When is a Wine Worthy of Opening?

Have you or anyone you know ever suffered from Opener’s Remorse Syndrome? That’s the feeling of regret after opening a bottle that you wish you hadn’t or just ended up not being worthy of the situation. It can be felt immediately after opening or as late as the next morning, which is usually more common. Symptoms are a sinking feeling in your stomach, a general wonderment of “what the hell was I thinking?!?” and overall aggravation at your own stupidity.

Whether your wine collection consist of 12 or 1,200 bottles, everyone has those stellar bottles that they are saving for a special occasion. But the question is what occasions are worthy enough of opening up your most prized cellar selections?

I have gone through this conflict on more than one occasion. It makes me feel like Wayne and Garth have channeled into my inner soul and I should be bowing to those bottles screaming “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy… we suck!” This is because there are a many factors and variables that go into the equation of cracking open something special. To add to the pressure, your guests are usually impatiently awaiting your decision…with just a bit of drool dangling from the side of their mouths.

It’s always tempting to open something fantastic when you are in the good company of family and friends, but then the wheels start turning as you examine the situation. Are there too many people to open this one bottle? Even though you may love the people that are surrounding you, are they REALLY going to appreciate what you are about to open? Does everyone already have a few glasses in them and may decide to just chug whatever booze you put in their glass whether it’s Opus One or Moonshine? These are the questions that need to be addressed and answered in a timely fashion as to avoid the dreaded ORS (Opener’s Remorse Syndrome).

Here are a few rules of thumb to adhere to that will help navigate those sticky situations and avoid ORS:

  1. The Smaller The Group, The Better. When there are too many people inevitably someone will not get a chance to taste what you opened and you may catch heat for it for the rest of the night… or longer! I would put the cap at 6-8 people.
  2. Know Your Audience. If 50% or more of the crew is going to really appreciate and enjoy something special, than open it up. Who knows, you may enlighten someone in the other 50% and give them their Epiphany wine experience.
  3. Make It The 1st or 2nd Bottle of the Night. While you can still enjoy great wine after that, the taste buds are a bit shot and it just won’t have the same effect.
  4. Go With Your Instinct. Sometimes you just want to open a kick ass wine because you feel like it. In those cases, I say go for it! Just be aware of the possibility of ORS before you do, and if you are able to deal with those consequences, then you can’t go wrong.

Is Morton’s Steakhouse in White Plains Worth the Price of Admission?

Anyone who has been to a top tier steakhouse as of late is aware of how expensive a night out for dinner can be. Steaks are clearing the $50 mark (Yikes!), sides are $10-15 a piece and wines are running on a 300-400% mark up from store prices. Yes, you read that correctly. Most steakhouses will charge 3-4 times the price for a bottle of wine over what you can get it for at the store… and not even off the sale price!

That being said, few experiences can rival an evening of decadence and hedonistic pleasure that only a high end steakhouse can offer. After recently enjoying a wonderful meal at Morton’s in White Plains, and paying a pretty penny for it,  I found myself asking the age old question… was it worth it?

Let’s do this the old fashioned way and look at the pros and cons. There are many pros as dining at Morton’s can certainly be a memorable meal. The cuts of beef are huge, cooked to near perfection even if it takes a second try, and flat out delicious. Servers are knowledgeable, attentive and display excellent presentation skills as exhibited in their explanation of all the meat and seafood options while you are enjoying your pre dinner cocktail. They really put on a hell of a show!

There is a refined and distinguished ambience to Morton’s that a lot of steak houses don’t carry, as some can be a little testosterone driven. The wine list is large and amply diverse, but no so overwhelming to be intimidating. There are always Magnum value options too which are great for groups when one bottle just ain’t gonna cut it.

OK, now for the cons. Well there’s really just one… the massive damage it leaves on your credit card bill! To enjoy all that Morton’s has to offer, meaning ordering an appetizer or two, each person getting their own steak, having a couple of sides (as the steaks are totally a la carte), finding a “reasonably” priced bottle of wine, desert and coffee, you are looking at dropping about $300 a couple after tax and tip… and that is without going over the top on wines, lobsters, after dinner drinks, etc.

I put reasonably in quotations because even if you are trying to go with something inexpensive from the wine list, you will be hard pressed to find anything under the $60-70 mark that you would want to pair up with beef of this quality. There are times to drink an inexpensive white wine or Merlot, but not when you have a juicy, mouth watering 56 dollar piece of NY Strip staring you in the face.

So this leads us to the final verdict….is it worth the price of admission? The answer…it can be. Everything is obviously relative so if spending a few hundred bucks for a night out to enjoy a really solid steak dinner doesn’t put a huge dent in your armor, then go for it! But if you are saving your weekly pay check to splurge on a Morton’s dinner, you may want to rethink that plan.

There are so many wonderful dining options in White Plains, and Westchester in general, that you could spend half of what you would there and still enjoy a great meal at over a dozen different local restaurants. Or you can do what I did and cash in on those AMEX points and grab some Morton’s gift cards… then the decision is  a no brainer.

What Wines to Pair with Your… Snowstorm?!?!

Here in Westchester we have had one hell of a winter that seems to be neverending… hopefully that Groundhog has some actual forecasting ability. We have seen everything from whiteout blizzards, to freezing rain and sleet, to these hail and ice storms that leave our neighborhoods looking like a scene from one of those natural disaster movies. Since we all have had to become junior meteorologists to navigate through this nonsense, I have found that certain storms invoke cravings for different styles of wines depending on their characteristics. I know it sounds crazy, but have a look below and it will make a little more sense.

For the light snow and flurries, I prefer something easy drinking, a little lighter bodied and with low alcohol. Because let’s face it, with the amount of these we have had this winter if we were to drink the heavy stuff every time there was a little snow we would be wasted the entire winter. The 2007 Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley seem to be great across the board and at all price levels. In my growing years I am also finding wines from Beaujolais a frequent option. I used to find them tart and fruity, but lately I am really enjoying the simple fruit and pleasant softness most of them exhibit.

Whiteouts and Blizzards call for something a little more substantial as one can never tell how long you may be cooped up. Nothing beats curling up on the couch with a nice glass of Ribera del Duero, which are big and spicy Spanish wines made mostly from the Tempranillo grape. They are similar to the wines of Rioja, but the fruit is darker, the tannins are firmer and the alcohol is higher which will keep you nice and warm on those cold nights.  It also makes a great pairing with beef dishes if you are so inclined to throw a steak on the grill.

When the Ice Storm Cometh, nothing seems more appropriate than a sweet and sticky Ice Wine. The grapes used to make these white dessert wines are picked off the vines while they are still frozen, so all the sugars are super concentrated. Flavors of honey, apricot and caramel are common and they are perfect for easy sippin’ or to enjoy with some Roquefort or other stinky cheese selections. The better ones from France (Sauternes), Hungary (Tokaji) and Canada can be a little steep. But there are some nice Late Harvest options from California, New Zealand and even the Finger Lakes region of New York that fall in the value price range and are pretty readily available.

So the next time you turn on the news and see a storm coming, there is no need for dismay. Sure you may have to load up the fridge, shovel the driveway and figure out what to do with the kids when school is closed. But at least you have that nice glass (or bottle!) of wine to look forward to at the end of the day.