Panetta Gets $10K Wine for Nabbing bin Laden

California restaurateur made a bet with then-CIA chief
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2011 12:30 PM CDT
US Secretary Of Defense nominee Leon Panetta applauds during the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner in Washington DC, April 30, 2011.   (Getty Images/AFP)

(Newser) – This New Year’s Eve, Leon Panetta will know the sweet taste of victory, thanks to a bet he made with California restaurateur Ted Balestreri. The Panettas and about 28 others were dining with Balestreri in his wine cellar last New Year’s, when someone asked after the restaurant’s oldest bottle of wine, the Monterey Herald explains. It was an 1870 bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild that Balestreri refused to open. “But I said, ‘If Leon catches Osama bin Laden, we’ll open that bottle,'” he recalls.

“You’re on!” Panetta said immediately. “Leon had that certain glint in his eye,” his wife Sylvia recalls. “I thought something was up.” Five months later, Balestreri found out what that something was when he got a call from Sylvia. “She said, ‘Ted, get the wine opener ready.' When I asked why, she said, ‘Go turn on your TV,’” he says. “I was out 10 grand. But it was worth every penny.” He’ll serve the wine to those same 28 guests on New Year’s: “I’ll probably have to serve it up with an eye-dropper.”

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