News & Politics

A Rare Dinner of Rare Wines for "Heart’s Delight" (Pictures)

The American Heart Association dinner brought together wine enthusiasts and professionals, who shared favorite bottles from their private cellars.

Just a few of the wines uncorked at the Heart’s Delight Collectors Dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak. Photograph by Ben Droz.

Here’s the thing about a wine dinner: The wine comes at you
with the constancy of fireflies on a summer night. As my evening
began with a ’96 Krug Champagne and ended with an ’88 Château
d’Yquem, with countless California Chardonnays and Cabernets,
Oregon Pinot Noir, Burgundies and Grand Cru Bordeaux in
between, all I could think of as I headed home at midnight, happy
but sodden, were these lines from Evelyn Waugh’s
Brideshead Revisited: “It was neither the quality nor the quantity that was at fault. It was the mixture. Grasp that, and you have the root of
the matter.” Ah, yes, the root of the matter. 

We fortunate few gathered in a private dining room at
Charlie Palmer

for a dinner kicking off the American Heart Association’s
four-day wine

“Heart’s Delight,” which is expected to raise a net of $1
million for the organization. The dinner was only 50 people at six
round tables, all world-class collectors, makers, and
professionals of wine. On my right was
Leo Fox, CEO of Tenacity Solutions in Reston, a collector with 2,000 bottles in his cellar. On my left was
J. France Posener, the marketing and sales manager for Opus One. Also at the table was
Scott Greenberg, a Washington-area wine expert who oversees “Heart’s Delight” with
Heidi Arnold. Between them they knew everyone
in the room, and well. Greenberg served as the auctioneer at an earlier
live auction, at
which Fox had scored the winning bid–$1,400–for a magnum of
Posener’s ’05 Opus. That was the high watermark for a single bottle,
but the runners-up fetched impressive prices, too.

It can be tough to get wine people to sit down and eat, and
Wednesday night was no different. It was a BYOB evening, and the
bottles were gems from the guests’ private collections.
Attendees table-hopped, bottles and magnums in hand, eager to pour
samples into large balloon- and chimney-shaped glassware. At
one point I had five glasses of red wine in front of me, crowding
the area around my plate, which held a very good grilled
sirloin steak with fava beans and braised potatoes. The earlier courses
were soft-shell crab followed by braised-short-rib agnolotti.
But the wines were the stars. Sip here, sip there, and more
and more sips. A 2000 Trefethen Estate Chardonnay, a 1982
Chateau Malartic-Lagravière, a 1996 Château Ducru Beaucaillou, a
2002 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Cuvee Louise, a 1966
Chateau Latour, a 2005 Wedding Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a
2001 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, the 2005 Opus One, the 2007
Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet.

The talk at the tables was about collections, what was
selling and what was not (though the opinion was that selling is
to pre-recession levels), and the fact that if makers of
world-class wines wanted to, they could sell their whole annual
to Japan and China, because the demand for haute wines in those
countries is that strong and buyers will pay whatever the
price might be. Speaking of the stock-market crash, France
Posener of Opus One shared that ironically, her company’s ’08 vintage,
the year of the crash, was one of its best and has sold out.

The winemakers in the room included many from California and Oregon–
Janet Trefethen of Trefethen,
Cameron Fisher of Fisher Vineyards,
Justin Stephens of D.R. Stephens Estate,
Lindsay Woodard of Retour Wines, and
Jason Alexander of Meteor Vineyards. From Middleburg, Virginia’s Boxwood Vineyard there was
Rachel Martin, and from France,
Jean-Jacques Bonnie of Chateau Malartic-Lagravière.
Stephen Parry, the owner of Parry Cellars,
interestingly is not a stranger to Washington. Before becoming a
winemaker he worked for six
years in Fish and Wildlife division of the Department of the
Interior. He likes to return to Washington to visit restaurants
that carry his wines, but he’s quite content with his life in
St. Helena, California.

Scott Greenberg surveyed the room, happy with
the flow of the dinner, the camaraderie of the connoisseurs, and the
bottles of rare wine being
generously passed from table to table. He said he got involved
with the American Heart Association after his son was born
with a hole in his heart and his brother died young from a
heart attack. He was not going to miss this evening. “I gave up
four Caps tickets on the glass to be here tonight,” he said.
Who did he give them to? His wife and sons, so at least he kept
it in the family.

The “Heart’s Delight” wine extravaganza continues through Saturday with a series of dinners and wine auctions.