Back in 1999, wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher declared the last Saturday of February to be Open That Bottle Night. They invited readers to open a wine that was being saved for a special occasion and create some new memories. Now it’s an annual event.
An idea that was spawned in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, where the wife and husband’s column ran between 1998 and 2010, has become a global phenomenon, celebrated at wine bars and wineries, restaurants, and homes around the world. It gives license to anyone looking to open a wine – one from your cellar or something purchased on the day – that has sentimental meaning.
Perhaps it was a bottle brought back from a memorable vacation that you can never convince yourself to open? Maybe it’s the current release of a wine that was shared on a wedding day or milestone birthday? Who knows, you might want to revisit Black Tower or Blue Nun and see how an old, old favourite tastes today?
The wine doesn’t have to be old, iconic or expensive. Your connection to the bottle is what matters. What memories does it conjure up for you? After all, the night is designed to be a fun evening of wine and fellowship: a chance to reminisce about good times and people while sharing a glass of a wine that means something to you. An opportunity to make the last Saturday of February more significant.
Of course, if you do need a push to open a fine wine you’ve hidden away, maybe Open That Bottle Night should be the night. Aging wine shouldn’t be an extreme sport, why not treat yourself?
Participants are encouraged to use #openthatbottlenight on social-media posts. Gaiter and Brecher also invite wine lovers to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and share which wine they are enjoying and why they selected that bottle.
I’d consider any of the six recommended red wines to be solid Open That Bottle Night candidates if you’re seeking suggestions. They are well-made, authentic expressions of the place, grape(s) and people responsible for making them. They also have potential for aging which makes them contenders for serving and enjoying at future dinners or gatherings.
Bogle Petite Sirah 2018 (United States)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $22.95
Considered one of California’s heritage grapes, with growers planting the variety as far back as 1884, petite sirah (a.k.a. petite syrah or durif) is often used as part of a blend but is also capable of producing full-bodied and flavourful red wines on its own. This concentrated and appealing example from family-owned Bogle winery in Clarksburg, near Sacramento, conveys the expected bold fruit and chocolate character. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Château Maucamps 2008 (France)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $36.95
A classic expression of a Haut-Médoc (Bordeaux) cabernet sauvignon dominant red blend, with 30 per cent merlot and 10 per cent petit verdot, this well-preserved red wine presents a mix of complex spice, earthy and herbal notes that add interest to the concentrated dark fruit flavours. It’s maturing nicely, with balanced structure and smooth tannins that make it ready to drink. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price or $38.95 direct, sold as a case of 12 bottles, npwines.com
Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2019 (Italy)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $29.95
First launched with the 1992 vintage, Le Volte has captured the attention of wine lovers around the world as a more affordable yet equally compelling wine from the Ornellaia estate in Tuscany. The new vintage of Ornellaia comes with a suggested retail price of $250 a bottle, so you can understand the enthusiasm for its little brother, Le Volte, a blend of sangiovese with merlot and cabernet, that offers similar personality and poise. The 2019 vintage is a merlot-based cuvée that was aged in the cellar for 10 months, partly in oak barrels used previously for Ornellaia and partly in concrete tanks. The polished and elegant character carries through to an appetizing finish. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario and Quebec at the above price, $32.99 in British Columbia ($29.99 until March 5, 2022), various prices in Alberta.
Pearce Predhomme Première Cuvée Pinot Noir 2019 (United States)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $29.95
This ripe and juicy pinot noir was made in partnership between Ontario-based Will Predhomme and Nicholas Pearce and the Northwest Wine Co. in Oregon. A parcel of pinot noir grown in the Yamhill-Carlton region of the Willamette Valley was used to produce the inaugural release. There’s a pleasant core of dark fruit flavours that are enhanced by floral and baking spice notes. It’s a pinot with an easy-going nature that’s really food friendly. Drink now to 2025. Available at the above price direct, sold as a case of 12 bottles, npwines.com
Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (United States)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $27.95
At a time when many California producers are embracing sweeter, smoother red wine styles for commercial appeal, it is nice to see Rodney Strong continue to deliver classic Sonoma County cabernet. With layers of dark fruit, spice and cedar notes, this expressive red wine has a firm structure and nice balance between the ripe and concentrated fruit flavours and toasty oak notes. It’s approachable right now, with potential to develop with bottle age. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $27.99 in B.C., various prices in Alberta, $30.49 in Saskatchewan, $24.70 in Quebec, $29.99 in New Brunswick, $28.98 in Nova Scotia.
Vina Real Crianza 2018 (Spain)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $16.95
Vina Real is made from grapes grown in Rioja Alavesa, with a blend of 90 per cent tempranillo with small additions of graciano, grenache and mazuelo (a.k.a. carignan). The result is a fresh and intense red wine with cherry, cedar and peppery spice notes. Made in a medium-bodied and nicely structured style, this manages to be both serious and enjoyable. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price, $22.95 in B.C., various prices in Alberta, $16.20 in Quebec.
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