Bin Laden Capture Earns Leon Panetta A $10,000 Bottle Of Wine

Oct 28, 2011
Originally published on October 28, 2011 4:23 pm

It was a bet made as a joke. Last New Year's eve, California restaurateur Ted Balestreri had then-CIA director Leon Panetta and about 28 others over for a dinner party. He was talking to his guests about his wine collection, when the 141-year-old bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild came up.

It was the oldest wine in his possession and Balesteri said he wouldn't serve it, but if Panetta captured Osama bin Laden he would uncork the $10,000 legendary bottle of wine.

The rest, as they say, is history. The Monterey Herald first reported this story on Wednesday and today it's gotten picked up by the AP and other news organizations. The Herald reports:

Five months later, on May 1, he was having dinner at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club with friends when he received a phone call.

It was Sylvia Panetta.

"She said, 'Ted, get the wine opener ready,'" Balestreri said. "When I asked why, she said, 'Go turn on your TV.'"

Sylvia Panetta said Tuesday, "Leon called me about 7:15 on a Sunday evening and told me to turn on CNN because the president was going to make an announcement, and by the way, to call Ted and tell him to get ready to open that bottle of wine. I had a quick flashback" about the New Year's Eve bet.

When her husband told Balestreri that "you're on," she said, "Leon had that certain glint in his eye. I thought something was up."

Balestreri told The Los Angeles Times today that he would be "honored" to pop the cork this New Year's eve with now Defense Secretary Panetta.

If you, like us, wondered if a wine from 1870 would be a treat, the answer is yes. The Wine Cellar Insider, a news site dedicated to Bordeaux wine, explains that the year 1870 is a big deal because it is considered one of the best vintages before an epidemic destroyed most of Europe's vineyards. Bordeauxs are also one of those wines that get better with age, even after they hit the century mark.

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