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Washington's Premier Food and Wine Week

Next week the 15th Annual Heart's Delight will provide a range of outstanding events for wine (and food) lovers in DC. Heart's Delight is a major fundraiser for the American Heart Association that annually contributes ~$1M+ to the fight against America's leading killer--heart disease. It was launched in memory of Bruce Bassin--of MacArthur Beverages--who died at age 40, of a sudden heart attack, in 1998. Since the inaugural event in the fall of 1999 which showcased the soon-to-be-released wines of Bordeaux, it has grown to be a rich and diverse long weekend of wine and food that provides those in the DC area--and those who travel here for it--one of the nation's top experiences.

I first participated in Heart''s Delight more than ten years ago…starting with the Saturday Bordeaux Master Class and the party that followed and over the years expanding to include all of the events. I loved it! As much as anything, it was the rich diversity of wine experiences that I found magical. When my schedule eased up following retirement from Northrop Grumman, I volunteered to join the committee…and for the last three years, have worked with other area wine lovers and people in the wine industry to help ensure that the auctions, which are a major part of the fund raising, are successful.

Heart's Delight 2014 will kick off with the United States of Wine reception on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Avenue--the closest building to the front of the Capitol. As you might imagine, the view from there as the sun sets is absolutely stunning…one of perhaps the ten most memorable views I've ever seen (and that includes visits to more than fifty countries). Wineries from across America will be pouring. Napa, Sonoma and Oregon will predominate--as you'd expect--but there'll also be wines from emerging US wine regions such as Virginia, New York and MIchigan. Newcomers this year will include Matthiasson, with Jill Klein Matthiasson pouring, and Turley Wine Cellars, with Christina Turley pouring. Both have generated a lot of buzz among wine lovers.

That reception will be followed by a Collectors Dinner downstairs in a private room at Charlie Palmer Steak. Guests will share showcase bottles from their cellars in an evening of great food and friendship and phenomenal wine. Each guest will bring at least one memorable bottle--but many will bring more than one. Great vintage champagnes…classic mature Bordeaux…grand cru Burgundy…and California cult wines will fill the glasses. I've had some truly memorable wines at past dinners--and this year the wines look great. There'll be enough wine that even those of us who are determined to be smart and pace ourselves should have a plan of how to get home safely (Uber may be busy!).

Thursday night, restaurants and ambassadors' residences across the area will hum with 15 different winemaker dinners. Whether it's Paul Pontallier pouring Chateaux Margaux at the residence of French Ambassador François Delattre, Jill Klien Matthiasson pouring at Blue Duck Tavern or a host of other fabulous events, wine lovers will get a chance to get to know these famous winemakers in a relatively intimate setting while enjoying meals optimized to show off the wines. Year in and year out, these dinners have been perhaps my favorite part of Heart's Delight.

Friday night, wine lovers will don black tie and meet at the beautiful Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue for the signature Vintners Dinner. Paul Pontallier will be the guest of honor and Chateaux Margaux will be the featured wine--though there will be other wonderful wines as well. Bill Plante of CBS News will serve as master of ceremonies and Jamie Ritchie of Sotheby's will again be the auctioneer. Watching Jamie work the room during the auction of great trips and fabulous grand format bottles might be worth the price of admission all by itself. This is DC's most elegant large wine dinner of the year. People travel from all over to attend.

Saturday afternoon, winemakers and estate owners present the new vintage of Bordeaux in a Master Class. This year, that will be the 2011 vintage. Each producer will also showcase a favorite mature vintage for comparison. It's always interesting to see how my opinion of the new vintage does (or does not) match up with the opinions of the critics. A little secret I've learned over the years. Top winemakers make good wines virtually every year--no matter what you read in journals written by critics who have to say something to convince you to buy their publications. I expect that to be true for the 2011s as well.

The formal, seated tasting is followed by the Heart's Delight Tasting Reception and Auctions…aka DC's most fun wine party. Top chefs from across the country offer their favorite dishes from tasting stations set up around the room. Wineries pour. And wine lovers circle the room in pursuit of special treats in the huge (three round) silent auction. Once the silent auctions are over, Jamie Ritchie takes the stage again for a live auction of trips and treasures. I've been almost every year and it's just great fun!

And the point of all this. It makes a difference. We who participate help fund the fight against heart disease. Some events are sold out, but tickets still remain for others. I can't wait.

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