Wine, Friends and Food: Our OTBN and #winePW Evening

OTBN, otherwise known as Open That Bottle Night, is always celebrated on the last Saturday in February; at least it has been since 1999. That’s when Wall Street Journal columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher came up with the idea of dedicating one night to opening that very special bottle of wine in your wine cellar. One you’ve been holding, waiting for just the right occasion to open.

We are relative newcomers to the OTBN celebration. This year’s celebration was only our third, and the second celebrated with our Wine Pairing Weekend friends. David, who blogs at Cooking Chat and is also the originator of #winePW, sent out this month’s invitation to create food pairings to complement our OTBN wine.


Of course, we decided immediately to participate in the OTBN food and wine pairing. We put our heads together with friends whom we wanted to include in the evening and hatched a plan. They would host the evening, and do all of the cooking, and we would all bring wine and our appetites. What great friends, right?

So, this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend was a bit different. No cooking or cleaning up for us, just a wonderful evening filled with delicious food and wine and great friends. Here is how our evening unfolded.

The wine

MonteDelFraCustozaSuperiore2012 Monte del Frá Cà Del Magro Custoza Superioremedium yellow in the glass with delicate dried hay and floral aromas along with delicate apple aromas. Citrusy flavors combine with intense minerality for a long finish. Nice acidity makes this wine very food friendly. This wine is a pleasant combination of both familiar and new flavors and will keep you thinking, reaching for descriptions of the flavors you are tasting. 13 % abv.

Bianco di Custoza/Custoza DOC is located in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. The small region is named for Custoza, a small village near Sommacampagna between Lake Garda and Verona, and to the south of all three. Still white wines, spumante (sparkling) and passito (dessert) are authorized by the DOC.

Trebbiano and Garganega are the predominant white grape varieties allowed, with lesser amounts of Friulano, Cortese, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Manzoni Bianco, Pinot Bianco, and/or Welschriesling. Minimum alcohol level is 11% for Bianco di Custoza, but for Superiore it is 12.5% minimum.

We recently tasted a collection of wines from Custoza DOC ranging from the 2015 vintage back to 2007. It was very illuminating and all of the wines still tasted very fresh. That tasting is the reason Pete recognized this wine on the shelf at a local wine shop. Quite a find.

We enjoyed this wine before dinner with cheese, olives and charcuterie, but you could just as easily enjoy it with dinner. It would pair beautifully with fish or chicken or creamy pasta dishes.

1997BV-GDL1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latourtranslucent garnet in the glass. Complex aromas and flavors include cedar, earth and leather. Fruit flavors are not primary. Tannins are very smooth and the body is light to medium. The finish is lingering with salty, leather and earthy flavors. This wine is the soft-spoken gentleman in the room who has the most interesting stories to tell. You will want to listen intently. 13.5% abv.

This delightful wine required a bit of work before we were able to enjoy its lovely flavors. Our friend pulled the bottle gently from his wine suitcase upon arriving. Everyone’s eyebrows lifted as we noticed the label and the vintage. “Well, this wine could be great, or it could be shit,” our friend very eloquently declared as he presented the wine. “It will need to be decanted.” he continued. One more cautionary note: care should be taken with the cork, as it would likely be fragile.

The guys went to work on the wine. It took two of them, in turn, to extract the cork (in pieces), and double-decant the wine — there was significant sediment. It was pretty hilarious, actually. Who has more fun than wine lovers?

We were all astonished at the transformation this wine made after being decanted. Initially the flavors tasted very oxidized, almost Sherry like. We sipped and looked at each other doubtfully. But, over time this wine showed us it had quite a lot left to offer. The color was more like Pinot Noir than Cabernet. The flavors were very evolved, with fruit flavors much in the background, but it was a delight to taste — and so educational.

Beaulieu Vineyard (BV to most) has a long history in the Napa Valley. From the BV website:

In 1900, when Georges de Latour’s wife, Fernande, first laid eyes on the land that would become their original Rutherford vineyard, she named it “beau lieu,” or “beautiful place.” Shortly thereafter, de Latour sold his thriving cream of tartar business, bought the four-acre ranch and founded Beaulieu Vineyard with the vision of making Napa Valley wines that would rival those of his native France.

The list of BV winemakers over the years includes some pretty impressive names: André Tchelistcheff, Mike Grgich, Joel Aiken, and now Jeffrey Stambor. BV is synonymous with Rutherford Cabernet at its best.

01RMondavi-Cab2001 Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignonmedium ruby in the glass with generous minty, eucalyptus aromas along with bright red fruit. Red and dark fruit flavors combine earth, tobacco, leather and a bit of mint on the finish. Tannins are smooth and well integrated and the finish is very long. 14.5% abv.

Yet another delicious interpretation of Cabernet Sauvignon. This Cabernet had those lovely minty flavors that are so memorable in the variety. It has aged gracefully and has plenty of flavor remaining. What a pleasure to drink.

I found remarkably detailed notes on the vintage, vineyards and vinification for this wine. It is very worthwhile to read them. Winemakers seem to document every detail of a harvest, I’m so happy the winery shared that detail with us online.

07LeClarenceDeHaut-Brion2007 Le Clarence de Haut-Brionbright, dense ruby in the glass. Dark-fruit flavors predominate along with earth, leather and cedar. Tannins are firm and the finish is at least moderate in length. This wine is still very youthful and flavorful. Easily identifiable as Cabernet, if not Bordeaux. 13% abv.

There was no challenge in removing the cork and decanting this wine. It was easy to drink as well. Flavors are evolved, but fruit is still very evident in the flavors. By comparison, this wine is the baby of the group.

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is the second-label wine of Bordeaux First Growth Château Haut-Brion. The wine is sourced from the same vineyards as the First Growth, but is made to be drunk younger. Also very important…it’s much more affordable than the Château Haut-Brion.

The Food

Our friend prepared what I think of as his signature dish: braised short ribs. But before we get to the main dish, there was soup. Creamy Artichoke Soup to be exact. It had unmistakable artichoke flavors and included potatoes and leeks in a rich and creamy texture. He garnished the soup with mascarpone and chives. It was like eating the creamy heart of an artichoke — my favorite part of the vegetable.


Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine Demi-glace, Mushroom Risotto and Creamed Spinach Gratin followed. The short ribs were juicy and tender, they fell apart at the touch of my fork. The red wine demi-glace was silky, rich and flavorful. I had to restrain myself from licking my plate (just kidding – well kind of!) The mushroom risotto was creamy and earthy. The creamy spinach was perfectly smooth with delicious savory flavors contributed by the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Dessert followed with brownies and lemon tartlets, both homemade of course! A delicious ending to a fabulous meal.

The Pairings

My favorite wine pairing with the Creamy Artichoke soup was the 1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour. Both flavors were delicate, and so they were well matched. To be fair, I was so involved in the delicate flavors of the BV, I hardly got to the other wines until the main course. My bad.

We struck gold with the main course and wine pairings. Every wine was divine with the short ribs, mushroom risotto and spinach gratin. I drained the last of the BV Georges de Latour, and refilled my glass with the Le Clarence de Haut-Brion. My second wine glass already contained the 2001 Robert Mondavi Cabernet. I ate, I sipped, moving back a forth between the two Cabs. Both were delicious. The Robert Mondavi Cabernet was more distinctive than the Le Carence de Haute-Brion, but it’s very difficult to say which was better.

Our meal was leisurely. We talked wine, food, travel and even politics without a food fight. It was a wonderful evening spent with great friends enjoying fabulous food and wine. On nights like this I feel very fortunate.

Be sure to read about the pairings the rest of the #winePW group created for their OTBN  celebrations:

Culinary Adventure with Camilla posted “Dracaena’s Cabernet Franc with Steak au Poivre et Thé

Curious Cuisiniere is pairing “Teriyaki Salmon and Pinot Noir

Dracaena Wines shared “When Will Some Day Be? Open That Bottle Now

Tasting Pour is posting “Steak Diane and Bell Cab Sauvignon

Rockin Red Blog is sharing “Open That Bottle Night with a Beautiful Italian

L’Occasion is sharing “Wines of Les Baux-de-Provence to Enjoy with Steak Frites

foodwineclick posted “Are You Kidding Me? Rosé for OTBN?”

The Armchair Sommelier shared “OTBN: A Pipe, a Port, and a Pudding

ENOFYLZ Wine Blog brings us An Italian-Themed #OTBN

Cooking Chat posted “Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and a Burgundy

We will be chatting about our OTBN food and wine pairings on Twitter, Saturday morning, March 12 at 8am PST. Follow #winePW to join the conversation. You can also plan to join us next month’s event. In April we will be talking about Spring Meal Pairings for Southern Rhone Wines, hosted by Jill at L’Occasion. You can get the full list of past and upcoming #winePW event here.

Cheers!