Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Open That Bottle Night with Founders Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher in Washington DC

Picture: Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, Annette Schiller, Ombiasy PR and WineTours, and Christian G.E. Schiller in Washington DC

I was a loyal follower of the husband and wife team Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, when they were in charge of a weekly wine column – Tastings - in The Wall Street Journal. An African-American woman and her white husband writing for the – I would guess mostly towards the Republican Party leaning - bankers, investors, entrepreneurs that make up the readership of The Wall Street Journal! I was sad to see them leave The Wall Street Journal in 2009, after having jointly written the column since 1998.

Picture: Annette Schiller and Christian G.E. Schiller in Washington DC at the iCi Urban Bistro in Washington DC

In 1999, Dottie and John launched Open That Bottle Night (OTBN), a celebration of wine, memories and friendship. Since then, my wife Annette Schiller and I have celebrated OTBN many times, always at home, typically just the two of us. This year, we went to a restaurant, the iCi Urban Bistro in Washington DC, for the OTBN. The reason was: Dottie (now the food & wine editor for France Magazine) and John had invited! We brought two wines to share: 2012 Doennhoff, Estate Riesling, Trocken and 2008 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, St. Estephe.

Open That Bottle Night

Dorothy J. Gaiter: The last Saturday of February is Open That Bottle Night, a celebration of wine, memories and friendship that John and I founded almost 15 years ago. The idea is simple: All of us, whether we have one bottle in the house or 1,000, have that special wine that, for one reason or another, is just always too special to drink.

Pictures: Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, with Christian G.E. Schiller in Washington DC

We may have brought it back from a wonderful vacation or it might be the last bottle of Champagne from our wedding or a gift from a sweet, departed friend. We always mean to open it, but weddings have happened, babies have arrived, graduations and bat mitzvahs have been held—you name it and yet those bottles have remained dusty.

Pictures: Bob Harris and Lynette Harris, with Karen Taylor, Editor of France Magazine, and Dorothy J. Gaiter

Price is not significant. OTBN is about the memories inside the bottle. The important thing is to share those.

Pictures: John Brecher and Annette Schiller

So all over the world, from Tacoma to Thailand, people have observed OTBN, sometimes with just one other person and sometimes with a small group of friends. Sometimes it’s an affair with hundreds, as it is for the Bivona Child Advocacy Center in Rochester, N.Y., where it is the organization's signature fundraising event and has raised more than $1 million. Rabbis and ministers have talked to their congregants about OTBN and, in 2005, it was a $200 question on Jeopardy! Some restaurants waive their corkage fees that night.

Pictures: Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher Talking with Guests

2014 Open That Bottle Night at iCi Urban Bistro in Washington DC

Sofitel’s Executive Chef, Franck Loquet, prepared a four-course dinner with an optional cheese course, for two seatings, at 6:30 and at 8:30. We chose the late seating. Here is what we ate:

Amuse Bouche

Starter: Duck Foie Gras au Torchon

Starter: Wild Mushroom Ragout

Main Course: Seafood Marmitte

Main Course: Moulard Duck

Selection of Imported and Domestic Cheese

Raspberry Mille-Feuille

Our OTBN Wines: Bordeaux and German Riesling

Annette and I had two wines and shared them with our friends Bob and Lynette.

2012 Doennhoff, Estate Riesling, Trocken
2008 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, St. Estephe

Both wines brought back wonderful memories from last year’s Bordeaux Wine Tour and German Wine and Culture Tour, both organized and led by Annette Schiller (Ombiasy PR and WineTours) and created an happy anticipation of meeting the winemakers again later this year during the forthcoming 2014 Bordeaux Wine Tour and 2014 German Wine and Culture Tour (North).

Weingut Doennhoff

Annette Schiller’s 2013 German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy included a tasting at Weingut Doennhoff with Helmut Doennhoff - 3 most entertaining and fascinating hours. We went through 16 wines.

Helmut Dönnhoff was described by Hugh Johnson as having a "fanatical commitment to quality, and a remarkable natural talent for winemaking" and as a "superstar" of the region by Robert Parker. Helmut Doennhoff was named German Winemaker of the Year in 1999 by the Gault Millau WeinGuide.

The Dönnhoff family first came to the Nahe Valley over 200 years ago. The Dönnhoffs were a mixed farm up until the 20th century, with cereal crops, vegetables, fruit and livestock in addition to grapes. Helmut's grandfather Hermann made the transition from mixed farm to focus entirely on winegrowing. Helmut Dönnhoff took over day-to-day responsibility from his father in 1971. From the initial 4 hectares of land Helmut Dönnhoff expanded the estate to now 25 hectares. Today, his son Cornelius works alongside in the winery; in fact, ownership and responsibility has been formally transferred to Cornelius Dönnhoff.

Pictures: Tasting with Helmut Doennhoff at Weingut Doennhoff

“Most people in wine today make it for business”, Helmut Doennhoff said. “I make it for me, myself”. Helmut Doennhoff compared his winemaking with music and cooking. “There are many wonderful scores, but only a few people can interpret them well. Or it is like a chef: people have the same ingredients but each chef brings another taste to them”.

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013
An Afternoon with Riesling Star Winemaker Helmut Doennhoff at Weingut Doennhoff in Oberhausen in the Nahe Valley, Germany

Château Lafon-Rochet

The 2013 Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy PR and WineTours included a tour of and tasting at Château Lafon-Rochet. The tour was conducted by winemaker Lucas Leclercq. For the tasting, we were joined by owner Basile Tesseron. Basile’s father, Michel Tesseron, who had been our guide during the 2012 Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy PR and WineTours was out of the country.

Château Lafon-Rochet is a 4th Grand Cru en 1855 in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of the Medoc. It is one of the 5 classified properties in the appellation of Saint Estèphe. Its grounds are separated from those of Château Lafite to the north by the width of the road and from Cos d'Estournel by a dirt path.

The history of Château Lafon-Rochet starts in the 16th century, when a portion known as Rochet (because of its rocky terrain) eventually passed by marriage to Etienne de Lafon, who established Lafon-Rochet. The estate then passed down through the Lafon generations for almost 300 years.

When Guy Tesseron became the owner in 1959, it needed a serious restoration and Guy Tesseron did restore it to its former glory. Guy Tesseron was from a Chanterais family, specializing in the Cognac production.

Pictures: Tasting at  Château Lafon-Rochet with Owner Basile Tesseron and Winemaker Lucas Leclercq

Guy Tesseron first put the vineyards back in order. He then built new chai, and a new château, in the style of the 18th century. Also, some 25 hectares were added to the vineyard.

In 1975, Guy Tesseron also acquired 5th growth Chateau Pontet-Canet from the Cruse family. Both châteaux subsequently passed to the next generation with Lafon-Rochet coming to Michel Tesseron. Currently the property is in the good hands of Michel’s son, Basile Tesseron.

It was Michel Tesseron who oversaw the painting of the château yellow in 2000. At the same time, the bottles were redesigned and matching yellow labels and capsules are used now.

Lafon-Rochet's vineyards covers 45 hectares and are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon 54%, Merlot 40%, Cabernet Franc 4%, Petit Verdot 2%.

To match the 40 different vineyard parcels, the estate has 40 stainless steel, temperature controlled vats. The wine is kept in new oak barrels for 9 months before it is moved to one year old barrels, where it remains for an additional 9 months. The final blending takes place 3 months before bottling.

The Grand Vin is Château Lafon-Rochet (11000 cases per annum), the second wine is Pélerins de Lafon-Rochet (also 11000 cases per annum and once known as Numéro 2 de Lafon-Rochet).

Basile Tesseron took over with the 2007 vintage and he now has full control. He is steering Lafon-Rochet towards biodynamic viticulture, following the example of his uncle at Pontet-Canet. But Lafon-Rochet has not yet been certified.

Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy
A Tour and Tasting at Château Lafon-Rochet in Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, with Winemaker and Owner Basile Tesseron, France (2013)

Dorothy J. Gaiter: The People and Stories from a Memorable Open That Bottle Night 2014

Dottie has already released her account of the evening and it includes a reference to Annette and me. Not a reference to our wines, but to a comment we made on an Alsatian wine somebody else had brought.

Pictures: Annette Schiller Telling the Alsace Story

Dorothy J. Gaiter: One group brought a 1998 Alsace Riesling that proved, once again, how beautifully these wines can age. The postscript: When John mentioned the wine to Christian Schiller, a former economist with the International Monetary Fund and now a wine blogger, Christian asked to see the bottle. He took one look and broke into a wide smile. He and his wife Annette had gone to that vineyard for a wedding a number of years ago and, as the guests were waiting, they were told that the wedding was off. So they stayed on the grounds of the winery and Annette took a midnight stroll through it with their German Shepherd, who goes everywhere with them. The wine was lovely, fragrant, rich and round. Wine -- what a wonderful world, both so large and so small at the same time.

schiller-wine: Related Posting (Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy PR and WineTours 2013)

Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy

An Afternoon at Château Pape-Clément (in 2013), Appellation Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux

Visiting a “Holy” Construction Site: Château Angélus in Saint-Emilion, France

Dinner at Château Canon La Gaffeliere, Appellation Saint-Emilion, Premier Grand Cru Classé, France

Tour, Tasting and Lunch at Organic Château Beausejour in AOC Puisseguin-St.Emilion, France

Lunch at Château Le Bon Pasteur with Winemaker/Owner Dany Rolland, Pomerol, France

Visit of an Ultra-premium Non-mainstream Bordeaux Producer: Tertre Rôteboeuf, with Owner and Winemaker François Mitjavile

Visiting and Tasting at Château Climens, with Owner Bérénice Lurton, Bordeaux, France

Lunch, Tour and Tasting with Owner Catherine Thibault d'Halluin (nee Boyer) and Winemaker Julien Noel - Château du Cros, Château Mayne du Cros, Château Courbon and Clos Bourbon, Bordeaux, France

Visiting an Oyster Farm at Arcachon Bay, Bordeaux: Raphael Doerfler at Earl Ostrea Chanca , France

Tour, Tasting and Lunch at Château Léoville-Poyferré, with Didier Cuvelier and Anne Cuvelier, France   

Tour and Tasting at Château Pontet-Canet, with Owner Alfred Tesseron, Bordeaux

A Tour and Tasting at Château Lafon-Rochet in Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, with Winemaker and Owner Basile Tesseron (2013), France

A Tour and Tasting at Château Coufran, Haut-Médoc, with Co-owner Frédéric Vicaire, France

Tour and Tasting at Château Lynch-Bages in Bages, Bordeaux, France

Tour at Tonnellerie Berger et Fils: How is a Barrique Made? Bordeaux, France

Wine Dinner at Château Haut-Bailly, Cru Classé de Graves, France

schiller-wine: Related Postings (German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy PR and WineTours 2013)

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013

Weingut Pawis in the Saale Unstrut Region - A Profile, Germany

Tasting at Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim, Rheingau, with Stefan Ress, Germany

Impromptu Winetasting with Alexander Jung, Weingut Jakob Jung, Erbach, Rheingau, Germany

A Tasting at Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn, Rheingau, with Angela and Peter Jakob Kühn, Germany

Tasting with Rita Busch at Weingut Clemens Busch in the Mosel Valley, Germany 

Ernst Loosen Presented his Wines at Weingut Dr. Loosen, Bernkastel-Kues, Mosel Valley, Germany

Cellar Tour, Vineyard Tour, Tasting and Lunch with Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Nahe Valley, Germany

An Afternoon with Riesling Star Winemaker Helmut Doennhoff at Weingut Doennhoff in Oberhausen in the Nahe Valley, Germany

The World Meets at Weingut Weegmueller, Pfalz, Germany

Tasting with Johannes and Christoph Thoerle, Weingut Thoerle in Saulheim, Rheinhessen, Germany

Impressions from the Mainz Wine Market 2013, Germany   

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