Panetta friend to uncork 141-year-old wine for successful bin Laden mission
October 27th, 2011
04:59 PM ET

Panetta friend to uncork 141-year-old wine for successful bin Laden mission

By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

Leon Panetta's New Year's Eve toast will be one that has been 10 years in the making. The Pentagon is confirming that a California restaurateur friend of Panetta's will open a bottle of wine with an estimated value of $10,000-$15,000, and the secretary of defense will be one of several friends toasting Panetta's CIA-run mission to get Osama Bin Laden.

Monterey, California, restaurateur Ted Balestreri made a bet with Panetta while Panetta was CIA director that if he ever "got" bin Laden, Balestreri would open the oldest bottle of wine in his restaurant.

The secretary told his friend "you're on," according to Douglas Wilson, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

Wilson said so many Panetta friends are likely to be together New Year's Eve that each will get only a small sip of the expensive wine.

The toast is not about celebrating bin Laden's death in the U.S. commando raid that killed him, said Wilson. But when CNN asked if it's appropriate, Wilson said, "Absolutely. Secretary Panetta has had New Year's Eve gatherings with toasts with friends for years and this year there will be a special toast."

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the wine is an 1870 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, which a review on the website of New York wine merchant Morrell & Company describes as having "a huge nose of freshly sliced celery, mint, cedar, and cassis" with "a sweet, jammy, powerful finish."

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  8. Pat Van Duinen

    I would rather see the bottle of wine auctioned off and the proceeds donated to our military families. Panetta may have directed it but our military are the real heroes. Too bad our government officials are so self centered.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:29 am | Reply
    • ms saroj kapoor

      This is an excellent suggestion. I fully support the idea of helping families of soldiers. It will also boost their morale

      December 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  9. antonio parker


    October 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  10. Miri

    BigRed, thank you for that clearly uneducated assumption; my husband is a retired Navy Seal. Those heroes would be welcome in my home any day, Lafite, Mouton or any other wine and vintage of their choice. Please refrain from judging others based on what you think and words they did not speak. Actions like these only further diminish our already dwindling society.

    October 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • silvius

      hey, Miri,

      You're dumb.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Reply
    • Make my day!

      Give them beer, forget about the wine, tell them : job well done!!

      October 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  11. Eric

    So, 1) Panetta is betting on things related to his official government business; 2) He is now receiving a gift worth more than $5 from someone related to his government position. Seems doubly inappropriate to me.

    October 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  12. Ray

    I’ve never drank wine this old, but my understanding is that most old wines are no longer any good to consume. Old wine like this should be treated as an asset that can be sold or traded, but drinking a 141 year old bottle of wine might sound better than it actually is. Basically, they just flushed $15k down the drain.....but I'm sure those who drank it acted like it was awesome....too funny!!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  13. John D.

    That is one expensive vinegar drink!! I'll stick to my good tasting $4.50 Shiraz special at my local grocer...with value card's be about $3.75 with tax. Yeap, I'm a realist!!

    October 28, 2011 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • Deedz

      Well John D. Going out to dinner with you must be amazing! $4.00 for a bottle of wine? Oh Yumm. Lots of empty bottles in your trailer?

      October 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Reply
      • Deedz

        I'm sorry about that. I haven't been feeling well since my anal fissures have returned. My wife left me recently also and she was the one who dabbed the medicated pads on my stinky little b-hole balloons. Anyway, again I'm sorry for lashing out at you and please don't let me get started on how angry I am with my tiny weiner. Have a good weekend all!

        October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  14. Damon

    why.... why.... why OH why is this on the front page of CNN?

    October 28, 2011 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • Deedz

      I agree!!

      October 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Reply
  15. Bill Mosby

    I had a couple of bottles of the 1970 Lafitte that I bought for about $50 in 1975 or so. Opened one of them in 1980, it was unbelievably good. As was the second one, opened several years after that. So good I've been unable to find anything that even comes close all these years later. I did find a Jeroboam (that's 3 liters) of Chateau Margaux 2005 in the local wine store the other day that was marked down $4000 to a mere $4900 or so. A standard bottle of the same stuff was also in the lockup for a couple of grand. Clearly, great wines are not in my future anymore, lol.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:54 am | Reply
    • giuseppe

      it can't be better than the several virgins Osama is currently having fun with

      October 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Reply
  16. RenaP

    A little concerning to hear that the CIA Director of the United States is making bets regarding his missions with a restaurant owner.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:53 am | Reply
    • Deedz

      Explain why it would concern you that he might have friends outside of work and buddies make jokes and bets all the time.

      October 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Reply
      • Justin Case

        Of course he can have friends outside of "work".

        But the director of the CIA doesn't just have "a job".... you can't equate it to the guy flipping burgers or the assistant director of human resources for Yarn Barn.

        His position requires a different level of commitment and discretion.

        Joking about it.... or making bets about it.... or even discussing it with your friends is unacceptable behavior.

        October 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  17. Grandpa RD

    Wow. Get over it, you political crybabies. This restaurant dude has the bucks to own this wine, and he is paying up on a bet with a personal friend... nothing more, nothing less. I'm sure nobody just handed him 15 large to buy a good bottle of vino, he worked for it, so let hm enjoy it. I AM impressed by the vintage though... I'm a cheap bourbon and light beer kind of guy, but even I have heard of a Chateau Lafite Rothschild. 1870? hmmmm... I think I'd prefer a 1927-28 from what I've heard over the years.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:49 am | Reply
  18. socalpimp

    Must be that 1% that OBAMA rails against.....Amazing how so many public servants have so many 1% friends.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:48 am | Reply
  19. Mitchell

    SEAL Team 6 needs to make that bottle disapear first...

    October 28, 2011 at 11:45 am | Reply
    • Oodoodanoo


      Heck, the restauranteur should give Seal Team 6 the keys to the wine cellar and hand Panetta the tab.

      October 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  20. gaucho420

    Cheers gentlemen!

    October 28, 2011 at 11:43 am | Reply
  21. Peter Hoodman

    I don't care if they drink a 1870 Chateau Lafite Rothschild or a 1971 Chateau Petrus the message is the same , and it doesn't speak highly of us Americans and our rol in the world. The CIA should at least be more "political" since in reality they finance , train and suported Bin Laden since the 80's . So it is more like putting your own a dog down. and how come it took them so long... what's the matter a lot of money had to be made by a few in the meantime??? i do know how to enjoy a good bottle of wine but not for this reasons... it's call class and form.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • gaucho420

      PLUEASEE. What a joke of a post.

      October 28, 2011 at 11:45 am | Reply
    • Bob

      Peter, you are wise man. I wish we had more intellegent people like you around here.

      October 28, 2011 at 11:51 am | Reply
    • Dude get a life !!

      Forget about the wine and the other BS, the world has become a better place. Take it from a European who, hate to say this, are not able/willing to take care of their own. Visit Normandy, Bastogne and a few thousand more places. We didn't forget, you did!

      October 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  22. WhereAreTheSeals?

    Shouldn't the Navy Seals who risked their lives be invited for a sip?

    That is truly where I thought this article was going, as I read the headline only.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • Mitchell

      They are planning the next hit...

      Operation Vinyard...

      October 28, 2011 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • mep2820

      Totally agree!!!!

      October 28, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  23. OnePercenters?

    Yeah for you guys!

    But I thought you drank 100+ year old wine everday? Shame on you. You must be just the 1.5%'ers.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:40 am | Reply
    • Justin Case


      Poor poor 1.5%

      I'm starting a fund raiser for them..... "Save the Summer Homeless".

      To help raise money for the less well off 1.5% that have to RENT a house in the Hamptons every summer vacation... simply because they can't afford to own one.

      Looking into their sad summer homeless eyes breaks my heart.


      October 28, 2011 at 11:49 am | Reply
  24. Van Krunk

    Yum, celery wine! Check please....

    October 28, 2011 at 11:33 am | Reply
  25. Sree

    Wht if it tastes abs yuck. I mean, no one tested it out in 140 yrs, right.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:33 am | Reply
  26. Beezbo

    I just hope this is not being paid for with taxpayer money.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:33 am | Reply
    • octopus

      most likely, tastes like anything else you get in a liqueur store.

      October 28, 2011 at 11:53 am | Reply
  27. experiencehe

    hmmm...dude sounds like a wine snob. miri, it's likely too sweet for you to appreciate anyway...;>)

    October 28, 2011 at 11:32 am | Reply
  28. Esco

    Really deserves having a 10k bottle of scotch, preferably with the shooters.

    Just sayin....

    October 28, 2011 at 11:23 am | Reply
  29. Stosch

    US 99% don't get it...

    October 28, 2011 at 11:22 am | Reply
    • Justin Case

      I guess some of the 1% are okay.... after all, these guys aren't hoarding their wealth... they're sharing their fortune with the less fortunate... like the secretary of defense...

      October 28, 2011 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • Mr. Obvious

      A Most Excellent Answer !!! That is half a years pay for alot of people.

      October 28, 2011 at 11:48 am | Reply
  30. Justin Case

    Maybe they could sell that bottle of wine instead of drinking it... and give the money to the children of those killed by Bin Laden.

    These are the elitist 1% who just don't get it.

    They are drinking $2500 glasses of wine while most of America decays in poverty.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply
    • Comeon

      So, this bottle will be bought, then, by someone who can afford the 10K. When they decide to drink it, you'll say why don't you sell it for $10k and give the money to the charity of the day. Does anyone get to finally drink it? Sounds like sour grapes to me....

      October 28, 2011 at 11:34 am | Reply
      • Justin Case

        Nope.... its like a pyramid scheme... just like the IRS taxing a dollar.

        A dollar is earned... so they tax it.... then its spent.... and they tax it again.... the person who got that dollar "earned it" and they tax it again.... then that dollar is spent again.... more taxes. And so on.... and so on.....

        Infinite profit on a finite resource. Brilliant!

        October 28, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Justin Case

      Just got it!!!!

      Sour grapes............ lol

      October 28, 2011 at 11:52 am | Reply
  31. Snoopy

    It is going to be funny when they realize that they are drinking a 15,000 dollar bottle of vinegar.

    October 28, 2011 at 11:16 am | Reply
    • mimi


      October 28, 2011 at 11:25 am | Reply
    • BigRed

      I would surely hope so, or perhaps to get a wonderful case of the runs afterwards.

      October 28, 2011 at 11:53 am | Reply
  32. Chris

    Just another ELITIST move here....
    I am glad OBL is dead and argument there....he deserved what he got and then some...
    But – was good ole Leon on the strike team in harm's way doing the dangerous dirty work? hell no...
    Why not pass the celebration down the chain for a change.....and give those deserving of the "wine" ...the wine !

    October 28, 2011 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • Snoopy

      I feel like you're probably a hardline republican, so that leads me to ask:

      I thought if people were successful its because they deserved/earned it? Shouldn't they be allowed to celebrate?

      October 28, 2011 at 11:24 am | Reply
      • sh

        I vote conservative. Whatever credit Penetta is due, good for him. However, the article is written like he was the mastermind. I agree, give the bottle to the fellas that risked their lives. He could at least invite them to the party.

        I have no problem someone drinking a bottle of 15k bottle, no jealousy here, but to say Panetta is deserving is a stretch.

        October 28, 2011 at 11:33 am |
      • Justin Case

        And I feel you are a bleeding heart liberal, so that leads me to ask:

        I thought people who were successful owe it to the 99% not to spend their wealth on ridiculous extravagant crap? Shouldn't they be giving that wasted $15,000.00 to the deserving poor?

        October 28, 2011 at 11:35 am |
      • rooney

        @justin case
        don't understand how any poor people are "deserving". Are those bums that don't want to do anything that are within the 99% deserving of anything? And yes, while there are those who have stolen and done wrong to horde wealth, there are many more in the 1% that have worked their asses off to get where they are. Aren't they truly the ones that deserve anything? BTW, when you make good cash how much do YOU actually contribute to those in need? Stop telling others what to do. Inspire them with your own actions.

        October 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
      • Justin Case

        Rooney... I'm being sarcastic. 😉

        October 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  33. JBC


    October 28, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply
  34. Gortman


    New York wine merchant Morrell & Company describes as having "a huge nose of freshly sliced celery, mint, cedar, and cassis" with "a sweet, jammy, powerful finish."

    October 28, 2011 at 11:06 am | Reply
    • Miri

      Such a pity you obviously don't enjoy the finer things in life. This is an exceptionally exquisite bottle; knowing and understanding wine would be suggested for someone like yourself who makes such an immature and uninformed comment. Proceed to the section that relates more to your lifestyle.. celebrities and entertainment, perhaps?

      October 28, 2011 at 11:17 am | Reply
      • Peter Hoodman

        it is not about the wine... don't you get it????

        October 28, 2011 at 11:45 am |
      • BigRed

        I am sure that a person of your breeding and sophistication would wince and shrink at spending five minutes with the Seal Team that actually took out OBL. Clearly they would be far below your station in life and would be as interesting to you as looking at monkeys in a zoo. Please feel free to keep gazing at your society page and living off your trust fund while the rest of us continue to hold this country and the world together.

        October 28, 2011 at 11:51 am |
      • CHEERS

        Peter, Bigred, you're both right. Notice how Miri draws the connection between 1) an assumed ignorance of wine, and 2) a low station in life with an admiration for "celebrities and emtertainment." Typical elitist snob. Personally I thought Gortman was making a clever joke about the wine description.

        October 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  35. palintwit

    Here in the Palin household we like to wash down a plate of steamy, hot roadkill stew with a nice bottle of MD 20 / 20.

    October 28, 2011 at 10:56 am | Reply
  36. Militant American Male

    Lets all lift our glasses to the deaths of all Muslims. Now how do You like the USA now motherf+ckers ! We are coming to kill You all ! We are going to spill your blood in the streets as your women weep.

    October 28, 2011 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • Truefax

      Ah the sweet lamentation of women, nothing is better than that after having crushed your enemies and seen them driven from their homes before you.

      October 28, 2011 at 11:10 am | Reply
  37. musings

    I'll never forget a New Year's Eve toast I made when our embassy was taken over in Tehran, "Death to the Ayatollah." But everyone around me looked shocked back then. It seemed so tasteless. I had a personal reason for hating hostage-takers. In fact it was all personal.

    Flash forward to Panetta's gesture. Also to Hillary saying of a former guest in this country, a man whose country was royally ripped off by Goldman Sachs (98% of sovereign wealth of Libya used to buy toxic assets, known as such by Goldman) - "We came, we saw, he died."

    Things have changed in this country. The Mafia-esque attitude is more in the open.

    And now it's personal.

    October 28, 2011 at 10:50 am | Reply
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