Open That Bottle Night is almost right around the corner, literally and figuratively. Always now on the last Saturday of February, we’re observing this international celebration of wine that we created at a charming, 35-seat neighborhood place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan called A Café.
A Café, at 973 Columbus Avenue between 107th and108thstreets, has been our go-to BYOB place for years. It’s also the place we recommend to friends who have special bottles because the French-Caribbean food is a treat and there’s no corkage fee—ever. So John and I will be there on Saturday, Feb. 28, from 7 until around 9:15 and we’d love for you to join us. We don’t know what we’re going to open yet but it’ll be special and it’ll be fun to share it and talk about it with you (acafeny.com).
A Café has a daily $25 Prix Fixe menu from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. that includes an appetizer and entrée. I almost always start with the Mousse truffée, with black truffles & Port wine, and a side of Béarnaise, and have for my entrée the roast duck leg confit, with jerk spices in a citrus jus reduction. For $8 extra, I have the yummy Chocolate Truffle dessert. Swoon. The place is informal, with informal glasses.
John and I invented Open That Bottle Night in 1999 when we wrote the Tastings column for The Wall Street Journal because we kept hearing from readers who had one special bottle that they couldn’t bring themselves to open. It might have been from their wedding or honeymoon or from a fabulous trip to Greece. Babies had been born, graduations had been celebrated, significant anniversaries had been observed and yet the bottle had gone unopened. Too special! When, readers asked us, should they open it? While we think every day, every week should be OTBN, we established one day in the year when all of us, together, would open those special bottles and celebrate the memories in them. Here’s the account from readers of the very first OTBN:
The wine doesn’t have to be the most expensive bottle you own, or the oldest. It just needs to have some significance for you. It could be a bottle you just purchased because you’ve always wanted to try it for some reason. Over the years we’ve been going to A Café, we’ve seen people arrive for dinner without a bottle of wine or beer. Al, who manages the charming, casual, art-filled dining room, often directs them to a nearby wine store. The Grape Collective’s wine store, Wine, is at 2669 Broadway at 102nd Street.
Here’s the advice we give every year about handling those old bottles. If your wine is old and has been on its side, here’s how to get it ready to drink at home: On the Thursday before OTBN, stand it up so that all of the sediment, if there is any, can sink to the bottom of the bottle. On OTBN, be prepared to use a two-prong bottle opener because the cork might be fragile. If you need to, practice with less precious bottles. In case the cork does crumble, have a coffee filter handy to place in a carafe to catch the pieces. Otherwise do not decant, at least not immediately. (Whatever fruit there is left in an old wine might dissipate quickly with all that air.) If it’s young and tight and you don’t have hours to enjoy it —a shame—you might want to decant. And, of course, if it’s irredeemably over the hill, have a back-up ready.
Now the most important step: Talk about the wine and celebrate it for what it is, not what it once might have been. Then later, tell us what you had and how your evening went at facebook.com/winecouple.
If you’re going to join us at A Café and your wine is old and has sediment, you might also want to bring a coffee filter or just be prepared to pour carefully.
We attended a celebration last year in Washington, D.C. Here’s my account of that magical evening:
We hope to see you on OTBN!