This is one of my favorite constraints! Making a food and wine pairing around OTBN or Open That Bottle Night. You have to guess what the wine will taste like and make a meal around opening old bottles that your friends bring from their cellars – the bottle they’ve been saving. I’ve tried to have as many of these events as I can over the years or sometimes gone to other people’s homes. In fact, my first Constrained Gourmet video over 10 years ago was OTBN.

Whether life is going great or not so good, this is one of those parties that you can always have because everyone participates. Let’s all thank Wall Street Journal columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher for inventing this wine holiday on the last Saturday in February each year. Hey, the weather is terrible in February and you aren’t doing anything else anyway. Break open a nice bottle of wine, share it with your dear friends, make some great food and enjoy life for a night!

Open that Bottle Night is super fun!

first course open that bottle night party

Scallops and mushrooms first course

Another reason that I like this wine holiday is that it reminds us that wine is meant to be consumed and shared. When I took the WSET Level3 Advanced Course in Wine, I was reminded that most of the wines on the market today are not meant to be aged. Sometimes, we forget and squirrel away too many wines that won’t age as we expect. Remember, aging well means getting better in the bottle; not just maintaining the quality.

Spaghetti alla carbonara gorgonzola sauce

Spaghetti alla carbonara with gorgonzola sauce

This year is my first in Napa and I am so excited! I asked everyone coming to the party to bring their bottles over a day early so that I could sit them upright and also plan the food pairings. I won’t know exactly how the wines will taste when I planned the menu, but I can make some assumptions, such as the Rochioli will be a big, oaky chardonnay and the Littorai Pinot Noir will be rich and full bodied.

My friend, Joey, really threw me for a loop, though. Joey is one of those guys that I love to death but 1) he is never good at sending his RSVP but 2) almost always shows up. So, not hearing from him just means to have another place setting ready because he’s probably coming. Today, he showed up with a special gift. It seems that Joey and his brother who are landscapers, found a lot of wine in cave where they were working. They told the property owner what they found and he told them to keep it. Joey thought this would be a good night to share one of the bottles, a McDowell Valley Vineyards Syrah from 1983. wow!

Main course open that bottle night party

Main course of bone marrow

McDowell Valley Vineyards has a really interesting history. They are in Mayacamas mountains, where I used to live until 2 months ago, but north in Mendocino. They had one of the longest records of wine production in California, and their Syrah has been planted for almost a century. Unfortunately, they closed the winery in 2010, a hard year financially for everyone. That makes this wine all the more special!

While I was pondering what to serve, I brainstormed with my family. I threw out different options and my stepson came up with the idea to serve a paleo course with the cave wine – brilliant! So, bone marrow we planned and ate. It was terrific!

Here is the menu that I served:

Scallops with Roasted Baby Mushrooms
2012 J. Rochioli South River Chardonnay
Why: This single vineyard chardonnay is aged over 3 years and, many times, the aging process produces a creamy texture and nutty taste. This type of wine should pair well with umami-rich dishes and scallops, lobster, sea bass or fowl. Earthy mushrooms should be a perfect compliment.

Tuga’s Gorgonzola Carbonara
2012 Littorai The Haven Vineyard Pinot Noir
Why: A rich, full-bodied Pinot Noir should go well with a mild and creamy gorgonzola. I would also recommend duck, goose, turkey or ham with a wine of this type. In this recipe, I combine gorgonzola cream sauce with crisp bacon and serve over spaghetti or bucatini. I also like some toasted pine nuts on the top.

Bone Marrow with Shallot Compote and Parsley Salad
1983 McDowell Valley Vineyards Estate Bottled Syrah
Why: Bone marrow is very, very, very rich. You don’t need to eat a lot, but it will pair perfectly with a big, hearty Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition, the compote is jam-like and the parsley salad with lemon, olive oil and capers is the perfect acidity to match the rich bone marrow. Have lots and lots of crusty bread on hand for dipping (not paleo, I know, but I had to have it)!

Lemon Cookies
Far Niente Dolce
Why: After a heavy meal, you want a light dessert and the cookies are the right sweetness with the Dolce. Your wine should always be as sweet as the dessert – they should match so that the sweetness of the dessert does not overwhelm the wine.  I’m sure there will be continued samplings from the other bottles, too…..

Lemon cookies

Lemon cookies