Do you have a bottle of wine that you’ve been holding onto for a special occasion? Are you curious about how much an old bottle you’ve been keeping in your cellar is worth and whether you should open it soon? Would you like to take a peek behind-the-scenes at how two of the world’s most successful wine columnists taste wines?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, journalists, authors and wine columnists.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
Join me for the debut Watch Party of the video of this conversation that I’ll be live-streaming for the very first time on Instagram Live Video, Facebook Live Video or YouTube Live Video on Wednesday, February 24th at 7 pm eastern.
Click on the “Interested” or “Going” buttons below so that you’ll be notified when we go live:
I’ll be jumping into the comments on all three platforms as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real-time.
I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?
You could win a personally signed copy of Dottie and John’s book, Love By The Glass, a beautifully written memoir and love story that also teaches you lots about wine.
How to Win
All you have to do is just pick your favourite social media channel — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn — and post about which bottle you’re going to open on Open That Bottle Night, before Saturday, February 27th.
You’ll get an additional entry for each social post you do, so feel free to post on all four social media platforms. You’ll also get a bonus entry for each wine-loving friend you tag.
I’ll re-share your stories and posts with my followers so that you get more followers!
Use these tags and hashtags when you post on your fave social media channel:
- Instagram @dottieandjohn @nataliemacleanwine
- Facebook @winecouple @natdecants
- Twitter @winecouple @nataliemaclean
- LinkedIn @nataliemaclean
Hashtags for all platforms:
I’ll select the winner from those of you who participate before Saturday, February 27th!
Good luck, and I can’t wait to see (and share) what you post!
- How did growing up in the segregated South inspire Dottie to become a journalist?
- What made John recognize the power of good journalism at a young age?
- What was the worst moment of Dottie and John’s writing careers?
- Which commencement address was a special honour for Dottie?
- Which important story made John’s proudest moment in his journalism career so far?
- What was it like becoming part of the Wine Writers Collection at UC Davis Library?
- What was Martha Stewart’s connection to Dottie and John’s Wall Street Journal column?
- Why did Dottie and John end up drinking Château Latour on The Today Show?
- How did Dottie and John meet?
- What was the first bottle of wine Dottie and John shared?
- How did their honeymoon experience of Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve 1968 lead to meeting renowned winemaker André Tchelistcheff?
- How did wine change Dottie and John’s lives?
- What is it about wine that makes us slow down and appreciate the present?
- Why should you visit winemakers?
- How did bottles of Taittinger Champagne end up in a birdbath?
- What role did wine play at the wedding of Dottie and John’s daughter, Media?
- Why should you seek out a wine merchant you can talk to?
- Why did Dottie and John make the switch from writing about news to wine?
- What was the unique approach Dottie and John took to their Wall Street Journal wine column?
- Why is Dottie excited about the proliferation of wine writers and bloggers?
- How did Oregon Pinot Noirs spur vehement disagreements between Dottie and John?
- Who are the wine jerks?
- How does the “exclusivity” of wine still show up today?
- What has been Dottie’s experience as a Black woman participating in industry tasting events?
- How can each of us play our part in making our worlds more equitable and inclusive?
- Where did the idea for Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) come from?
- What was the response to the first OTBN?
- Where is the most unusual place to have participated in OTBN?
- Why do we resist opening our special bottles of wine?
- Why should you do OTBN as often as you can?
- Which wine will Dottie, John and I open for OTBN 2021?
- How has OTBN been embraced widely in popular culture and across borders?
- I loved their stories about how they met and fell in love with each other and with wine. I also enjoyed going behind-the-scenes with their tasting and writing process. It’s as rigorous as their non-wine journalism.
- I admire how Dottie and John approached Tastings as a column about life, not simply wine. They connected with so many readers because of that and inspired a passion for wine by making it accessible without dumbing it down.
- I appreciated hearing Dottie’s experiences as a Black woman in the world of wine. I’m motivated to interview more people of colour on this podcast. I already have some in mind, but please let me know if you have suggestions.
- Love the motivation behind Open that Bottle Night! I’m so motivated to participate in OTBN this year! You’ll find out which two wines were my finalists for the decision, and why I chose the one I did during our Watch Party on February 24th. I want to know which wine you chose too!
Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips
Martha Stewart may have been the first person who truly understood the power of the column. - John Brecher Click to tweet
Wine really is someone’s art. At its most personal, it’s someone’s vision bottled. It comes from a specific place. - Dorothy Gaiter Click to tweet
Get a good wine merchant, it’s absolutely critical. Even in today’s world of the internet and everything, having someone you can go to and talk to personally is incredibly important. - John Brecher Click to tweet
We always considered our column to be a life narrative, as told through wine. - John Brecher Click to tweet
Don’t let anyone tell you what you like. We can’t taste what it tastes like in your mouth. Trust yourself. - Dorothy Gaiter Click to tweet
Wine is a wonderful thing. There’s no reason to make it into a sport, there’s no reason to make it into a competition. - John Brecher Click to tweet
We hoped we might get four or five letters, and we’d be able to do some sort of follow up column. We got over 1000 letters. - Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Click to tweet
About Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher
- Connect with Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher and share which bottle you’re opening for OTBN 2021
- Email email@example.com
- Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher on Twitter
- Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher on Facebook
- Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher on Instagram
- Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s Column | Grape Collective
- Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s Book | Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes From A Marriage
- Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s Collection at the UC Davis Library
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 14: Bottle of the Sexes: Women Versus Men on Wine
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
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John Brecher 0:00
The most common question that we got was: I have this one bottle of wine; I got it at auction; my father left it to me; It’s from our wedding; I’ve had it forever. When should I open it? And then they kind of whisper. And how much is it worth?
Natalie MacLean 0:18
Exactly, it’s like the Antiques Roadshow. Like, is it worth anything?
John Brecher 0:22
Every time we’d write back and we’d say, you know something, that wine is priceless. You should drink it. Make a special meal this weekend. Drink it and celebrate your mother; celebrate your long ago wedding; celebrate whatever is in that bottle. We got this letter so many times that we decided everybody must have a bottle like that. So we’re going to set a date. Last Saturday in February, all of us together, and we’re going to open that bottle and we called it Open that Bottle Night .
Natalie MacLean 1:01
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean and each week
I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey, as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.
Welcome to Episode 116. Do you have a bottle of wine that you’ve been holding on to for a special occasion? Are you curious about how much an old bottle you’ve been keeping in your cellar is worth and whether you should open it like soon? Would you like to take a peek behind the scenes at how two of the world’s most successful wine columnists taste wines? That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m chatting with the dynamo husband and wife team of John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter, who wrote the Wall Street Journal’s column “Tastings” and created the annual wine celebration called Open that Bottle Night that takes place this year on February 27. They have so many fabulous stories to share with you from more than 40 years of writing about wine, race and other topics.
Now I’ve got a bonus for you. In addition to this podcast, I’d love for you to join me for the premiere watch party of the video of this conversation that will be live streaming for the very first time on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube on Wednesday, February 24 at 7pm Eastern. The video will show you the pictures and other visual elements that we discuss in this podcast and they’re so great. I’ll also be jumping into the comments on all three platforms as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real time. It’s like the Netflix version of the podcast. Plus, you can talk to me and ask me questions as we watch it together. And you can see what other people thought of this conversation as well as my answers to their questions. I want to hear from you. What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips did you love most? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer in this podcast?
Before I introduce Dorothy and John, I want to let you know that you can win one of three personally signed copies of their book, Love by the Glass. It’s a beautifully written memoir and love story that also teaches you lots about wine. All you have to do is pick your favourite social media channel, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and post about which bottle you’re going to open on February 27 before that date. I’ll post all of this in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/116. In the show notes, you’ll also find a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, where you can find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm, including this evening and next week. That’s all in the show notes @nataliemaclean.com/116.
Now on a personal note before we dive into the show, and watching the Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce on Prime, which reminds me of so many things that happened back in 2012 when I got divorced, like getting back on the dating scene after being 20 years off the market. The show has a positive spin and the women all love their wine. In fact, there’s rarely an evening scene without glasses being topped up. And there’s a lot of day drinking going on too. It’s been almost a decade after my own experience, and I can smile and wish I could tell the characters sometimes “Don’t worry, you will get through it.” Wine helps, but friendship helps so much more. Okay, on with the show,
Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher conceived and wrote the Wall Street Journal “Tastings” column, from 1998 to 2010. They published four best selling wine books, and they created the annual International celebration, Open that Bottle Night or #OTBN. And it’s a celebration of wine and friendship; I just love what it’s all about. And their column on that first event was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. We’re going to dig into what it’s all about; so we’ll get more details on that.
Before writing about wine, both Dorothy and John had distinguished careers in journalism, as both reporters and editors at the Miami Herald, The New York Times and of course, the Wall Street Journal. The first bottle they shared together was André Cold Duck. So this is going to be a snob free zone. And they join me now from their home in Westchester, New York. Hello, Dottie and, John, it’s so great to reconnect with you.
Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher 6:22
Natalie MacLean 6:23
All right, so you’re sheltering in place out there in Westchester. That’s what you’re doing, I assume
Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher 6:26
Natalie MacLean 6:27
Well, at least there’s wine.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 6:29
There’s a lot of wine.
Natalie MacLean 6:30
Yes. A lot of wine. Yes. I think I’m down to an eight year supply here, but we’ll make it. Alright, so before we dive into Open that Bottle Night, which is so exciting, I’d love for each of you to tell us first: What was the moment when you knew you wanted to become a writer? Where were you? What triggered that thought? Maybe Dottie, if you want to go first; we’d love to hear from you.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 6:53
I’ll jump in first. I grew up in Florida in the segregated south. I’m 69 now. So I grew up during the early days of the civil rights movement. And my heroes were the journalists who came from all over, or who were already in the south telling the story of black America. And I thought well with words, we can change hearts, you can change the way people think. And so I wanted to be a journalist. And that’s what I did.
Natalie MacLean 7:20
Wow! And how old were you when you realised this?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 7:23
Natalie Maclean 7:26
It’s young. Were you reading a particular paper where you grew up?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 7:29
My family got three or four papers every day. We were real news junkies.
Natalie MacLean 7:36
I love it. Oh, that’s great. And John,
John Brecher 7:39
My story is very similar. I also grew up in the segregated south. I lived in a city that had potential to be a great city. But it was held down by a terrible local newspaper, which was actually owned by the local railroad company. And at some point, when I was in my teens, I realised that if that newspaper were better, if it demanded more, that city could be better. And I extrapolated from that: What if that’s true all over the world? What if journalism were better? What if newspapers were better in every city and all over the world? Wouldn’t the world be better? So very early on, like Dottie, I knew I wanted to go into journalism.
Natalie MacLean 8:23
How old were you when you knew that?
John Brecher 8:25
I was about 13
Natalie MacLean 8:27
Oh, well, you guys have lots in common. This is going to be like a mirror. Now, let’s go to the worst moment, or point or story in your writing career. Where were you? What was happening? How did you recover? Dottie?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 8:46
Gosh, well, fortunately, there haven’t been many. In the course of writing our column, we made two small errors. And they were pretty much abbreviations. They weren’t major, but two is two too many. We don’t like to make errors. That was really bad.
Natalie MacLean 9:03
And what were the abbreviations?
John Brecher 9:06
We’re not letting on and we will never tell you.
Natalie MacLean 9:12
Oh, I see. Okay, nice ellipsis
John Brecher 9:15
They’re not anything really that would be a big deal to normal people. But whenever we make an error, it’s a big deal to us. And those are always the worst moments when you go, “Oh, my gosh”. There was a time in our youth in the 1970s, when Dottie just would not go to sleep, because she was sure that she had gotten something wrong in a story and honestly she was driving me crazy. I told her there was nothing she could do to do about it now; it’s a newspaper, it’s going to print. Three in the morning, she called the press room and asked someone to take a newspaper off of the press and read her that paragraph, so she could be sure whether it was right or wrong. It was right and we got back to sleep.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 10:00
We’re really sticklers for being factual. And one of those two errors was an abbreviation for an organisation. We got letters backwards or something. I mean, it really wasn’t Earth shaking. But for us, it was pretty awful.
Natalie MacLean 10:15
Oh, well, okay, I will share my one journalism course experience. That wasn’t my undergrad, but I spelt someone who I quoted as Copper rather than Cooper. And my instructor gave me an A, and then she crossed it out and said, F: You’ll never forget this.I never did. It’s decades ago. So always get people’s names, right.
John, Do you have one? Or are you sharing the abbreviations?
John Brecher 10:43
Natalie MacLean 10:46
Okay,we won’t dig up anymore. Yes.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 10:48
And the pieces had both our names on them.
Natalie MacLean 10:53
So okay, okay. Gotcha. All right. Well, let’s go to happily ever after. What has been your best
moment of your writing career?
John Brecher 11:00
I would say your commencement.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 11:03
Oh, yes, I went to the University of Missouri to study journalism. My teenage self figured out that that was where I wanted to be. And several years ago, when the University of Missouri School of Journalism celebrated its centennial year, they asked me to come back and to give a commencement speech. And that was a really big deal for me.
Natalie MacLean 11:25
What an honour,
Dorothy J. Gaiter 11:26
It was, it was and when I went to school there, there were so few black students, and maybe a handful of us were studying journalism. And it was just wonderful to be back there and to join in that celebration. It was a real honour.
Natalie MacLean 11:40
Absolutely. And do you remember any of your key points or what you were trying to get across other than, you know, work hard and be successful and seize the day. And,
Dorothy J. Gaiter 11:49
Well, the point that a lot of students and their parents applauded was to try to have a balanced life. No job will fulfil you and love you as much as your family and your loved one. So while you’re out there trying to put the bad people away, and to expose corruption and horrible things, remember to take care of yourself and the people who are closest to you. Because that’s what’s important, really
Natalie MacLean 12:18
Love that. And John, do you have a moment
John Brecher 12:20
I’ll keep it as brief as I can. But when I was page one editor of The Wall Street Journal for eight years, it was 1996, I persuaded one of the editors who worked for me to write about his battle with AIDS and his new hope, because of new treatments. At that time, people didn’t believe there were any new treatments and that there wasn’t any hope. We wrote that story against tremendous pressure, because there was so much belief that this wasn’t real, that there wasn’t hope. But it was a tremendous story. It did end up winning a Pulitzer Prize. But that’s not why I’m so proud of it. I’m so proud of it because as a result of that story, and other work we did on AIDS at the time, thousands and thousands of people realised that there was hope, and they didn’t give up. And I feel like that story and those stories saved many lives. And if you can do that as a journalist, that’s a great thing.
Natalie MacLean 13:18
That’s so moving. Oh, my goodness. Wow. All right. Well, speaking of having a whole and full life, let’s just look at some of your wine related career photos. I’m going to share my desktop, so that those who are watching the video can see some of these wonderful photos. Can you see the screen right now?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 13:40
Yes, we can.
Natalie MacLean 13:42
And it’s the two of you. Lovely shot. Where is this?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 13:45
This is in the Grape Collectives wine store on the Upper West Side, we write for Grape Collective online magazine, but it also has two brick and mortar stores and this is the one on the Upper West Side.
Natalie MacLean 13:56
Okay, I didn’t realise that, grapecollective.com right, the website. That’s great. Okay, cool. We’ll be talking more about that as well. Open that Bottle Night which we will get to momentarily but that seems to be your logo for that. Let me go on. Okay. Some career highlights; that you guys are having fun here. What was happening here? This is Karen McNeil of the wine Bible. And where were you
Dorothy J. Gaiter 14:21
We were at Copia in Napa. The University of California Davis asked us to donate our papers to the Warren Winiarski wine writers collection. Warren was a genius whose Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet won the red wine competition at the judgement of Paris and he set up an endowment that collects the works of wine writers. Jancis Robinson’s papers are there, Hugh Johnson’s papers are there, and ours now. It was amazing. This was after we spoke; people came out of their seats to greet us. This was like a week before serious lockdown. So this was our last gasp of sociability; our last Hurrah
Natalie MacLean 15:04
Yes. And so did they take all of your like, if you use yellow pads, I don’t know if you do, or like all of the notes, everything went into the library.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 15:13
A lot of it did. And also artwork. There’s some pieces that we donated, there are pieces that they’ll get later, there are some pieces that our daughters want. But Wall Street Journal commissioned artists to illustrate our column; and some of the pieces we loved so much that we bought. And so the kids have grown up with these pieces, and we did part with some.
Natalie MacLean 15:36
Wow, okay, and just a couple more highlights here. Oh, this is a dinner with Harlan. Right?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 15:41
Will Harlan. Yes. We were the headliners at the symposium for professional wine writers at Meadowood two years ago. And this was their Open that Bottle Night celebration on the last night of the symposium.
Natalie MacLean 15:58
Fantastic; I attended that many years ago. It’s a great event. But Meadowood has since burned, hasn’t it?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 16:04
This room that you’re looking at does not exist anymore.
Natalie MacLean 16:10
Oh, that’s sad. Yeah, well, the memories will live on. Here you are with Martha Stewart. Was this just a month after you started the call or shortly after?
John Brecher 16:19
It was. You know, we’ve always had the utmost respect for Martha for many reasons. And one of them is personal, that our column started in the Wall Street Journal in 1998. And almost immediately, Martha Stewart got in touch, because she may have been the first person who truly understood the power of the column. She got it right away; that this is going to be big, had us on right away and had us on a number of times after that. And she’s just a brilliant, brilliant woman. And one of the things that we discovered, that we had not realised, is that every Martha Stewart show is on somewhere in the world, at any minute of any day. You knew it. Everybody recognised us, because they’ve seen us on Martha Stewart. Even, like big burly guys would come up to us and say, “Oh my God, I saw you on Martha Stewart.” And then they’d add something like, it was on while I was at the gym working out.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 17:22
“I wasn’t watching Martha, but she popped up and I recognise you two.”
Natalie MacLean 17:26
Sure it was those pink cupcakes that drew you to the show. And you were also on the Today Show for a special anniversary of the show.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 17:38
Yeah, the Today Show was turning 50. And one of the producers asked us to choose the wine and to open it on the air. And John got busy and found a wonderful wine from from its year; a Latour and they paid for it. And Muggs the chimp tried to put his nose into Matts’ glass as that tape rolls. He knew a good thing when he could smell it.
Natalie MacLean 18:09
That’s great. That is just so awesome. So let’s talk about when you met and you have a very specific memory of that I believe
Dorothy J. Gaiter 18:24
I do. Well look at him. He’s gorgeous, he’s handsome. Gets better and better. But it was June 4 1973 at 9 am. It was the first day of our first job out of college. The Miami Herald hired us and one other reporter and we were the first two there.
Natalie MacLean 18:49
So you’re standing in the newsroom; and that’s kind of where you met, amid all the buzz?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 18:54
I was first. So I was seated at my new desk. And an editor walked this guy over and introduced him, and said that he was the latest editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator, which among college newspapers; it’s like The New York Times, it’s just so revered. Then I looked at him and oh my goodness. Wow.
Natalie MacLean 19:14
That’s great. The total package for John. John, what were you thinking?
John Brecher 19:22
I was just thinking that she was the cutest person I’d ever seen in my entire life. And I knew that was it. That was it.
Natalie MacLean 19:28
It’s that sort of chemistry or something, you just both of you have all these years later. How many years have you been married?
John Brecher 19:35
Oh, a hundred
Natalie MacLean 19:38
Dorothy J. Gaiter 19:39
Smiling you say that? We got married in 79
Natalie MacLean 19:44
Oh, wow. That’s great. Okay, and so what was the first bottle you shared? I might have mentioned it in the intro, but let’s go back to that
John Brecher 19:51
Remember André Cold Duck; nothing like the classics. For those who haven’t had it is a sweet, sparkling red wine. But my parents had given it to me when I moved into my apartment in Miami as a gift, as a celebration. My parents didn’t know anything about wine. They didn’t drink wine, but they’d seen the ads so they gave me a bottle of André Cold Duck and what was I going to do? It was still sitting in my refrigerator. So the first time Dottie came over, I was all set to open a champagne. It was André Cold Duck. It was very cold. It was delicious.
Natalie MacLean 20:39
That’s great. That is awesome. And you have a few memories too, of meeting some renowned winemakers early on before you even started writing about wine, that was the California winemaker André Tchelistcheff
Dorothy J. Gaiter 20:52
Yes, we’d then moved to New York; it was in the early 80s. And we, on our honeymoon, we’d had the 68 Georges Latour Reserve and it was just the most magical, perfect wine we’d ever had. Back then BV (Beaulieu Vineyards) sold that and the 74 for like, $35 a bottle, and they limited the purchase to one per person. And we had gotten to California, checked into our hotel on our honeymoon, and driven over there like bats, you know, really fast. And there was one bottle left, and we took it back to the hotel, asked the concierge for two glasses, and took it out to the vineyard and drank it. And it was just so perfect. So when we were in New York years later, and read that Tchelistcheff was going to be at the Plaza; we took our label and asked him to sign it. And then John asked him, “How did he know that the grapes were going to be so perfect, and the wine was just going to be so stunningly wonderful?” And he pantomined picking a grape and tasting it and those bushy eyebrows and the bright eyes, we could see the grapes, you know, he was just, he was so intense about it. And then this wonderful smile, we’d taken him back to be in the vineyard and tasting those grapes. And it was just the most wonderful thing.
Natalie MacLean 22:21
Oh, that’s lovely. Like his Madeleine, opened up that memory. That’s wonderful. And so wine, obviously, we’re all getting this, it’s changed your relationship. In what ways has wine really changed your relationship?
John Brecher 22:35
Going back to why we originally fell in love with wine. As we mentioned, when we met, we were Daily News journalists, we were really into it. That was our life, was being daily journalists, and especially back then, you know what a great news town Miami has always been It was a particularly great news town back in the 70s. We worked our butts off, we loved it, but we worked our butts off. We were together from the moment we met basically in 1973. And work was intense. At some point, I went into a wine store and didn’t know what to do. There was this bottle of white and a bottle of red of some generic French wine. And I thought, ooh, I’ll pick up a bottle and we’ll have it tonight. Maybe it’ll be better than André Cold Duck.
And the guy behind the counter said if you buy a case, instead of costing $.299 a bottle, I’ll give it to you for $1.99 a bottle. I thought Whoa! So I bought a case. When Dottie came over that night, we shared it. And what we found and what we found ever since, is that wine makes us slow down. Wine makes us relax and look at each other and talk about something other than just journalism and other than the day’s events. And it takes us to a different place. So it really did change our life and change our world.
Natalie MacLean 24:09
And it’s not simply just the alcohol is it? Like vodka doesn’t do the same thing for me as wine does. But why do you think it’s wine that slows us down and makes us notice and be more conversational?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 24:21
Wine really is someone’s art at its most personal. It’s someone’s vision modelled. It comes from a specific place. And so we would take these bottles out and look at our Hugh Johnson Atlas and find where these wines came from. There was this whole immersion in a bottle and it can really hook you if you’re open to exploring and we were. In every bottle is an exploration of someone’s vision. So it’s very personal and we learned that we like to cook together. So we would work all day and then cook and sometimes we’d sit down at midnight. And, and have dinner, you know, soup to nuts. It was just.. and have a bottle that was spectacular. And it was spectacular because we were enjoying it. We learn our palates by tasting and pulling corks. That’s the way to do it.
Natalie MacLean 25:24
Yes. And is that what you mean by tasting the winemakers soul? The artistry that’s in it? Like, that’s a beautiful poetic way to put it. I’m just wondering what you mean by that, tasting a winemakers soul
John Brecher 25:34
One of the things that we’d urge everybody to do, at some point when we can travel again, is if you’ve never visited winemakers, go visit them. That doesn’t mean go to California, doesn’t necessarily mean to go to Bordeaux. There are wineries now, commercial wineries, in all 50 states. Go visit winemakers. And for people who have visited winemakers, visit more. Because what really made wine get so much better for us was the first time in the 70s that we went to Napa. And we met winemakers. And we were able to really put together the winemaker with the wine. There was nothing about this wine that was accidental. Obviously, you can’t control nature, you can’t control the vintage. But it all starts with a winemakers vision. What is it that I want to do? What is it that this wine is going to mean to me? And that really transformed wine to us, when we realised that wine wasn’t just a beverage, but that it really was a vision. And so to this day, when we taste a good wine, we always talk about like, what were they trying to do here? And one of the advantages of that is, many times when we drink a wine we’ll say, you know, we don’t really like this wine that much, but we appreciate it. And that’s really critical when it comes to enjoying wine. Because that means that you’re really getting to wine on a level where it should be. You’re not going to like every single wine, every single wine that may be good in various ways. But you should be able to think about what were they trying to do here? And there should be an answer.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 27:25
Yeah, I agree with that.
Natalie MacLean 27:28
Yeah. And before we leave the early days, I’d love to just share my screen again in terms of your wedding, because you’ve got a great bottle there. And you can maybe tell us about that.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 27:42
This is my parents backyard. My mother had this brilliant idea to chill the Taittinger in her birdbath. So we had 16 guests, including us, 16 people at the wedding, and 18 bottles of champagne. The guy with the long hair pouring it is John’s older brother Jim. He was in charge of making sure everyone never had an empty glass. And the young man in the middle is Chris, the younger brother.
Natalie MacLean 28:13
Wow. Taittinger. That’s a long way from André Cold Duck.
John Brecher and Dorothy J Gaiter 28:18
Natalie MacLean 28:19
Things have moved along by the time you get married.
John Brecher 28:23
Our plan and it worked out was we had 18 bottles for 16 people. We only had champagne. That’s the only beverage we had, and our plan and our hope was that we’d have one bottle left over. Because we went directly from here to the train station to get on a train, a series of trains, that dropped us off ultimately in Napa Valley.
Natalie MacLean 28:45
Ah, that’s terrific, a honeymoon in Napa. And I just while we’re on family here, this is a lovely photo. These are your two daughters. And they often featured in your column, you’d mentioned them,
Dorothy J. Gaiter 28:58
People came to know them so well. We heard from a woman Midwest, who named baby deer who started visiting her backyard after our daughters. Our older daughter who’s sitting next to John there got married a year ago. And our readers couldn’t believe that she’s married now. They saw them grow up.
Natalie MacLean 29:26
And how did wine play a part of her wedding?
John Brecher and Dorothy J Gaiter 29:33
Oh, wow, every part
Natalie MacLean 29:37
You taught her well.
John Brecher 29:40
There were three very special wines we had at her wedding celebration. All three were wines that had some special resonance for Media, and her younger sister, Zoe, and us. And in all three cases, we got back to the winemakers, who at this point we know, and asked them if they wouldn’t mind sending some wishes to Media and her new husband José. It was the sweetest thing. Laura Catena wrote a poem.
Natalie MacLean 30:11
Oh, the winemaker from Argentina who also happens to be in her spare time an emergency doctor in San Francisco, right?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 30:18
Yeah. She’s amazing. She wrote a haiku.
Natalie MacLean 30:21
Dorothy J. Gaiter 30:22
I know. And August Kesseler sent word, we got Riesling from him, because we dragged the girls to Germany when they were little.
Natalie MacLean 30:32
They must have loved that; fighting and screaming
Dorothy J. Gaiter 30:23
He wrote stand together in good and bad times. Very good sentiment for newly wed people. And then we finished with the d’Yquem, which we’d laid down for them, for Media
Natalie MacLean 30:50
Wow. That’s good planning.
John Brecher 30:54
Not only is it the world’s greatest sweet wine, but we really do consider it the world’s greatest wine. We can’t afford it anymore. But back when we bought these 89’s, which was the year of her birth, they were ridiculously affordable. So we bought one here, one there and before we knew it, we had several that we always intended to open, maybe when she was 18 maybe when she was 21. But we didn’t. So we opened up, I think, either two or three bottles for the night before the wedding, for 35 or 40 people. They were gorgeous wines. Absolutely gorgeous wines.
Natalie MacLean 31:32
And with that kind of age on them. Oh, marvellous
John Brecher 31:33
Just kind of a perfect, sweet send off to a very sweet couple.
Natalie MacLean 31:39
That’s great. And for those who might not be familiar, Château d’Yquem of course, or Yquem is from Bordeaux, the sort of the top of the top ranked wines, a dessert wine, or some people do eat it at the front of the meal or drink it sorry, but a very special bottle. So tell me before we move on the lady from Coconut Grove, who is she?
John Brecher 32:02
We wish we knew who she was. And if anybody watching this knows, let us know. She was absolutely critical to our wine journey. And one of the things that we tell people is get a good merchant, get a good merchant. It’s absolutely critical even in today’s world of the internet, and everything. Having someone you can go to and talk to personally is incredibly important. When we were very young, just learning about wine, we lived in Coconut Grove, a part of Miami. And there was this little tiny store, I still was nervous about going to wine stores at that point, because I didn’t really know anything about wine. Tiny little store, one woman who worked there. It was her store, never knew her name. And I went in. And we talked about wine. So I bought a couple of bottles from her. We really liked them, went back and we set up a $72 maximum on a case. $72 per case was what we could do, and that meant
Natalie Maclean 33:09
What year was this?
John Brecher 33:11
Natalie Maclean 33:12
I guess that could go a ways back then
John Brecher 33:14
And the idea was that we could buy supplies for $3. But that means we could like maybe go up to 10 or 11 on some. And what she did was basically show us that good wine, even back then, was made all over the world. She didn’t just give us California Wine. She didn’t just give us wines from France. She gave us wines from all over the world. And then as Dottie said, I would bring home the case. And we’d sit down there and we’d go to Hugh Johnson’s book and we’d place the wine and say “Oh my gosh, this is from where” and if it was a US wine, we’d go to Leon Adams, the Wines of America, and place the wine and say “Oh my gosh, this is where it’s from.” And we had this other one that was from here, that was hugely, hugely important. By the time we came back to Miami, we left for New York, we came back, that store was gone. Never found her again.
Natalie MacLean 34:16
Oh, wow. Well, lady from Coconut Grove if you can hear us now, please write in or find us on social media.
John Brecher 34:24
Natalie MacLean 34:28
Alright, so as I mentioned early on, you both were hard news reporters and editors. Why did you make that switch to, you know what some people might consider, soft lifestyle kind of writing with wine.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 34:42
So total accident. We never intended for that to happen. The Journal is a huge organisation, it takes forever for changes to come, and for years it had been talking about having a weekend section and at some point, it appointed an editor who had worked for John at one point. And throughout our time at The Journal, we’d have reporters and editors over for dinner. So they knew about our passion for wine. And you know, we’d go late into the night drinking wonderful stuff and eating wonderful things. So this editor, Joann Lublin came to John one day and said, “Listen, if we get this Weekend Journal edition going, would you and Dottie write a wine column?” And John called me over. And she told me that, and we thought, it’s never gonna happen. So we said “Sure Joann”. It was an easy yes. And lo and behold, it happened. And then we thought, “Well, how much time could it take?” So we were doing our hard news,jobs and writing this wine column at the same time. And we did that for two years, two years, both jobs. And eventually, we were so tired, because the kids were young, we were trying to be good parents. We were so tired. We were walking in the walls. We went to our boss and we said, Paul, Paul Steiger, brilliant man. We can’t do both jobs at the same time. And he said, “Which would you rather do?” And I’ve been writing about race for more than a quarter century. John had been the most successful page one editor in the papers history Paul said. It had won more and different Pulitzers under his reign than any editor before or since; page one editor. So we thought, well, this is an opportunity to do something together, to create something together. It took us a nanosecond to say wine. We became full time wine writers.
Natalie MacLean 36:54
That’s fantastic. Wow. But you didn’t call it a wine column did you?
John Brecher 36:59
No, we always felt that our wine column wasn’t a wine column, it was something more. Before we wrote a word, we sat down and thought, what do we want to do with this column? At that point, we’d been drinking and studying wines, travelling all over the world about wine for a long time, we could have easily written, you know, a fairly upscale, fairly snooty column. But, we were thinking that even for the Wall Street Journal, the audience for that is not going to be that large. And it’s certainly not going to grow very quickly. But a column that uses wine as essentially a narrative facility, to talk about life and love and getting by in our times and making every day a little bit better; that’s the sort of thing that might resonate and that’s the sort of thing that might have an audience that does grow. So we always considered our column to be a life narrative, as told through wine.
Natalie MacLean 38:13
Tasting life instead of just tasting wine. And you have your book there, right? Love by the Glass, which is very much like that. They’re all stories. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet. But yeah, no, that’s terrific. So each wine has a story. And what is your take on all of the wine writing and criticism and bloggers and influencers and everything else that’s proliferating across the internet? Is this good and bad? Is it a mix?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 38:36
Well, it reflects an excitement about wine, and how can that be a bad thing? The more people you have engaged in it, I think, the better, and the market will decide who’s credible and who’s not. We’re all busy people and I don’t waste any time with people who don’t know what they’re talking about whether it’s baking, or gardening, which I love. You will gravitate to people you find credible, and maybe who have a similar palette. But the excitement, the proliferation of voices. That’s pretty exciting.
Natalie MacLean 39:14
Indeed it is. And has there been a wine or a region that you’ve ever sort of disagreed on? Or you seem so compatible in every way? Do you just like the same wines?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 39:25
No, no, this is all in that.
Natalie MacLean 39:29
Well, it’s a darn good one.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 39:35
For years, we had vehement disagreements about Oregon Pinot Noirs
Natalie MacLean 39:41
Ah, so who is pro and who is con
Dorothy J. Gaiter 39:43
I was pro. I’d like the fruit forwardness of it. John thought that they were a bit much too fruity. And once we wrote, and if he doesn’t agree, he’s gonna have to sleep on the sofa
Natalie MacLean 39:57
In your column.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 39:59
Just joking. I’m just joking. And we got this letter from this man who said, “Why is it always the guy who has to sleep on the sofa?” Oh, my goodness. Just kidding
Natalie MacLean 40:12
Being iteral. Yeah.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 40:15
But Oregon was a new young wine region. And like every new place, it has to decide what its grape is, where should it be planted, and that sort of thing. And so it grew up and John gravitated in my direction.
Natalie MacLean 40:33
So he came around
Dorothy J. Gaiter 40:34
He came around
Natalie MacLean 40:35
Sounds like he gets it
John Brecher 40:37
You know, I really do think that what happened is that the wines got earthier, they got more minerally, and that extreme fruitiness of the first years, to me calmed down. But I think the larger point here with us, is that people taste wines in different ways. And it has a lot to do with their own personal palate, has to do with their upbringing. In Dottie’s case, she loves fruit. She loves fruit, she loves all kinds of fruit, she loves mangoes, she loves tangerines, she’s just a real fruit person. I grew up; I can’t remember when I ever had fresh fruit. You know, we just didn’t in my household. And I’m not much of a fruit person. The way she approaches a wine, the way I approach wine, just from that one thing, is very different. One of the things that we often wrote about in the Wall Street Journal, that we often write about now on Grape Collective, is that my taste may not be your taste, doesn’t mean that anybody is wrong; people just have different tastes. It’s that simple.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 41:41
And it’s okay. It’s okay. We tell people don’t let anyone tell you what you like. We can’t taste what it tastes like in your mouth. Trust yourself.
Natalie MacLean 41:51
Yeah, trust yourself like that Doctor Ferber sleeping babies or something? Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 41:59
Oh, gosh, we had a baby who would not sleep?
John Brecher 42:03
Yeah, that’s separate. Thank you, Natalie.
Natalie MacLean 42:06
It’s all gone now. It’s memories. But you received lots of letters over the years. But you had a category of people who would write to you called wine jerks? Who were they?
John Brecher 42:18
Well, over the years that we wrote the Wall Street Journal wine column we encouraged people to get in touch with us, we want people to get in touch with us; both to give us ideas of things we should drink, to respond to our columns, whatever. And obviously, if people believe that we have made an error, we definitely want to hear from them, as you’ve heard, being correct is very important to us. Problem is during all of our years working at The Journal and afterward, we’ve heard from a lot of people who aren’t correct in their correcting of us, and in fact, are obviously incorrect. And just a little bit of investigation would have made it clear to them that they weren’t correct. The interesting thing at The Journal was that every time we got one of these letters from someone, that we just kind of rolled our eyes and said, “Oh, my gosh”, you know, and we always wrote back very nicely and said, No, here’s the fact, you know, here’s the background, we’d email back and say, here’s the link. Think about it; it was really interesting that every single one of those letters came from a guy, except one.
Natalie MacLean 43:35
You got a woman.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 43:37
And when we got that one, it was so exciting that John came into my office and waved it.
Natalie MacLean 43:39
What was the correction?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 43:41
She had written that meritage is pronounced Marytage, that it’s French. And we said, “Actually, no, it’s meritage heritage meritage.” And we sent her a link from the Meritage Association explaining what it was. Well, within five minutes, we got an email back from her saying, “You know, I walked away from my computer for five minutes, and my husband sat down and sent you that”
Natalie MacLean 44:16
Dorothy J. Gaiter 44:17
That’ll teach him, you know, he terrorises the whole neighbourhood with his wine knowledge; this will bring him down a peg.
Natalie MacLean 44:25
So your record remains unblemished,
Dorothy J. Gaiter 44:27
I guess; all men, all men.
Natalie MacLean 44:30
Yeah. Why do you think that is?
John Brecher 44:34
You know, I just, I don’t know and I just don’t know.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 44:40
I have some theories
Natalie MacLean 44:44
These go with the abbreviation category.
John Brecher 44:48
You know, it’s just wine is a wonderful thing. There’s no reason to make it into a sport; there’s no reason to make it into a competition. Once again, no question at all. If you think that we’ve made mistakes, you think anyone’s made a mistake, great, let them know. But there has always been a certain amount of, I know this better than you, do in wine. And that’s not fun. And that’s not what wine is all about. Wine is romantic, wine connects people, it shouldn’t separate people.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 45:20
But it’s always been this exclusive domain; not always, but largely of white men. You know, and it can’t be exclusive, if it lets everyone else in. And I think that that attitude is beginning to break down. White women kicked the door in years ago. But people of colour, our absence, across the board, is being noted, more and more, and people are doing something about it, talking about doing something about it. Some of them are actually hiring, and actually doing things about it. But it was a white man’s game for a long time.
Natalie MacLean 45:55
Really. And you’ve segued into a very interesting topic that sort of dovetails between the wine and your experience and writing about race related issues. Dottie, what has been your experience as a black woman in the wine industry, like at industry tastings and events?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 46:11
Well, for years, I was the only one there. But I’m used to it, I’m used to being the only one, I was often the only black person at restaurants. It wasn’t a fun way to be, but I was used to it. The most irritating part of it was just getting in front of the pourer, because you’d have these big guys who are like shoulder to shoulder, and they’re being ‘Bros”. And the person pouring the wine is entertaining them. And they’re having a great time. And I’m little, and trying to elbow my way, in a polite way, to get a splash. And it’s the not being seen that is hard and shouldn’t be, because I was going to write about the wine if I liked it. I don’t know what the guys who were shoulder to shoulder were doing. If anyone should have been getting some attention, you know? But now there are many, many more black people at tastings, when we have walk around tastings; young people. And it’s just exciting to see. And yeah, I walk up to them; I’m vibrating with happiness. And they’re looking like, I don’t know who you are. But it’s nice to see them. And I always ask, “Is there something here that you liked that I really should try.” And I pass out my cards. So everyone knows how to reach me.
Natalie MacLean 47:31
That’s terrific. And I mean, it’s just there’s been so much change and so much writing on these issues in the wine industry lately, between people of colour and women. But what is it that we can do to help; like those listening? Me personally? How can we get involved? Sometimes I see a lot of social media posts and I just wonder is that just virtue signalling or whatever? Like, what can we do?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 47:55
I think just bring people in. You can interview them, you can have them as guests. I say that the children are watching, you know, if you have kids, how are you living your life? Who are your neighbours, who are your kids, school mates, it needs to be part of who you are. You can’t just do it in this segment of your life. I think we’re seeing problems because it’s been embraced in this way, but not in a holistic way. You have to be authentic and you’re caring about everybody. And if the wine industry is going to grow, it needs everybody. It needs to use talent. It needs; black people have money. My older sister and her black friends would ski every winter for years; a group of black people would get up and fly and ski. You know, there’s money out there.
Natalie MacLean 48:49
It’s a bottom line thing. I read in one piece, someone said, you’d better widen the market and include more people or White Claw is going to eat your lunch or drink it.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 48:57
Right. Right. Right. The business of wine is wine is a business.
Unknown Speaker 49:01
Mm hmm. All right. Let’s get to Open that Bottle Night. Finally. Sorry, I just had so many things I wanted to ask you first
Dorothy J. Gaiter 49:10
It’s been fun, fun
Natalie MacLean 49:11
So how did you come up with the idea?
John Brecher 49:14
When we started writing our column in 1998, we found as we imagine every wine writer does, our guess is you have found this, that the most common question that we got was, “I have this one bottle of wine; I got it at auction; my father left it to me; it’s from our wedding; my mother gave it to me; I’ve had it forever. When should I open it?” And then they kind of whisper and “How much is it worth?”
Natalie MacLean 49:47
Exactly; it’s like the Antiques Roadshow. Is it worth anything?
John Brecher 49:54
And every time we’d write back and we’d say you know something, that wine is priceless. You should drink it, make a special meal this weekend, drink it and celebrate your mother, celebrate your long ago wedding, celebrate whatever is in that bottle. We got this letter so many times that we decided, my God, everybody must have a bottle like that, whether you’ve got one bottle in the house, or you have 1000 bottles in the house, clearly everybody has bottles like that. We do. So we wrote a column and we said, All right, look, it’s gonna take a village for us to open these bottles. So we’re gonna set a date, last Saturday in February, all of us together are going to make a special meal. And we’re going to open that bottle. We called it Open that Bottle Night.
Natalie MacLean 50:45
And why did you choose last Saturday in February? Why that date?
John Brecher 50:48
It’s such a bad time. Is it the kind of near the end of winter, the holidays are over, it’s still grey and gross outside, we all kind of need something to look forward to and to make us happy. Seemed like a good time. Our hope was that after we published this column in 1999, that we’d get five or six people who would send letters back, remember it was 1999, letters, I mean, actual people would have to sit down and write a letter,
Natalie MacLean 51:21
John Brecher 51:25
You know, Ben Franklin out there. We hoped we might get four or five letters, and we’d be able to do some sort of follow up column. So we could get two for one.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 51:36
We got over 1000 letters. Every day, the mailroom would come in and dump these crates of letters on our desk. It was the most amazing thing.
Natalie MacLean 51:48
So this really resonated with people
Dorothy J. Gaiter 51:50
It did, it did. And the piece that we wrote, started with a quote from John Watson, who said that if only we had found this occasion last year, his bride of 50 years could have been there in person to celebrate and not just in spirit. Yes, we got with John Watson for years and on Open that Bottle Night 3, he wrote that he had met Mary, on this river cruise down the Dordogne, and she loved wine and he loved wine. And we kept bringing him into the column and checking in on them. They got married, their kids send us pictures from their wedding. And then in 2017, we heard from his granddaughter that he died. And his obituary mentions a highlight of his life being quoted by us in the Wall Street Journal, and that he wants people to remember that there’s a second act, that there’s love out there, and that you should grasp it with both hands and toast to life and this wonderful gift of the grape. Right well lived, you know, and through Open that Bottle Night. We heard from GI’s who remembered having Riesling in Germany, who were connecting on opposite sides of the country, calling each other, and opening identical Rieslings and talking about their War years and their lives since the war. It has been an amazing thing. And last year, we were in Napa,
Natalie MacLean 53:20
Right, for Copia
Dorothy J. Gaiter 53:26
For Open that Bottle Night
John Brecher 53:28
Seems like a long time ago.
Natalie MacLean 53:29
It does, doesn’t it? It seems like decades. So was there a letter that you received from a reader or story you heard online, sort of a very odd place for someone to open a bottle, or a strange or odd bottle itself?
John Brecher 53:44
We kept in touch for a long time with someone from Palmer Station, Antarctica, a research station. Dee first wrote us from Palmer Station a number of years ago and said, we’re going to celebrate OTBN here in Antarctica.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 54:02
John Brecher 54:05
Right. And she said that they don’t often get supply ships, but every supply ship that comes to Palmer Station knows you’ve got to bring a bottle of wine. But there’s never a perfect occasion to drink those very, very rare and special bottles. So they decided that Open that Bottle Night was it. So every year for years, Palmer Station celebrated Open that Bottle Night with wines from all over the world that been dropped off with supply ships. That’s awesome.
Natalie MacLean 54:32
That is so great. And what’s the maybe the least expensive bottle anyone’s ever written to you about in terms of should they open it or not?
John Brecher 54:43
You know, it’s interesting. You’ve probably heard this too. There are an awful lot of really, really old bottles of Mateus out there.
Natalie MacLean 54:50
Yes, the rosé from Portugal, right? That shaped bottle
John Brecher 54:57
Right, exactly.The one that when we were in college, you put the candle in after you drank it
Natalie MacLean 55:00
Either that or macramé it. Yes.
John Brecher 55:09
Yeah, I mean, but you know if it has memories, it’s priceless. That’s always been our point
Natalie MacLean 55:14
It is. And so why do you think like when these bottles have so many memories, why do we resist opening them? Why does it need to be a special occasion? That is not here yet? What’s going on?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 55:25
I don’t know. No occasion is special enough. People are waiting. One woman had bought a case of something that she wanted to open at her son’s wedding. And he was in his 40s and she says, you know, it’s not gonna happen. I’m gonna drink this
Natalie MacLean 55:40
Was he dating, or was he engaged or ?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 55:47
He wasn’t dating. She says she was tired of waiting. Babies were born. Babies graduated from high school, college people got their medical degrees. And for some reason, people just couldn’t open these bottles. Then some people started to think, you know, I don’t want my kids pouring this over my grave. Right? You know? Someone’s written that an empty bottle is better than a bottle full of vinegar. People have begun to embrace the idea of “Now” especially now during the pandemic. We’re hearing from a lot of people who are celebrating Open that Bottle Night with great frequency, which is the way to do it. No one is promised tomorrow. We set this date. But we said you know, you should do this as often as you can.
Natalie MacLean 56:32
No one is promised tomorrow. That’s a lovely line. So what are you planning? Do you have a wine or two in mind for this year’s Open that Bottle Night this Saturday? The 27th?
John Brecher 56:42
Well, we don’t know for sure. Because we never know until the last minute, we’re like everybody else. We have a few bottles that we probably should have opened a long time ago; we meant to open a long time ago. But then this occasion wasn’t special enough. And then that occasion wasn’t special enough. It kind of grows on itself. Because at some point, it just takes on this incredible weight. So we don’t know for sure, we don’t know for sure. But we’ve been threatening to ourselves over this bottle for a long, long time.
Natalie MacLean 57:15
Okay, what have you got there? Something vineyard,
Dorothy J. Gaiter 57:20
It’s a Hargrave vineyard from Long Island. And the label is of a nude woman with a band across her breasts because of rules about nudity back then.
Unknown Speaker 57:31
Right? Oh, what year? Is it?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 57:34
Oh, it’s an 88. And this label actually inspired us to go to Washington DC to talk to people who approve labels. Like what passes and what doesn’t? Of course now, labels are so scandalous that I’m embarrassed to look at some of them. But back then, Alex Parker Hargrave thought he better cover up
John Brecher 57:59
Right. And to us, what’s special about this, aside from this really extraordinary label, is that back then, and before we were wine writers, long before we were wine writers, we used to go to the North Fork of Long Island, pretty much every summer, with our kids for a week, two weeks. We loved it so much. It had an incredible combination of; It was beautiful, there was a beach, there were pools, beautiful weather and wineries. Oh my gosh. And it was a drive from our home. We used to go every year; Wonderful place. Loved it, loved it, loved it. And that’s where this bottle is from. Aside from the great label it just has so many wonderful memories for us, those wonderful summers with our children, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, lobster, and it was wonderful. And so on the one hand, that’s why we love looking at this bottle and keep thinking we’re going to open it and celebrate those memories. But on the other hand, whenever we do that, we say Nah! one more year and that’s what Open that Bottle Night is all about.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 59:08
Hargrave vineyard was sold so it doesn’t exist as Hargrave vineyard anymore.
Natalie MacLean 59:13
Oh, wow. Okay, well, we’re cheering you on.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 59:15
Thank you. Thank you.
Natalie MacLean 59:16
You want to open that wine. We’re behind you. It takes a village. As you said, no one’s promised tomorrow. Okay, I would like your advice on which bottle I should open this year, if you don’t mind. The first one is a port from 1996. And I’m wondering if it’s past peak, I didn’t check vintage charts yet. And I can’t even remember it. But I went down to my cellar which is not large, but I realised “Oh my goodness, this has been sitting there an awfully long time.” So that’s one of them. And then the other; so I got divorced about eight years ago, and we split custody of the seller. And this still has the paper on it. I’ve never taken this off. This is Oculus from BC; we bought a case of this 2004. I’m worried that it’s over the hill. But what’s good about this is that I will be able to open either bottle with my new love of seven years now. So it’s still about romance, not about getting divorced, but I don’t know, see, I think this one would age better. But this one, I keep putting it off. I’m thinking it’s past peak. So I don’t know, I could pair it with burning old love letters or something. I’m not sure; whatever’s left down there. But which one would you go with?
Dorothy J. Gaiter 1:00:35
I agree that the Port, they live forever. So I think you could probably hold on to that one. It’s all about you, Natalie. It’s about you.
Natalie MacLean 1:00:45
I like what I could do with this one. The memories that we’re bringing back and
Dorothy J. Gaiter 1:00:49
It’s a beautiful looking bottle.
Natalie MacLean 1:00:52
It’s their flagship wine. Its Mission Hill from BC. Oculus because there’s a little hole or whatever, an ocular that brings in the light to the cellar, and it shines down on certain times of day onto the barrels. It’s a beautiful winery in the Okanagan. And we bought a case of this. And I didn’t realise when we split custody of the cellar, there was one left. So it was a happy discovery that we hadn’t had them all. But then I’ve been saving it for the last seven years. Thinking I can’t open it now. But I think I could
Dorothy J. Gaiter 1:01:22
Is it a Cabernet? What is it?
Natalie MacLean 1:01:23
It’s a blend; like it’s a meritage blend. 74% Merlot, 13% Cab Sauv, 10% Cab Franc and 3% Perit Verdot.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 1:01:35
John Brecher 1:01:38
Yeah. I think we’d vote for that. Okay. Right. Yeah, just sounds like there’s a lot of storytelling in in that one. And I love your pairing suggestion.
Natalie MacLean 1:01:50
Office files that he forgot to take, or tax returns. Anyway, it’s all good. Happily ever after; I’m with a new guy. So it’s all good. So I can’t believe how fast this was gone. But I don’t want to keep you; I want to ask you just a few more questions if you are game. Open that Bottle Night, which sounds like we’re on the game show, but which famous game show featured Open that Bottle Night?
John Brecher 1:02:17
Well, it’s on my coffee cup.
Natalie MacLean 1:02:19
Oh, there you go. Oh, my goodness. That looks familiar.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 1:02:24
Yeah, Jeopardy, it was 2005. It was a $200 question. And the contestant got it right.
John Brecher 1:02:30
Open that Bottle Night was created by the Wall Street Journal’s columnist on this subject.
Natalie MacLean 1:02:35
Hmm, that’s great. That is real. You know, you’ve gone into mainstream culture.
Dorothy J. Gaiter 1:02:42
Yeah Alex Trebek voice there. He was a wonderful wine lover as you well know, Canadian
Natalie MacLean 1:02:46
He was Canadian, they walk among us. And then Open that Bottle Night was also featured in an ad for a well known furniture store, which was it?
John Brecher 1:02:56
IKEA last year. And it was like IKEA Hungary. Like, wow, this is great. You know, that’s one of the things about OTBN is that it’s been embraced by companies, by fraternities, by Alumni Associations, by all sorts of things, which has really taken it. You know, we love the fact that just couples do it. But aside from couples doing it, it’s huge, because restaurants do it or at least did it, and it’s incredibly international. The Prague Gardens had an Open that Bottle Night last year.
Natalie MacLean 1:03:34
Wow, that’s great. You’ve really seeped into the culture, in many cultures with this, and your love for wine. So how can people find you online? How can they celebrate Open that Bottle Night? So OTBN is the hashtag? And again, I’m going to post all of this in the show notes for the podcast. But how can we find you and celebrate with you?
John Brecher 1:03:52
First, we would love people to send us what they’re planning to open or what they have opened by email, OTBNwine@gmail.com. On top of that, on Twitter and Facebook, we’re @winecouple, and Instagram we’re @Dottieand john. But any of those places we really, really love to hear from people who say, I’m going to open this wine or I did open this wine. For this reason, this is what I had, this is who I had it with, here’s the meal I made with it. It’s so much fun for us.
Natalie MacLean 1:04:28
Oh, that’s fantastic. And I will put this in the show notes for the podcast so they can connect with you, whichever way they prefer. Is there anything else that we haven’t covered? We’ve covered a lot of ground. I appreciate this so much. But is there anything else you want to mention as we wrap up?
John Brecher 1:04:44
I do just want to say that our regular column appears at grapecollective.com. You can read our columns there. And you can read our past columns, some of them about Open that Bottle Night, some of them about other subjects, like diversity in the wine industry. So they’re all available there on grapecollective.com. And our new columns obviously will be available grapecollective.com as we write them.
Natalie Maclean 1:05:11
Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you both. This has been a wonderful conversation. I’ve loved reconnecting with you. I love your stories. You bring wine to life through your passion, your relationship and just everything you’ve shared with us this evening.
Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher 1:05:25
Thank you, Natalie.
Natalie MacLean 1:05:27
Okay, well, let’s stay in touch. And we have to confirm which bottles we ended up opening, but I feel stronger now that I can do this with your advice. All right. Take care and bye for now.
Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher 1:05:42
Bye bye. Thank you. Thank you.
Natalie MacLean 1:05:44
Natalie MacLean 1:05:50
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Dottie and John. Here are my takeaways.
Number one: I love their stories about how they met and fell in love with each other, and with wine. I also enjoy going behind the scenes with their tasting and writing process. It’s as rigorous as their non wine related journalism
Two: I admire how Dottie and John approached “Tastings” as a column about life, not simply wine. They connected with so many readers because of that, and inspired a passion for wine by making it accessible without dumbing it down.
Three: I appreciated hearing Dottie’s experiences as a black woman in the world of wine. And I’m motivated now to interview more people of colour on this podcast. I already have some in mind but please let me know if you have suggestions.
And Four: I love the idea behind open that bottle night. I am so motivated to participate in OTBN this year.
You’ll find out which two wines are my finalists for this decision, and why I chose the one I did during our watch party on February 24. And I want to know which one you chose too. In the shownotes you’ll find how you can win one of three personally signed copies of their book, Love by the Glass if you post on your favourite social media channel before then, a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm, including this evening and next week. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/116.
You won’t want to miss next week when I’m talking with another dynamic husband and wife team; Susie Barrie and Peter Richards. Both are Masters of Wine, they’ve written for The Sunday Times, Decanter magazine, and were presenters on the flagship BBC television show Saturday Kitchen for more than a decade. They’ve been described as Britain’s first couple of wine, and I’m thrilled that they’re going to be here with us next week.
In the meantime, if you missed Episode 15 go back and take a listen. I talked about the differences between men and women when it comes to tasting wine. The results will surprise you. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Women buy wine to please guests, men buy to impress them. Women are more about sharing wine, men are more into cellaring, otherwise known as hoarding. Women tend to ask for recommendations and guidance, more so than men who tend to act as though they already know about wine. When we’re lost on vacation, who’s going to ask for driving directions? According to a British study, 22% of men embellish their expertise on wine to impress others. As Hugh Johnson, editor of the Wine Atlas, and several other reference books observed, quote, “Wine is like sex in that few men will admit not knowing all about it” end quote. So are men from Bordeaux and women from Burgundy? Maybe
Natalie MacLean 1:09:11
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the tips that John and Dottie shared and they might like to participate in Open that Bottle Night. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps one of your finalists for Open that Bottle Night. Post on social media about it and you could win one of their personally signed books, Love by the Glass.
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai