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Heart's Delight 2016

Heart's Delight--DC's top annual wine weekend--comes early this year. Normally held at the end of April or beginning of May, it will run March 9-12 this year. And in at least one way, I'm glad. I've always thought of Heart's Delight as kind of a rite of spring. And if that's the case, then spring is coming early this year. After a winter of feeling like a bear hiding in my cave, I definitely welcome an early spring!

For those who aren't familiar, Heart's Delight was started almost 20 years ago when one of DC's leading wine figures, Bruce Bassin, was struck down in the prime of life by a massive heart attack. Bruce was the owner/general manager of MacArthur Beverages, the nationally-known wine shop founded by his parents. The loss hit the DC wine community particularly hard, following on the heels of the loss of his father to cancer not too many years earlier.

Friends conceived the idea of a fund-raising event in Bruce's memory to help combat heart disease. Among those helping to launch it was über-wine critic Robert Parker--who had depended on the Bassins' mailing list to send out his very first edition of The Wine Advocate. The initial concept was a tasting for the new vintage of Bordeaux (Bruce was well-known among Bordeaux producers). And because the chateaux owners were coming from overseas, they held a dinner the night before the tasting.

Almost 20 years later, there is still a tasting of the new vintage (now known as the Bordeaux Master Class) and a dinner the night before. But there is so much more. Heart's Delight 2016 will kick off with the United States of Wine Reception on Wednesday evening, March 9th, on the rooftop of 101 Constitution. That's the closest building to the Capitol and the views as the sun sets and the lights come up are stunning. But the wines are likely to be pretty stunning as well. As always, the cabernet sauvignons will be strong, with highly-rated names like Larkmead, Plumpjack. CADE and Hourglass. This year, they'll be joined by perhaps the strongest field of pinot noirs ever at Heart's Delight. Three of Oregon's most highly respected producers will be at HD for the first time: Antica Terra, Bergström and Bethel Heights. It's amazing how far Oregon wine has come in just 50 years. And they'll be joined by some of California's most highly regarded boutique pinot producers, including: Failla, Hirsch, Sandhi and Soliste. To have all seven of those owners/winemakers in DC pouring on the same night ought to be enough to send pinot-lovers into a swoon.

For hard-core wine lovers, the reception will be followed by the Collector's Dinner downstairs in the private dining room of Charlie Palmer Steak. Each participant will bring at least one very special bottle to share--a BYO event sometimes described as La Paulée-style. And most bring more than one bottle. You drink the wines that everyone at your table has brought. Over the years, some of the most memorable wines I've ever had were at the Collector's Dinner--just one example: side-by-side, 1989 Haut Brion and 1989 La Mission Haut Brion (for the record, I slightly preferred the La Mission). But the best part may not even be what happens at your table. With so much great wine, there's a lot of walking around and sharing..."this is really special--here, try it." That sharing helps celebrate friendship among those who really love wine in DC. Oh, and the food's good, too!

Thursday night, a series of 14 Private Dinners will be held in homes, restaurants, embassies and ambassadors' residences all around town. Top chefs and top winemakers will team to provide memorable intimate dinner parties. It's a chance for people to really get to know the wines and the people who produce them--all in an elegant setting.

Friday night will see the black tie Vintner Dinner, featuring some of the world's most famous wines in a formal dinner at the lovely Mellon Auditorium. Following dinner, well-known auctioneer Jamie Ritchie of Sotheby's will lead an auction of fabulous large-format bottles and trips to wine regions.

Saturday afternoon will feature the Bordeaux Master Class with more than 15 well-known Bordeaux estates participating. Each will pour their 2013 vintage and an older vintage of the estate's choosing in a seated, guided tasting format. Among the top names will be Chateau Montrose, perhaps the most highly regarded winery in St. Estephe...Chateau Lynch-Bages, one of the top in Pauillac...and Chateau Rauzan-Segla, among the best from Margaux. The big reds will be balanced with some of the world's best sweet wines from the Sauternes region, including Chateau Guiraud and Chateau Coutet.

Then it's on to the Tasting Reception & Auction--aka the big party. It begins with Sip, Swirl, Bid & Repeat--sip champagne and savor oysters while you bid on the first round of the silent auction. Then the ballroom opens up to reveal celebrity chefs at stations distributed around the room, along with top wines at pouring stations. Each chef serves a dish he or she is particularly proud of. Pair it with Montrose...or a beautiful Portuguese red from Quinta de Lemos...or a beautifully balanced Sonoma pinot or chard from Flowers.

Competing with the food and wine for your attention will be ~200 silent auction lots and 30 or more live auction lots. Wine trips--all available for your bids. Unlike the more formal events that precede it, this is just a big, fun party. And that's just right to wrap up four days of great wine, great food and great friends. Information on all the events is found at the HD website:

Hope to see you there.

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