I don’t recall how I stumbled upon the announcement for La Paulée de San Francisco 2014. Probably it was a Tweet or an article somewhere that referenced the celebration.
From a quick look at the history of La Paulée I could see that this celebration was modeled after the Burgundian celebration, La Paulée de Meursault, a very prestigious three day event held in November every year. Who would not be curious about an event called Les Trois Glorieuses, the three glorious days?
I could tell from the San Francisco event information that this too would be a serious (and potentially very expensive) celebration of food and Burgundy. Immediately I knew I wanted to participate. My next order of business was to determine what most interested me and what was within my budget.
The Rare Wine Dinner, Collectors Lunch, Legends Dinner and Gala Dinner were all way out of my price range. They must have been amazing events, but not my style on so many levels. I would leave those events for others.
There were two Verticals Tastings, filled with 3-year verticals of Premier and Grand Cru wines. So tempting, but ultimately I was intimidated by the price and yes, I admit it, the wines. I am after all, a relative novice when it comes to Burgundy. I’m certain it was a wonderful tasting, and absolutely something to consider for future celebrations.
Next choice was the Grand Tasting, a large tasting including many Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines. Also very tempting. Not as intimidating as the Verticals Tasting. A strong maybe.
The offering titled Chablis Seminar — Exploring the World’s Most Unique Expression of Chardonnay with Jon Bonné sounded very interesting, but very narrowly focused.
The final consideration was a tasting titled La Paulée Off Grid: A Tasting of Burgundy’s Hidden Gems. The location, Bluxome Street Winery, a working winery in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco sounded really interesting.
“Go off the grid and experience all that Burgundy has to offer by sampling a selection of exciting wines curated by a group of our nation’s top sommeliers” stated the description of the tasting. Wines from Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Chalonnais, Mâconnais and Beaujolais would be included. Like a sampler plate. And oh yes, speaking of food, there would be food too.
For me, this sounded like the best choice. A sampling of all of Burgundy, a mix of regional and village wines with a sprinkling of Premiers Crus and all in a more casual setting. It sounded like a good place to start what would be my largest Burgundy tasting. There were 67 wines on the list!
I have to say my expectations were met and exceeded in every way. The location was charming. Located along what seems more like an alleyway, the winery space was framed by the tasting room at the entrance and a barrel room along the back of the building.
Tables were organized by region, complete with detailed maps of each area. It was possible to taste wines beginning with Chablis in the very north of the region and end with Beaujolais in the south, if you wanted to. Wines were grouped along the tables, leading up to the Premier Cru wines.
Food tables were well-spaced around the room. Food was provided by Prospect, Tartine, Delmonte Meat Co. Inc. and Andante Dairy. A great assortment of warm and cold dishes, bread, cheeses and meats. Just perfect.
Sommelier Corner: a dedicated space with sommeliers scheduled to pour two wines from the region they represented. It was a chance to talk wine and region with some very knowledgeable folks. It also drew tasters away from the regional tables, always a good thing.
One more detail before I get to the wine portion of this post…thank to the organizers for locating multiple pour buckets (spit buckets – yuck!) in the center of the room away from the tasting tables. I don’t know why more event organizers don’t do this. It allows us to spread out a bit and have a place to make some notes without further crowding the tasting tables. Pour buckets were also located at both ends of every tasting table. Well done!
My love of Chablis was confirmed. I noticed a variety of flavors from citrus, mineral-centric flavors with a lighter body to smoky, diesel-influenced flavors with a more substantial body.
The big surprise for me was my introduction to Saint Bris, an AOC allowing only Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, located to the west of Chablis. The Domaine PL & JF Bersan, Saint-Bris 2012 was fresh, floral and only a bit herbal. I will look for more from this AOC.
The wines of Côte de Nuits tasted like red cherries, sometimes a bit tart, with hints of earth and spice. All had great acidity, a lighter body and mostly smooth tannins. These wines were so elegant with so much flavor. Excellent representations of Pinot Noir one and all.
The Pinot Noir from Côte de Beaune were a bit darker in color and had flavors of darker cherries and a bit more weighty. The two Premiers Crus from Côte de Beaune (Domaine Pierre Guillemot, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Savigny Aux Serpentières 2010 and Michel Gay & Fils, Beaune 1er Cru Toussaints Vieilles Vignes 2010) showed complex cherry fruit, smoke, asphalt and savory qualities.
The next revelation came as I moved to Chalonnais and was introduced to “serious” Aligoté from Bouzeron AOC. Both the Domaine Jacqueson, Bouzeron Aligoté 2009 and Domaine A. & P. de Villaine, Bouzeron Aligoté 2011 showed surprising complexity and pleasing minerality and spice. More research will be required on Aligoté from Bouzeron (and Aligoté in general. I tasted several delicious version from Côte de Beaune as well.)
I intended to leave Beaujolais for last, because I thought I did not like Beaujolais. My impression of Beaujolais was clouded years ago by an unpleasant experience with Beaujolais Nouveau. Since, I have just not pursued Gamay…my mistake. I was more than pleasantly surprised by the selection at the tasting. I started with two wines grown on Côte du Py, the famed slope outside the town of Villié-Morgon. I was told it is the most famous site in all of Beaujolais. I was blown away by the pleasing fruit flavors, spicy complexity and depth of flavor. I will absolutely continue my exploration of Beaujolais.
The evening was an educational and fun experience for me, it was a great introduction to Burgundy. I will look to participate in future La Paulée events.
I have much to learn about the region, its complex classification and labeling. More tasting and reading will be required. I can hardly wait!