Mireya Villareal burst onto the local media scene this past spring with a CBS 11 I-team story revealing that people, some of whom live right here in North Texas, are doing naughty things on the Internet. It was a high bar for Villareal to set for herself, almost recklessly so, but she managed to clear it last night with a hard-hitting scoop on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' taste in wine.
The mayor, Villareal reports, is particularly fond of Chateau Haut-Brion, a well-regarded red with a storied history stretching backhalf a millennium. In the 17th century, it lured philosopher John Locke to the countryside outside Bordeaux. In the 18th, Thomas Jefferson became a fan. In the 19th, Napoleon's foreign minister used the stuff to score diplomatic victories at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.
It wasn't the wine's rich history that persuaded Rawlings to order three bottles for the table during a dinner last summer in Seoul, South Korea, attended by DFW International Airport board members and Korean Air executives. It was the $150 price tag, somewhere between one-third and one-fourth what it typically goes for in the States. Since the airport was aiming for nonstop flights between DFW and South Korea, it was a no-brainer.
"I knew Chateau Brion as a good wine," Rawlings remembered. "I believed at $150 a bottle, it was a good value."
This is where Villareal does that TV reporter "gotcha" thing, handing him a copy of the receipt from the meal, which Rawlings refuses.
She forges on. "Each [bottle] was $1,500 apiece," Villareal says.
"Why not order a cheaper wine then?"
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"I did. I did. I umm. In trying to make sure President Chi was treated in a first class manner, and wanted to get that $60 million, I decided that a good $150 bottle of wine was a good expenditure."
The thing Villareal is trying to highlight here is that DFW Airport board members spent $8,000 on a single meal, part of $2.2 million on travel expenses in 2012. A lot of money, to be sure, but one that is perhaps justified by the demands of global business. As DFW airport spokesman David Magana puts it, "You cannot bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to an airline CEO and call it a business lunch."
The takeaway instead is that Rawlings has a working knowledge of fancy wine and is terrible at doing currency conversions in his head. He has since written DFW Airport a $4,500 check to correct his mistake.