Panetta wouldn't let Osama keep him from a very special bottle of wine. (politico)
As Napoleon once said, "In victory, you deserve champagne. In defeat, you need it." That line aptly fits the story of one bottle of 1870 Lafite Rothschild and the demise of one of the most sought-after criminals in the world. You may be wondering what a $10,000 bottle of wine and Osama bin Laden have to do with each other, but they go together like vino and cheese.
Ted Balesteri and Leon Panetta. (networthpost)
The Director Of The CIA Walks Into A Bar
Stop us if you've heard this one before. In 2011, CIA director Leon Panetta went to a party at one of California restaurateur Ted Balesteri’s establishments. During the festivities, which included about two dozen guests, Balesteri showed off one of his prized possessions, a 141-year-old bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
Naturally, he refused to open it, announcing instead that "if Leon catches Osama bin Laden, we'll open that bottle." Without showing his cards, the CIA director responded "You're on."
The very special bottle that lead to bin Laden. (nationalpost)
An Especially Good Year
It's worth mentioning that 1870 just so happened to be an especially significant year for wine. That's because, in the mid-19th century, a terrible aphid invasion swept Europe and ravaged many of the most famous and in-demand vineyards. There's also the little known fact that Bordeaux gets better with age, especially after it's hit the century mark. Now, back to the bet.
Who knows how close Panetta was to Osama bin Laden at the time of the bet? (cbsnews)
Turn On CNN And Get That Bottle Ready
A scant six months after Balesteri fired off those betting words, he received a call from Panetta's wife, Sylvia. She got right to the point, ordering him to "get the wine opener ready." When he asked why, she cryptically replied "Go turn on your TV."
As she remembers, "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." She then "had a quick flashback" to Balestreri's famous bottle of wine.
Not the actual Seal Team Six but the men who played the heroes on the History Channel. (popularmechanics)
The Spoils Of War
As Balestreri watched Obama announce Seal Team Six's successful mission, he reveled in the accomplishment of his friend, even if it meant giving up his cherished beverage. The restaurateur had owned the divine bottle of wine for 30 years, but he didn’t regret making the bet. "I'm out 10-grand, but it was worth every penny," he said. "It will be my honor to honor one of America's great heroes. Leon has made us all proud."
For a minute, though, it looked like he might be able to weasel out of it. The U.S. government has strict rules regardings gifts to its officials, and a five-figure bounty was bound to raise some eyebrows. Those concerns were quickly shot down, however, when a spokesman for the government said "This is in no way shape or form a gift. It is being opened at a New Year's Eve party for 30 or so people." That wasn't strictly true: The bottle was actually opened in November for a group of people who enjoyed it out of CIA shot glasses. How sweet, the taste of victory!