WINE DINNER AT THE BREAKERS
By Doc Lawrence
the heart of Palm Beach, a place where the rich and famous congregate.
Parlors, bars, restaurants and dance floors overflow with memories of glamorous
world figures. Jack and Jackie Kennedy dined and danced here. Hoagie Carmichael,
the composer of our state song, Georgia on my Mind, was a regular.
Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, Winston Churchill, every Rockefeller imaginable,
along with an assortment of kings and queens, actresses, opera stars and
the giants of American capitalism add to the mystique associated with The
Breakers Palm Beach, arguably Americas finest luxury hotel and perhaps
the best known.
The Breakers, under the direction of Chef Sommelier Virginia Philip, launched
a series of wine dinners with an inaugural gala featuring the wines of
Château Carbonnieux with the guest of honor, Anthony Perrin, owner
of the world renowned Bordeaux wine maker.
Prior to the wine dinner gala, however, I had the pleasure of meeting and
interviewing Mr. Perrin and a few of his contemporaries at the fabulous
Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting just down the road in Hollywood, Florida.
This invitation-only affair, sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de
Bordeaux, began its tour in San Francisco, continuing in Chicago and finishing
in grand luxurious style in the opulence of south Florida. The Union represents
a grouping of classified and non-classified wines from the Médoc,
Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, Barsac, Saint-Emilion, Grand
Cru and Pomerol appellations. With this grouping of economic players of
prime importance, the world of wine enthusiasts is assured that combinations
of ancestral know-how and high technology reflect the heritage of a people
and bear witness to its civilization.
The Château Carbonnieux wine dinner was in LEscalier, The Breakers
world-renowned gourmet restaurant featuring a commitment by the culinary
and service staff to elevate or exceed guest expectations. With an impressive
assemblage of honored guests, dinner, prepared under the guidance of acclaimed
Chef Matthew Bolon, was elegantly presented with three courses, a main
course and dessertall accompanied by selections approved by Anthony
The first course consisted of poached Cape Nedic Oysters and Crème
Fraîche, Chive, Ossetra Caviar, accompanied by Château Le Sartre
Pessac-Léognan, 1996, a remarkably delicious white Bordeaux. When
the second course arrived, a hush fell on the guests, a natural reaction
to the lovely arrangement of the food on the priceless china. With another
regal white, this time a Château Carbonnieux Blanc, Grand Cru Classé,
1998, the whole roasted Langoustine and Black Tie Ravioli with mint and
Sauternes became a dream come true for each receptive palette.
was to come. Stuffed Quail with fig on a bed of wilted Frisée paired
perfectly with our first glass of red Bordeaux, Château Carbonnieux
Rouge, Grand Cru Classé, 1998. Our anticipation of the main course
was justified. A pan roasted filet of beef (rare), with creamed Arugula,
braised pearl onion and Sauce Bordelaise was paired with the wine hit of
the evening, a 1986 Château Carbonnieux, Grand Cru Classé
which provided a glimpse into culinary heaven. It was poured, naturally,
from a Magnum, which at least metaphorically related to the boldness of
this unforgettable Bordeaux.
No dinner in LEscalier would be complete without topping off with
dessert. Americans may flee from the wonders of things sweet and creamy,
but not our French friends. Château de Malle, a 1999 vintage dessert
wine blended wonderfully with Pistachio Financier and Crème Caramel,
joined with Merlot poached Seckle pear and semi-frozen pink Champagne.
What began 3 hours earlier with fine Champagne and canapés in the
parlor adjoining LEscalier was now officially adjourned. Before saying
farewell to Anthony Perrin, I obtained some vital facts about Château
Carbonnieux which, according to French records, was the site of wine making
in the 12th Century. Mr. Perrin explained that Benedictine monks from Sainte-Croix
abbey in Bordeaux replanted and renowned the estate in the 18th Century.
In 1956 Marc Perrin acquired the estate which today is managed by our dinner
guest of honor, Anthony Perrin.
Mr. Perrin dutifully explained that the gravelly soil at Carbonnieux is
perfectly drained thanks to the Eau Blanche stream that carries away any
excess water. His 85 hectares of vines are evenly divided between red and
white varieties. The white wine is fermented and barrel aged for 10 months
while the red wine is aged for 15 to 18 months in barrels, depending on
the quality and characteristics of the vintage.
reflection, the evening represented everything that a wine dinner ideally
should be. A memorable feast begins with fresh ingredients expertly prepared.
Only one of the top kitchen staffs could have produced such an exquisite
dinner. Exceptional wines are the only ones appropriate for such epicurean
excellence and the bottles from Château Carbonnieux easily fit into
the menu. But, the opulence of LEscalier and the majesty of The Breakers
provided the showcase for this spectacular event.
Virginia Philip deserves a special mention. The wine dinner was her brainchild,
the result of her commitment to elevate the enjoyment of fine dining with
rare moments that The Breakers has the ability to make possible. She is
more than another outstanding professional. Being selected as the top Sommelier
in the country in 2002 is a rare accolade. She certainly deserves it by
virtue of her professional achievement and her ability to make a perfect
evening for a discerning group of guests.