldn’t have come as a shock to me, “Duh, I’ve been saying it for years. So what did you bring up?”
“Nothing” I pouted. “I couldn’t decide”, then listed a few possible options. I finally narrowed it down to one of the three vintages we have of a specific Oregon Pinot Noir we were always fond of – the Argyle Winery “Nuthouse” Pinot Noir; a vertical of 2003, 2004, and 2005 – or the 2000 Knudsen Vineyard Brut sparkling wine by the same producer. We only had one bottle each of the Pinot Noirs and we decided they deserved to be opened together, in a vertical format, with friends to share them with. Since it was just the two of us that evening we went with the bubbles. Our last 2000 Knudsen Vineyard Brut, and one of the first sparkling wines we fell in love with when we moved to Oregon in 2006 (you may have guessed by now that I was feeling a bit homesick for Oregon).
Argyle Winery, Knudsen Vineyard Brut 2000, Sparkling Deliciousness
Dundee Hills AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon | 13% alcohol
People often talk about Argyle Winery for their more famous “Extended Tirage” Brut – a sparkling wine that has ended up on Wine Spectator’s top 100 list more than once, and always gets rave reviews from the magazines – but I was usually more fond of the Knudsen Vineyard. The Extended Tirage is often compared to Champagne; a great compliment for a domestic bubbly. However, if I’m going to pay $60 for a wine that “tastes like” Champagne then by jolly I’ll just buy myself Champagne. No offense Argle, it is a great wine, that is just my opinion. I feel different about the Knudsen Vineyard. Not sure why. The blend is primarily Pinot Noir (80% with the remaining 20% Chardonnay) and holds a bigger kick as a result. But don’t let that fool you. Though it is a Pinot Noir focused bubbly the wine remains balanced, elegant, and mature, with good fruit yet enticing yeasty baked bread aromas and a creamy texture throughout. It was good. It was crisp. It made me miss Oregon and our easy access to so many amazing wineries in the region. It went down way to easy. And when we finished the last drop Sean looked at me with his squinty eyes and I told you so expression and said “see, we should have bought a case when we had the chance!” <sigh>
Lesson (FINALLY) learned.
So I have decided it’s time to start working on my “problem”, and challenge myself to buy more wine when I find ones I really like while visiting wineries. So perhaps instead of buying one bottle here, one bottle there, on a trip to wine country, I will instead decide which of all the wines I enjoyed the most then buy multiple bottles.
I may need a reminder from time to time, a nudge, a serious look while whispering under your breath “remember your vow Mary. Buy the case. You know you wanna”.
I suppose there are worse problems to have
Now I am curious – am I the only one out there who suffers from this problem?
Thank you to Dottie and John for encouraging me once again to open up that bottle I’ve been holding onto.