From Our Cellars

What to bring, what to bring…

Posted June 11, 2012 in The Connoisseur Says...

Okay.  You’re headed to a dinner party at a friend’s house and you’re shopping for a bottle of wine.  Your first instinct was your 7-layer Bean Dip Fiesta, but you brought that for the christening.  You offered your mother’s split pea soup when their kids were down with the flu, and you accidentally used baking powder instead of baking soda in your trifles, so now your oven looks like a show-and-tell volcano experiment gone horribly awry.  So wine it is.

But what do you bring?  Grocery store white?  Convenience store fruity?  Do you go to a real wine store and actually look at some labels?  You could (gasp!) ask the advice of a sommelier or oenologist.  Perhaps ask Bob at the Gas-N-Go what his biggest seller is?  The first, and most important question to ask yourself is how much do you want to spend.  Are these good friends like you borrowed their lawnmower a year ago and haven’t mentioned it yet?  Are they always feed your kid after soccer practice friends?  Are they someone that you ran into and discovered that you’ve been neighbors for twelve years friends?  These factors will all dictate your dinner party bottle of wine buying budget.  To make your decision slightly less complicated, let’s take a moment and discuss some wines that you should definitely NOT purchase:

Old Cold WineYou may recall our story of the wine found in the shipwreck.  It was estimated to be about 230 years old and part of the personal stash of Louis XVI.  Well, a pub owner in Finland went on a recreational dive in the Baltic Sea (definitely our favorite place for a leisure dive) and swam upon a shipwreck that was about 170 years old.  As he paddled the dark, frigid Finnish waters he discovered several bottles of champagne, wine, and a few bottles of brew.  Turns out that the bottom of the Baltic is a great place to store wine.  Dark and cold, and the bottles had fortuitously landed on their sides.  These little puppies are currently going for about $15,000 a pop.  And, by the way, while you can drink them, they’ve lost their fizz, and therefore have no pop.

In 1787 Mozart premiered Don Giovanni to a cell phone-free audience, 1,000 rugby-crazed hoodlums set sail for their new home (to be called Australia), and George Washington was on his way to becoming our first President.  The French also chose that year to bottle a tasty little white called Chateau d’Yquem.  A collector recently bought a bottle for $100,000.  We suppose that he was serving fish.

Jefferson's FlavorA fixture at Washington’s Mount Vernon Poker Nights was another notable Virginian and lover of the grape, Thomas Jefferson.  History shows that Jefferson thanked his host with a bottle of wine (in lieu of 7-layer Bean Dip Fiesta) and had quite an extensive collection.  Malcolm Forbes, notable for his amazing wealth and love of a good motorcycle trek, bought a bottle of Jefferson’s 1787 Chateau Lafitte for $160,000, a price that with inflation and the wine market would be about $315,000 today.  We wouldn’t recommend tossing this in the sidecar for the trip.

Not every expensive wine pre-dates the internet.

When John F. Kennedy became President, much was made of his wife’s taste for all things French, from Chanel and Louis Vuitton to the interior designers that she used for her remodel of the White House.  One of her favorite things was a glass of Chateau Petrus Pomerol Merlot.  You can still get this wine, but it takes some time to really reach maturity…like a couple of decades.  You can snag a bottle of 1998 for about $1,500, and it should be just about right in time for Thanksgiving.

Do you like to be a part of an exclusive club?  Try to buy a bottle of Screaming Eagle wine.

“I’d like to buy a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet.”


“But I’d really like a bottle.”

“We’ll put your name on a waiting list.”

“Well, can I come to the vineyard and check it out?”


“Don’t you have a tasting room or something to try it out?”


“Well, how will I know if it’s any good?”

“You won’t.”

“Alright, if I put my name on your damned list when will I get my wine?”

“Can’t really say.”


Chase Bailey was a computer scientist and artist who developed languages and computer code for Cisco Systems in the 1990’s.  He bought a bottle of 1992 Screaming Eagle for $500,000.  We understand that he shared it over dinner with Bill Gates.  Gates brought a 7-layer Bean Dip Fiesta.



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