Open That Bottle Night 2011: Table for Two by valleyfog
Open That Bottle Night 2011

The wines: Fleury Champagne and Vynfields Pinot Noir

It was dinner for two this year for us on Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) 2011. In the past, we have gathered friends together and shared multiple bottles of wine, but this year it was just Ms. Waits and Mr. Mast enjoying some good wine together. It had been a busy beginning of the year and we had just had Brian’s teenage nieces visiting for a week, so we didn’t have our act together this time around. Alas, there’s always each other and it was nice to sit down to a delicious meal, open some great wines and debrief on our week.

Jennifer has been very much on the sparkling wine track these days, so we knew that one of the wines would be Champagne. Jennifer’s choice was a NV Blanc de Noir Brut from Fleury, a smaller grower in Courteron, France in the Champagne region. Given that we are pinot noir lovers, we were excited that this was an all-pinot sparkler. This was a recent acquisition and Jennifer was eager to try it out. It was given to her by someone who was listening to her radio show (Jennifer’s alter-ego is a DJ at a local college/community radio station here in the Bay Area) when Jennifer was playing an old vinyl wine instruction record from winemaker/wine educator/UC Davis graduate Bern Ramey. We’ve written in the past here about the parallels and overlaps of wine and music, so this was just another example of that interplay.

Vintage Instructional Wine Record- "Bern Ramey on Wine"

Brian’s choice was a 2002 pinot noir from Vynfields, a small winery in Martinborough, New Zealand. We had visited Martinborough and stayed at Vynfields’ guest house when we were touring New Zealand in 2004. The Victorian guest house – not on the winery property itself – had a wonderful garden in the back with fresh fava beans, herbs and other produce and flowers growing in the back. We remember foraging for dinner fixings one afternoon and there was nothing more relaxing than shelling freshly picked fava beans for that night’s dinner.

We were also inspired by the owners – John Bell and Kaye McAulay – and their transition from previous careers to winemakers and winery owners. Little did we know that a year later, we would start our own winemaking venture. The Vynfields bottle was one of eight bottles we managed to smuggle back into the States from this trip (the limit is 1 liter). We’re not sure if they export to this country, so it was definitely special and waiting in the wings to be opened.

The meal: cocoa-dusted pork tenderloin

Wine must be paired with food, though, so on the menu was a cocoa-coffee-spice dusted pork tenderloin, served with a farro-bacon-arugula salad and green beans (yeah, just green beans…lost the creativity at that point.) As dinner was being prepared, we cracked open the Fleury. It had a wonderful nose – yeasty and toasty – and a brisk palate with hints of pear and light cherry fruit. It was a nice foil for the farro salad with its acidic and nutty components.

The Vynfields pinot noir, after the sediment settled once it was right-sided, was surprisingly transparent. Also surprising was its tartness and acidity. The nose was earthy and herbal and showed such New Zealand typicity with its aridn notes. The palate was brisk with light cherry and strawberry. This pinot has lots of layers and was enormously satisfying after all these years. Yes, we know, an 02 isn’t that old, but with new world wines, you never know. Its earthiness matched well with the warm spices of the seared pork tenderloin.

So why were we not drinking a Waits-Mast wine on OTBN? That is a question we often ask about other winemakers – don’t they drink their own wine all the time? Yes, when they’re being interviewed by Food & Wine magazine they say they had their latest vintage (hey, if we ever get interviewed by F&W we’d do the same!), but we all want to keep exploring and enjoying lots of different wines. And yes, we drink our own wines pretty regularly, but part of being a good winemaker is exploring the spectrum of senses to inform our ever-evolving palates. That, and we have a boat-load of wine in our basement and somebody’s got to drink it!

Thanks to Dorothy Gaither and John Brecher for coming up with the idea of OTBN, giving us an annual (if not more often) excuse to finally open that bottle we’ve always been meaning to. Remember, wine is for drinking, not saving forever. So, drink up and enjoy your bottles (and hopefully they include one of ours!)

2004: Brian foraging for dinner at Vynfields "villa," Martinborough, NZ