La Paulee

An event a wine person dreams of, La Paulee is the vision of Daniel Johnnes and team brought to the United States. Alternating between San Francisco and New York year to year, La Paulee is a celebration of wines from Burgundy along with many vintners who travel to our land to share their glorious wines.  For more information on this amazing event, check out www.lapaulee.com.  However, I am happy to give you my version of the extraordinary weekend I enjoyed in San Francisco.

It started at RN 74, a hot, new restaurant that opened in 2009 that loves Burgundy and highlights Pinot Noir and Chardonnay by the glass.  It was here where the sommelier appreciation dinner was held on Thursday evening, and the event was sponsored by Evening Land Vineyards, a winery dedicated to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, sourcing fruit from Occidental Vineyard in Sonoma and Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon.  Dinner started with passed hors d’oeuvres of tempura battered shiitake mushrooms, potato-leek soup with pistachio oil drizzle and warm gougeres.  The reception wine was Gamay from Evening Land’s new project in Beaujolais a.k.a. southern Burgundy.  The sit down dinner started with a delicious cod-like fish followed by duck leg and ended with great cheeses.  Several sommelieres and I took a cab to the Mint and sang karyoke to finish the night.  Good times.

Friday came way too early, and after eating some of the best pastries I have ever eaten at Tartine Bakery, I took the Muni to the Westin St. Francis and enjoyed an informative tasting with Christian Moreau of Chablis and Dominique Lafon of Meursault.  We tasted Chablis Premier Cru and Grand Cru, listening to Christian vividly explain the variations in soil as well as the differences in vintages from one year to the next.  Dominique followed and allowed us to try his relatively new project in the Macon before experiencing his other worldly Meursaults.  In case you may be wondering, Chablis and Meursault are both white wines made from the Chardonnay grape.  However, Chablis is in northern Burgundy whereas Meursault is located in the Cote de Beaune.  Stylistically, the wines are worlds apart as Chablis is crisper, leaner and more mineral driven with little to no new oak used in production.  Meursault, however, is a richer white wine with loads of marzipan, toast and bruleed pineapple fruit.  Elegant and pretty, Meursault is a whole ‘nother ballgame than Chablis.  The wines were showing very well, and I have to say, from my standpoint, tasting like this is extremely helpful.

Later that afternoon, after a fantastic burger at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar, a few of us worked the Vertical Tasting, a walk-around tasting of different Burgundian vintners from previous vintages.  As luck would have it, I was paired with Jeremy & Alec Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Frederic Engerer of Domaine d’Eugenie.  Tres exciting!  Jeremy shares the same birthday with my husband, and in Autumn of 2002, Stephen & I worked the harvest at Domaine Dujac and lived with the Seysses’ family, getting to know and appreciate the incredible work they perform in the vineyards and in the winery.  The wines featured were the Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts from 2007, 2006 and 2005.  This was fascinating to me as these are wines less well-known than their wines made in the village of Morey St. Denis, and 2005 was the first vintage of this wine that Dujac had made. The wines tasted incredible, and I loved seeing the progression and development in such a short time.

On another level, Domaine d’Eugenie was the only winery not to feature a vertical tasting but instead, a horizontal one, as 2007 was the first vintage where the domaine had total control.  Most unusual in Burgundy, Domaine d’Eugenie is a new domaine formerly owned by Rene Engel.  Frederic Engerer, a partner at Chateau Latour, has purchased the land and if his wines from 2007 are any indication of the quality, his wines are not to be missed.  I’m not sure of the availability in North Carolina, but Domaine d’Eugenie is definitely on my short list.  The three wines featured from 2007 were the Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Aux Brulees, Grands Echezeaux and Clos de Vougeot.  Absolutely phenomenal to taste a winery in Burgundy’s first vintage, I had permagrin for the rest of the afternoon.  It didn’t hurt that on my right side was my favorite Burgundy producer ever, Domaine Dujac.  Life is great.

The night ended early, as I knew I had to be up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to set up a tasting with Veronique Drouhin of Joseph Drouhin and Jacques Lardiere of Maison Louis Jadot orchestrated by Allen Meadows of Burghound.  Several of us met back up at the Westin to polish wine glasses, open all of the featured wines, nose them to make sure they were sound and pour one-ounce pours to 135 attendees.  For me, noseing Burgundy at 8:30 in the morning is a dream come true.  And, believe me, the day only got better.

At 10:00 a.m., we finished the set-up for that event and moved to a ballroom next door to set up a walk-around tasting where each vintner would be showcasing the 2007 vintage of their wines, the current release being brought into restaurants and wine stores right about now.  Each of the 40 vintners had a table where they showcased their wines and there were many San Francisco chefs who offered small bites to blend with all of the extraordinary wines being featured.  Spitting was optional, but sommeliers found it necessary in order to be in tip-top shape for the evening soon to come.

Absolute gluttony is what I like to call the Saturday night dinner.  For $1400/person, you can enjoy an off-the-charts dinner AND bring your own wine.  That’s right.  You heard me correctly.  BYOB!  And we’re not talking about just any bottle, we’re talking about the mac-daddy bottles that are once-in-a-blue-moon-opportunity-to-taste.  From 1934 La Tache ala D.R.C. to 1978 La Pousse d’Or Volnay Clos de 60 Ouvrees to 1990 Georges Compte de Vogues Musigny, the wines never stopped.  Ramonet, Domaine Leflaive, Comptes Lafon, Dujac, Remoissenet, the list goes on and on and on.  Recession, what recession?  The wines that were brought and opened on Saturday night were truly special, not because of the monetary value but because of the rich history and  the incredible past of each of these domaines.  For someone who would never get a chance in one’s life to actually hold these wines, let alone open and taste them before pouring, this was a golden opportunity, one I felt truly appreciative of having.  Yes, it was work.  I ran my two legs off making sure each collector had special wine service that night.  I stressed myself out making sure a certain wine was opened before a certain course arrived.  I worked really hard to make sure the wines’ owners felt like their wines had been given the respect they needed.  I really worked.

But to me, work is relative, and when it comes to wine, I’ll move boxes, polish glasses, double decant, you name it, I’ll do it, because in the end, it’s wine and it’s what I truly love.

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