I recently had the opportunity to attend the kick-off party of Côtes du Coeur, a series of wine and celebrity-chef food events that lead up to an annual black-tie fine wine auction and celebrity dinner benefiting the American Heart Association.

Since I developed a passion for wine, I have wanted to get involved in this organization. The fact that my younger brother developed a heart condition in his teens, makes the AHA’s goal of improving cardiac health for all Americans while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and strokes by 20 percent, resonate even more for me.

The Big Bottle Party is the kick-off for the season and is thrown to collect large format bottle donations for the “Big Bottle Alley” section of the silent auction of the Gala.  As I pulled up to the lovely home of Pam and Gary Patsley, I knew there would be some treasures gathered.  I was met by AHA Volunteer Melissa Anderson, who I happen to know from the paying gig and from painful exercise classes at Equinox.  After choosing a 08 Cabernet from Groth Vineyard over the 07 Chardonnay, I went exploring or should I say, drooling….  Sea Smoke, Shafer, Dominus and Opus – all the U.S. greats were well represented as well as the major Italian and French labels – many at least 15 to 20 years old.

Côtes du Coeur

Côtes du Coeur

I hoped to spend a little time with Steve Ellis, the wine chair, but he was in process of judging the donated wines, so I agreed to hook up with him as the Gala moved closer.  The goal of the entire event is to raise funds for a worthwhile cause, and they do that well.  The spring Gala is the largest of its kind in the Southwest and is the number one Gala in the nation for the AHA. During its 19-year history, Côtes du Coeur has attracted more than 16,000 attendees and has raised more than $14 million.

Judging from some of the bottles that I saw collected, Dallas collectors hungry for top-tier, bottle-aged treasures are going to keep that tradition going.