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Heart's Delight 20th Anniversary

Heart's Delight--DC's premier food and wine festival--raises money to fight heart disease (as some would say, participating in Heart's Delight is: "doing good--one glass at a time!"). It was started after one of the leaders of the DC wine community, Bruce Bassin, was struck down much too young by a heart attack. And besides doing good, it provides four days of great fun, food and wine.

As has become the custom, the celebration began with the rooftop reception at 101 Constitution (high above Charlie Palmer Steak), the closest building to the Capitol. Views were spectacular...and this year's wines were strong. This reception has been known as The United States of Wine, because it features American wines, and as Congress Has Heart, because it salutes members who have played a substantial role in the fight against heart disease. For 2019, Oregon had a particularly good showing at the reception, with Brooks, Nicolas-Jay, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Flâneur and Division among the wineries pouring. I'm pretty familiar with all of them so I can't say that I'm surprised that they were excellent...perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I was suitably impressed. And the same could be said of Soliste from California. Claude Koeberle's wines were as good as always.

The auction that capped the reception was spirited. I bid fairly often--mostly on my own initiative, but once or twice in response to the auctioneer who called out: "Where's John Brooks?" And when I raised my hand, responded "I have $700 from John." It's all good. My win for the night was a six-bottle lot of Rhys chardonnay.

After dinner, a smaller group convened in the private area of Charlie Palmer Steak for the Collectors Dinner. There were ten tables of eight to ten people. Each of us brought one or two special bottles and we all shared our wines with the others at our table. With an average of 15-18 bottles per table, it was high-intensity wine drinking! Each table included several winemakers. I was fortunate to sit next to Marty Doerschlag, owner of Flâneur, and across from Claudia Schug, co-owner of Schug Winery. I had talked with Marty several times in Oregon at IPNC, but this was our first extended time together. I really enjoyed it. And by the end of the evening, I had agreed that we'd attend Flâneur's Pre-IPNC Dinner this summer. Flâneur is a rising star in the Oregon wine scene. And it was great fun, once I found that Claudia's father, Walter Schug, was the first winemaker at Joseph Phelps, to take her to a nearby table and introduce her to Kelsey Phelps Finch, Joe Phelps' granddaughter. Claudia had known Kelsey's mom when they both were young.

The wines and the food at the Collectors Dinner were excellent. I had brought Cedric Bouchard's Creux d'Enfer Rosé de Saignée--a rare treat (~300 bottles per year made)--and Nikolaihof's 1997 Riesling Vinothek. They were fun to share. Tablemates had lovely white and red burgundies and our winemakers shared their wines as well. It was a nice night and Über got me safely home.

As always, Thursday evening featured about 15 private dinners in restaurants, ambassadors' residences and private homes around the city. Conrad Kenley generously invited us to the dinner he sponsored at Mirabelle. The guest of honor was Jay Boberg, co-owner (with rockstar Burgundian winemaker Jean-NIcolas Méo) of Oregon's Nicolas-Jay. After opening with Bollinger RD champagne, Jay poured the wines of both Nicolas-Jay and Méo-Camuzet with dinner. Mirabelle General Manager and super-somm Jenn Knowles kept the evening on track and chef Keith Bombaugh demonstrated his creativity with an innovative menu. Foie gras Fabergé egg, anyone? We got to explore the single vineyard wines from Nicolas-Jay and several of the premier and grand cru wines from Méo-Camuzet. While the special bottling of 2009 Méo-Camuzet Clos Vougeot Prés le Cellier was perhaps the highlight, none of the wines suffered much by comparison. And it was fun to hear about Jay's experience as a major rock-and-roll promoter--which gained him the resources to enter in the wine business.

Friday night, the DC wine community gathered at the lovely Mellon Auditorium in black tie to celebrate the Vintners Dinner and Auction. The evening opened with Champagne Henriot and featured a number of the great wines and winemakers of Bordeaux. There were too many wines to list them all, but the Chateau Angélus wines of guest of honor Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal were certainly highlights. The evening featured lots of energy and raised a lot of money for the cause.

Saturday featured the Bordeaux Master Class, with 15 participating chateaux, and then the evening Grand Tasting. The Grand Tasting is the largest, and most casual, of the Heart's Delight events. Think of it as "the party." About 20 winemakers and about 20 of America's best chefs had stations distributed around the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton. It's a unique opportunity to sample dishes by chefs like DC's Amy Brandwein and David Deshaies, New York's Gabrielle Hamilton and Miro Uskokovic and Chicago's Danny Grant, with wines from producers like Peay, Turley, Brooks and Nicolas-Jay...and to do it while sharing time and laughs with friends. It's as laid-back and fun an event as Friday night's black tie is formal and elegant. And I participated in the cause with a couple of winning silent auction lots and a share of one live auction win.

Heart's Delight--fighting heart disease one glass at a time! Until next year!

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