Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, February 4, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Michael Titterton, president and general manager of Hawaii
Public Radio, holds a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier
champagne. On the table is the rare Lafitte-Rothschild.
Both will be auctioned Sunday.

Valuable gift
goes on block

A celebrated Lafitte-Rothschild
is donated to HPR's
wine auction

By Betty Shimabukuro


Back in 1964, two young men pooled their money and bought a case of a French Bordeaux they'd read was going to be the best vintage of the century.

The wine was a 1961 Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild Grand Cru Classe. The whole case cost them $78.

Thirty-five years later, Peter R. Smith had two bottles left of his original six. One, he's saving to taste sometime in the next millennium. The other he just gave away.

And that's how Hawaii Public Radio picked up an $800 bottle of wine for Sunday's 13th Annual Wine Classic Auction and Tasting.

Smith, visiting from the Big Island to attend the opera, just showed up with the famous vintage wine at HPR. "I listen to that station almost all the time," he says by way of explanation. "It means a great deal to me and I want to make sure I do anything I can for them. And for me it was easier to give them a bottle of wine than write them a big check."

Collectors and private sponsors from Hawaii and throughout the country have donated hundreds of bottles to the HPR event. They range in value from $20 to a $1,600 1929 Burgundy and they'll all be up for bid in silent and live auctions.

The event also features a two-hour wine tasting, allowing you to roam, wine glass in hand, and when you find something you like you simply hold out your glass and say, "Gimme."

To help you understand what you're drinking, seminars will be offered, including a tour through the world of Chardonnays and a session in which you can create your own Chardonnay blend.

Smith has been storing his precious wine in a small refrigerator set on low, 50 to 55 degrees.

He's tasted it a few times over the years, in the mid-'70s and early '80s. "Even then it was still pretty young and raw."

He last tried it about four years ago. "It had a lot of tannin, very puckery." Tannin preserves the wine, he says, but needs time "to break down and smooth out."

Does it take 35 years? Maybe longer. Smith doesn't plan to break into that last bottle any time soon. "I'd like to wait for a good long time. Some of the wine writers say this wine will last into the next century."


Wine Classic Auction
and Tasting

Bullet Benefit: For Hawaii Public Radio
Bullet Date: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Bullet Place: Hilton Hawaiian Village, South Pacific Ballroom
Bullet Tickets: $55; $45 for HPR members
Bullet Call: 955-8821

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calendars and events.

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