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Sip of rare wine is Panetta's reward for bin Laden

October 27, 2011

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MONTEREY, Calif.—California restaurateur Ted Balestreri will think twice the next time he makes a bet with old friend and Pentagon chief Leon Panetta.

Last year during Balestreri's annual New Year's Eve party at his Monterey restaurant, The Sardine Factory, friends chided him over when he would uncork a $10,000 bottle from his rare wine collection. Balestreri joked, "If Leon catches Osama bin Laden, we'll open that bottle."

Panetta, then head of the CIA, jumped up declared "You're on!" Balestreri recalls.

Balestreri tells The Monterey Herald (http://bit.ly/uwSuuB) that he was just kidding. He would often tease his friend of nearly 40 years that he couldn't even find his golf balls.

But five months later, Balestreri received a phone call from Panetta's wife, Sylvia.

"She said, `Ted, get the wine opener ready,'" Balestreri remembered. "When I asked why, she said, `Go turn on your TV.'"

President Barack Obama announced that Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces at his Pakistan hideway. Panetta was named Defense Secretary two months later.

Balestreri plans to uncork the 1870 Chateau Lafite Rothschild at this year's party in the restaurant's wine cellar. He said it's to honor Panetta, who was a congressman from Monterey and grew up in the area.

"I'll probably have to serve it up with an eye-dropper to all 28 people," Balestreri said.

Sylvia Panetta says if the couple's schedule allows it, they're in for a sip.

"I suspect we're going to get a little teeny bit each," she said.

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