By Doc Lawrence

It’s 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 America’s 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 L’Escalier, 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 dessert—all accompanied by selections approved by Anthony Perrin.

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.

But, more 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 L’Escalier 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 L’Escalier 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.

Upon 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 L’Escalier 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.




America's best wine bar, in Lauderdale by the Sea, or explore Orlando and Pensacola, Florida - treats for the tastebuds in the sunshine state


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