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Heart's Delight Begins


At the risk of sounding like a hysterical teenager, let me say it again...OMG!!!

Last night Heart's Delight 2014 kicked off with the United States of Wine reception on the rooftop of 101 Constitution. Despite the wretched weather, it was a big success. Full-sided tents kept participants dry and warm…and they responded by bidding generously. Then some of us went downstairs to Charlie Palmer Steak for the Collectors' Dinner. And that's where OMG comes in.

Each participant was asked to bring at least one showcase bottle. And you drink the bottles the people at your table brought. Thank you, Heidi, for our table! We had 13 or 14 bottles for 7 people. And what bottles!!! All were beyond outstanding. But in wine, as I suppose in many things, excellence has a relative quality. NCAA track champions run really, really fast. But sometimes they get left behind by Olympic champions. A wine that in other circumstances might qualify as deeply memorable took a back seat on this evening. There were a number of Olympic champions on the table!

And the quality of the experience was enhanced because sommelier Neal Wavra--formerly general manager at The Ashby Inn--did a brilliant job of sequencing and pouring the wines. I suspect he took care of other tables as well--but I can't prove it because his service at our table was so timely that we had the sense he was completely focused on us.

We began with two superb champagnes…one relatively young, one mature. The Ruinart Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc 2002 Champagne was relatively recently released after extended aging on the lees. Its combination of elegance and power was charming. It provided an interesting contrast to the rich, golden, mature Bollinger Grande Année.

With Big Eye Tuna Two Ways, we had a pair of white wines. A ten year-old Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru white Burgundy was really, really good. But it was eclipsed (at least for me) by the 15 year-old Zind Humbrecht Brand Grand Cru Riesling from Alsace. Rich, powerful…yet beautifully focused. Neal asked if we wanted it paired with the tuna first course or the final cheese course. We said the tuna first course. Clever man. He kept a third of the bottle and poured it again with the cheese. It was good with the tuna…spectacular with the cheese.

Then it was on to the reds. My 1986 Chateau Gruaud-Larose was as good as advertised. Still relatively young and muscular at almost 30 years, it had all the hallmarks of great Bordeaux. With it came a red Burgundy that would have been memorable on any other night…but was virtually forgotten on this one.

The next flight brought the real OMG. it was a trio of 1989s--one of Bordeaux's great vintages. Chateau Palmer, from Margaux, has long been one of my favorites. And 1989 is one of the best Palmer's ever. But even that paled next to the great twin estates from Pessac-Leognan: Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion. The opportunity to drink the 1989 Haut-Brion and Mission Haut-Brion side-by-side might be the most amazing wine experience I've ever had. They were incredible. Power. Grace. Depth. Balance. Complexity. Words fail me.

There was food with these wines. A ravioli of beef cheeks, I think. Really good. It didn't matter. For about 30 minutes, there was really nothing in the room except the wines. They were followed by a trio of very highly rated Napa cult wines--famous, 100-point wines. Rich and fabulous, of course. But they seemed somehow just a little clumsy in comparison. On any other night, they might have been life-changing wines. But on this night, they were runner-ups.

As the night was beginning to wind down, we finished the Alsatian riesling with the cheese and then drank 2001 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes. An excellent wine from one of the great vintages in Sauternes history. Rich…intense...sweet…but somehow still light on its feet. A nice way to wrap up the evening.

And then we all got into cars--cars all driven by people who hadn't been drinking, I should add. And not long after, faded off to sleep reflecting on the incredible experience. Thank you, Jamie! Thank you Charlie and Sharon! Thank you, Mike! Thank you, Joel! Thank you, Stephen! And thank you, Neal!


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