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Open That Bottle Night
April 25, 2007
By Jennifer Chandler

'Open That Bottle Night'

By Jennifer Chandler
Special to The Commercial Appeal

April 25, 2007

Jeremy and Jeanene Feinstone are known among friends for hosting parties filled with great food, wine and conversation. But their party earlier this month was one friends were particularly looking forward to, and one the couple had been planning to repeat for a few years.

The idea for the second party burned from the success of the first, which was inspired by a newspaper column, but major events kept springing up. They married, for instance. Built a house. A few major trips. But finally, the time was right.

"I read this article in the Wall Street Journal a few years back and it sounded like fun," Jeremy said. "Plus, who doesn't like an excuse to drink wine?"

The article, written eight years ago by Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, has spawned an annual celebration for wine lovers.

"When we began our column in 1998, we found that the most common question we received was, 'I have one old bottle of wine I received from my grandfather, or got at auction, or bought on vacation. When should I drink it?'" said Gaiter.

"We realized that all of us, no matter how many or how few bottles of wine we have in the house, have that one very special bottle that we are always saving for a special occasion -- but no occasion is ever special enough, so we keep it forever. We invented Open That Bottle Night so that all of us, together, could get up the nerve to finally pop the cork on all of the memories inside those bottles. Now, OTBN is celebrated by thousands of people all over the world," she said.

"Open That Bottle Night" is officially celebrated on the last Saturday in February, but that doesn't mean you can't host your own celebration any time you want. The Feinstones chose mid-April because they wanted guests to enjoy their outdoor patio.

"The theme makes the party unusual," said Jeanene. "Everyone has a bottle of wine they have been keeping for years. The fun is that you don't know if it will still be good or not."

With over 50 bottles brought by more than 75 guests, there was a lot of wine to try, some terrific and a few probably past their prime. Either way, it was exciting for an oenophile.

Owene Lewis brought two treasured bottles that were savored by the lucky ones who got a taste.

"This bottle is a 1990 Ernest and Julio Gallo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon," she said. "I have to explain it so that people don't think 'Who brought the jug wine?'"

That bottle was the first of Ernest and Julio Gallo's estate bottled wine collection. Just before its release in 1993, Ernest Gallo is credited with saying that he and his brother, having achieved many goals, had one left: "To create wines that would be recognized as among the world's best."

Lewis' other contribution was a 1987 Penfolds Grange Hermitage, one of Australia's most sought-after wines by collectors. One of the reasons Lewis' bottle was special is that in 1990 the European Union insisted that only wines from the French Hermitage appellation -- the region where the grapes are grown -- bear that name. From that point forward, the wine became simply known as Grange.

Other wines may not have been as rare but were equally as delicious.

Frank Grisanti brought a Trivento Malbec Golden Reserve 2003. The Italian wine conglomerate Banfi imports wines from this small boutique winery located in Argentina, which could explain why the Italian restaurateur ended up bringing a South American wine.

Jeremy is the chairman of Roma Pomodori Inc., the company that owns and manages Boscos, so several of the guests were fellow food service friends. Jeffrey Dunham, chef and owner of The Grove Grill, was among them.

"I picked up this Beringer Cabernet and Port blend back in 1987 when I attended Madeleine Kamman's School for American Chefs at Beringer," Dunham said.

The port was luscious but heavy with sediment.

On a more sentimental note, Jeremy's daughter, Suzanne Williamson, brought a 1985 bottle of Clos du Val Zinfandel that she and her husband, John, picked up on their honeymoon 18 years ago.

Want to throw your own Open That Bottle party? Here are a few tips from the Feinstones:

Keep the food simple and straightforward. You don't want to have to be in the kitchen all night.

To keep the conversation lively, invite people who have several things in common

Don't be afraid to invite a mix of people who don't really know each other that well. If there are common interests (see tip above), it will be a great party.

Send out your invitations early so that the party gets on everyone's calendars.

Mint Balsamic Dipping Sauce

2 cups balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, finely minced

Brown sugar or honey to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half. While the vinegar is reducing, make a mint paste by mixing the olive oil and minced mint leaves together in a small bowl.

When the vinegar is reduced, remove from the heat and stir in the mint. Sweeten with brown sugar or honey to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 1 cup.

Note: The Feinstones served this with grilled lamb chops.

Dates with Almonds

24 fresh date halves, pitted

24 salted and roasted almonds

1/4 lb. Parmesan Reggiano cheese, shaved into 24 pieces

Place an almond into a date half and top with a piece of shaved Parmesan. Repeat with remaining dates. Serve at room temperature. Makes 24 appetizers.

Crab Dip

1 lb. Velveeta cheese

1/2 lb. butter

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 tbsp. sherry

1 lb. crabmeat

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the Velveeta cheese and the butter. Add the Worcestershire sauce and sherry. Stir until well combined. Gently fold in the crab. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm with corn chips or crackers. Serves 12.

Goat Cheese with Major Grey's Chutney

2 logs (10.5 oz.) fresh goat cheese

1 jar (12 oz.) Major Grey's Chutney

1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Place the logs of goat cheese side by side on the serving platter. Spoon the chutney over the top. Garnish with peanuts and cilantro. Serve with crackers. Serves 12.

Source: All recipes from Jeremy and Jeanene Feinstone

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