Wine Pages

Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


WSJ's OTBN - A Reason to Open That Bottle

We recently uncovered two bottles from our cellar which had been sitting there for a while, waiting to be “enjoyed.” In the spirit of The Wall Street Journal’s Open That Bottle Night we decided these wines should wait no longer. They’ve been sitting around a) for the right occasion and b) because they are not the sort of wines we typically drink. Nonetheless, we had been to a winter farmers’ market, and picked up two tasty looking grass-fed porterhouse steaks (something we don’t eat often) – which required wines like these. What were the wines? A 1985 Stag’s Leap Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1993 Ridge Lytton Estate Zinfandel.

We’re not big fans of Cali Cab, but well structured wines with breeding for aging have proven useful tools with grilled steaks. As luck would have it, this was not a well structured wine – and the bottle had also likely been poorly treated (I found it in my parents’ basement a few years ago). It had fallen apart, with an unbalanced tendency toward “old wine” fruit flavors with little else to back it up.

Fortunately, Ridge saved the evening. Zinfandel is not known as a grape with solid aging potential, but Ridge has always proven to be an exception to most Zinfandel rules. I bought this on eBay many years ago before they outlawed private sales of wine. The bottle was handed off to my wife by the seller on a street corner in Manhattan. With a touch of Petit Sirah the wine had solid structure, great zin juiciness to pair with the tender, bleu steak, and it morphed nicely over the evening producing a hint of elegance by the end. Seriously, just a hint.

Neither wine has convinced me to change my Euro-traditional-focused drinking pattern, but it was fun to open them up and discover what was inside. So the next time you discover some old bottle you’ve been putting off, create a reason to open it up and discover what is inside.