Around 2000, Dorothy J. Gaither and her husband John Brecher used their wine column in the Wall Street Journal to found what they called "Open That Bottle Night." The basic premise is that most of us have wines in our cellar that we never seem to open because they're so special. We act like we're waiting for a command from heaven that says "Finally, this occasion is special enough to open that bottle." Well, commands from heaven (at least about wine) seem to be fairly rare...and too often, those bottles just don't get opened...and we miss out on opportunities to celebrate. So their idea: make the last Saturday in February "Open That Bottle Night." There's your command from heaven!
And I think their suggestion was brilliant. There was a time when I'd go into the wine cellar and look at the special bottles...think...and then reach for something lesser. I just had this instinct to save them for some very special occasion...which rarely seemed to come. That changed ten years ago when I was diagnosed with two simultaneous, unrelated cancers. For about six months--during treatment and the following months--I didn't drink any wine. It wasn't that I wasn't allowed to...I just couldn't. And my friends cheerfully made jokes about putting stickers on my special bottles, to claim them in case I didn't make it. If that sounds morbid now, it didn't then...it seemed mildly humorous. What didn't seem humorous was that there was a real chance I'd never get to enjoy the wines that I had been saving because they were so "special."
Once I was well enough to enjoy wine again, I was less reluctant to reach for the good stuff. But even I can use a stimulus to pull out something special. The definition of special is completely in the eye of the beholder. It may be because of who gave it to you...or because you shared that wine previously on a memorable occasion...or because it's a legendary wine. For Open That Bottle Night, the "why" matters more than the "what." Thinking about why that wine is special as you enjoy it can take you to wonderful memories and wonderful places.
This year, I chose the 2012 Angelicall Rosé from Antica Terra. There were a couple of reasons. First, I think it's a great wine. Second, Maggie Harrison is a great winemaker and a fascinating, passionate, thoughtful person. Finally--and this may seem a little loopy, but it's true--I chose it because I frequently pause to consider it, but pass it by...I think because it's a very expensive rosé. We tend to think of rosé as a $20 or $25 wine. This is closer to $100. If it was a Napa cab, a Bordeaux or a Burgundy, that wouldn't slow us down a bit. But a rosé? Have to save that for just the right occasion. That is, of course, dumb. It's not a rosé--at least not first and foremost. It's a bottle of wine--a very, very good bottle of wine. And so selecting that seemed to fit the spirit of Open That Bottle Night.
It was great, of course. And it went spectacularly with a whole chicken roasted on the rotisserie on the grill. I basted the chicken with lots of garlic butter--and nearly set the neighborhood on fire when as the butter dripped down into the flames. Oh, well. It was worth it. Great wine, great dinner and great memories of our visits with Maggie and anticipation of our visits to the winery this summer and to her three-day event at Blackberry Farm next winter.
I said I was better than I used to be about reaching for the good stuff. But I could still improve. I'm reminded of the movie Sideways. When the main character, Miles, is alone for the first time with his new potential love interest, Maya, she asks him if he has any special bottles. He allows as how he does have a bottle of '61 Cheval Blanc. She asks why he hasn't opened it. He says "I guess I've been waiting for a special occasion." She says "You don't understand. Whenever you open a '61 Cheval Blanc, it is special!" She was right, of course.
Earlier this year, I toyed with the idea of once a month choosing a special bottle--and using that as a basis to make a night special. I toyed with it...but I haven't done it.