Not only were we having a dinner party to celebrate my sister’s birthday, the evening was also “Open That Bottle Night” one of those wine drinker and wine writer holidays. The concept was created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher who were wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal and they picked out a night in February, one of the darker and colder months, to go into one’s wine cellar and open up a bottle that one has been holding onto, just for the right moment. A very worthwhile idea, because we are all guilty of saving some bottles of wine for a special moment, that just never seems to occur. I think the main reason that I don’t always participate in it, is that I tend to be rather unorganized when it comes to such things. We tend to have a couple of bottles of wine open in the house most days, but they are our “go-to” basic wines that don’t require a lot of fan-fare or hoopla, but somehow, I even joked at the end of the gathering that 2020 was actually an OTBN every night, especially for people like my Bride and I that sometimes think that a bottle is too good, and sometimes we just totally lose track of the wines.
After the appetizers and the Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura NV in the living room (a wine which also could be counted towards OTBN we all went into the dining room for the rest of the celebration. Some of you, may think that we are quaint, because we maintain a living room and a dining room, but my Bride and I enjoy it immensely. We started off with my Bride’s Caesar Salad, which is now requested by some of the other cousins, when they have parties, and which I brag about all the time; in fact, I seldom even get a Caesar Salad when we go out (her version is that great). My Bride made three pork tenderloins that she marinaded in garlic, rosemary and olive oil. She also made Armenian Rice Pilaf and one of her favorite new sides of Fennel and Onions. My sister had wanted a Strawberry cake for dessert, but we found a bakery that made us a Strawberry Flan for the party.
I am sure that there might be a little interest to discover what was selected for such an august occasion. One of our favorite wineries was selected and of course it needed decanting before the event even started. We opened up a bottle of Duckhorn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1998. Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded the estate in 1976 and their first vintage was in 1978 with eight-hundred cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and the same of Merlot. Duckhorn Vineyards may be the most famous Merlot producer in Napa Valley. This wine was produced with fruit from eight vineyards in Napa Valley. The wine is a blend of eighty-two percent Cabernet Sauvignon, fifteen percent Merlot and three percent Cabernet Franc. Twelve days of fermentation with extended maceration. Malolactic fermentation and aging for seventeen months in French Oak, of which fifty-five percent was new. This twenty-four-year-old was extremely mellow with still a rich deep color and no browning. The nose had soft cherry, fruit and spice, and on the palate the fruit and tannins were layered and silky and velvety and finished with a nice long count of terroir. I adore mature wines. My brother had brought a wine and he wanted me to open it next, in anticipation I guess of buying some more for his home, and I think he was surprised that I knew the winery as we had Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Riserva Gaiole in Chianti 2015. Franca and Franco Gatteschi were looking for a place in the countryside to retire to, after many years of working in Italy and abroad, when they came across a small, beautiful, albeit run down property: 100 acres of land, mostly wooded with 10 acres set aside for cultivation, of which 2.5 acres already had vineyards; a house from the 18th Century, abandoned for more than 40 years; and, above all, a view without equal on the Chianti hills, with Siena in the distance. It really sounds idyllic and makes one ponder how this property was neglected and ignored for years. They purchased the estate at the beginning of 1990 and they immediately started the reconstruction work on the main house (it took nearly three years). They also set up a small but well- equipped wine cellar for making wine. In 1996 they permanently moved to live on the estate and the following year, the great 1997 vintage, saw the birth of the first “official” wine of Podere Ciona: A Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva. This wine is ninety percent Sangiovese with some Merlot and a touch of Alicante Bouschet and all grown on a quartz, clay schist and marl soil. The fruit is hand harvested with initial fermentation on the skins for ten days in French Oak, followed by thirty days of Malolactic fermentation on the skins and then twenty-four months aging in French Oak with an additional twelve months in the bottle before distribution. The winery produced one-thousand-seven-hundred-ninety “six packs.” To me, this is a perfect Chianti Classico Riserva with its deep ruby-red color, notes of red fruits and on the palate rich fruit and already velvety tannins with a nice deep finish of terroir. So, we actually had three beautiful wines for the evening.