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The $36,000 Dinner

For charity, a West Van couple breaks out the really good stuff
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For charity, a West Van couple breaks out the really good stuff

For most people, fine wine is a rare indulgence. For Lynn Duplessis and Peter Henricsson—whose West Vancouver home, high up the hillside, includes a custom-crafted, electronically secured, Chubb-indemnified, computer-tracked, 5,000-bottle cellar—it’s almost an obsession. At any given time, several dozen bottles are wrapped in tin foil. Often, if they’re home for the evening, they’ll choose one, uncork it, sample its contents, and try to identify it. They swirl, and peer, and sniff, and taste. They make copious notes. They rate the wine on a 100-point scale. Finally, after perhaps 20 minutes, Duplessis will ask him, “Are you ready to talk?”

What they talked about one night was replicating a charity wine auction they’d attended in Naples, Florida, where a dinner for eight went for $80,000. The Lions Gate Hospital Foundation’s annual gala was coming up, and they could donate some wine. Perhaps the folks at Fuel, one of their favourite restaurants, would kick in a lovely dinner, prepared at the house?

For the wine pairings, Duplessis suggested, they could raid their cellar for 10 of the most coveted labels on the planet, each having been awarded 100 points by the American wine critic Robert Parker, whose pronouncements in the Wine Advocate can elevate a garage wine­maker in Napa to cult status and send a French château to ruin. “Ten 100-point wines,” says Duplessis, a Saskatoon native who spent a good part of her career at IBM. “I don’t think a thousand-point dinner had ever been done before.”

Her husband liked the idea. A Swede who learned to appreciate wine at university in Uppsala, he went on to be a star decathlete at North Carolina State, where he got his MBA. In 1995 he and Duplessis started a high-tech firm, CellPoint, that in its heyday counted the likes of France Telecom among its clients and had a NASDAQ market cap north of a billion dollars. He likes travelling to wine auctions, meeting legendary makers, and adding to his collection (they keep another 3,500 bottles at their home near Palm Springs, where the racks are tilted back at an 8.5-degree angle, a safeguard against earthquakes); but mostly he likes to taste wine with people who share his passion.

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