If sampling premier cru Bordeaux is on your wish list, then you will want to check out two upcoming wine dinners featuring Paul Pontallier, managing director of Chateau Margaux, pouring wines from the chateau's cellar. On Saturday, March 15, Wally's Wine & Spirits is hosting a dinner at Spago in Beverly Hills for $1,299 a person. The next night, Sunday, March 16, K&L Wine Merchants is hosting a dinner at Masa's in San Francisco for $550 per person. Even with a plane ticket to SFO and a hotel stay, you'll spend less for the K&L dinner. So which is the, um, better value?
Masa and Spago are comparably stellar restaurants. K&L will pour nine wines, while Wally's will offer 10. Both retailers say they are pouring 3-ounce glasses of each wine. But the two retailers are not pouring the same wines. According to the invitation, K&L starts its evening with Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, and dinner begins with three glasses of the chateau's second wine -- 2004 Pavillon Blanc and 2003 and 2004 Pavillon Rouge. During the course of dinner, K&L will serve 1983, 1989, 1999 and 2004 Chateau Margaux, finishing the meal with a glass of 1989 Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes.
Wally's will skip the Champagne and start with four glasses of the chateau's second wine -- 2004 Pavillon Blanc and 2000, 2003 and 2005 Pavillon Rouge. And Wally's expands the list of Chateau Margaux vintages from four to six -- 1983, 1990, 1996, 2000, 2003 and 2005 -- not bothering with Sauternes. Not only is Wally's pouring more First Growth wines, but they are from more highly rated, expensive vintages.
It's silly to spend the extra money on the best-of-the-best Bordeaux at the Wally's dinner if you aren't intimately familiar with the chateau's wines. Tasting even mediocre vintages of Chateau Margaux is thrill enough for the uninitiated. The serious collector, however, will want nothing less than Wally's lineup of acclaimed vintages. While these folks probably have the same vintages in their own cellars, collectors hate to drink their own wines. Skyrocketing prices now paid at auction for First Growth Bordeaux make these wines far too valuable to drink.
-- Corie Brown