Tuesday, August 05, 2008

La Paulée (in Colorado)- Day One

La what???

La Paulée (pronounced Paul-ay) is the festival in Burgundy that marks the end of the harvest. For three days, winemakers party their exhausted butts off. This being France, there is an inordinate amount of wine drinking, cigarette smoking, and other assorted depravities.

This festival now also takes place in New York and San Francisco, where it is an excuse for collectors to bring out their best wines. The ensuing Bacchanalia would make even the most ardent hedonist blush. In any case, this past year, due to a skiing accident, a good friend in Colorado had to skip La Paulée de SF. Instead, he decided to hold a mid-summer Paulée at his home outside Denver.

So about 15 invitees swooped in from all over the country to taste through a boatload of Burgundies. We really were in God's country, the views were stunning, the air crisp and dry as opposed to the oppressive and heavy heat in NYC.

The first night we tasted through a selection of wines from the vaunted Chevalier-Montrachet vineyard. This very small Grand Cru vineyard has only about 18 acres under vine and is located in the town of Puligny-Montrachet. It makes gorgeous Chardonnays in the right winemaker's hands. However, there are only about 20 producers currently making Chevalier Montrachets, so it's tough to find sometimes. A well-made Chevalier will have a distinct spiciness, more than likely due to the stoniness of the vineyard. You find more finesse than power here, an elegance that is difficult to find anywhere else. These aren't your average Chards, that's for sure.

Here is what we tasted, with my impressions alongside:

Flight 1

* 2004 Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet-
Wow, gorgeous purity.

* 2002 Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet-
Delicious, rounder, more accessible, softer than the 2004.

* 2002 Henri Boillot Chevalier-Montrachet-
Beautiful, enormous power and concentration balanced by acidity and finesse.

* 2001 Domaine Ramonet Chevalier-Montrachet-
Somewhat oxydized, but Ramonet's signature spearmint aromas managed to break through (I have no idea why, but his wines have a slight hint of spearmint to their aromas).

Flight 2

* 1999 Etienne Sauzet Chevalier-Montrachet-
Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable, this kept getting better and more nuanced as it breathed over the course of the evening.

* 1995 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles-

* 1995 Georges Deleger Chevalier-Montrachet-
Horribly oxydized.

Flight 3

* 1993 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet-
Very good.

* 1993 Domaine d'Auvenay (Lalou Bize-Leroy) Chevalier-Montrachet-
Unfreakingbelievable. Seriously. This proves God exists. You could chew this wine (that's a good thing, trust me).

* 1992 Verget Chevalier-Montrachet-
Delicious, but hard to taste after the 1993 D'Auvenay.

Flight 4

* 1985 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet-
Quite good.

* 1978 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet-
After an inital funk blew off in the decanter, this was quite good and honeyed.

* 1982 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles-

Now we moved onto the other wines for the post-tasting dinner.

Flight 5

* 1985 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon-
AWESOME, just absolutely awesome, a wine to let sit and breathe. This was, sadly, my last bottle, but we enjoyed it a lot. It was a fantastic match for a mushroom bisque, I might add.

* 1990 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame-
Another delicious wine, this wasn't nearly as complex as the DP.

* 1996 Saint-Chamant Christian Coquillette Champagne Brut-
Fun to try, more yeasty and toasty than anything else, but not bad. Not great though, and definitely not in the league of the others.

Flight 6

* 2005 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares-
Very extracted, almost CA Pinot-like. Not to my tastes.

Flight 7

* 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg
Wow. Absolutely wow. I get it now. I let this wine breathe for a while and it kept unfolding and opening up, a real wine for the ages and yet more proof that God exists. Wow.

* 1993 Domaine A.-F. Gros Richebourg-
Excellent also.

* 1971 Charles Vienot Richebourg-
Delicious too, it belied its age with a surprising youthful energy.

Flight 8

* 1990 Frederic Esmonin Ruchottes-Chambertin
Nice and ripe.

* 1990 Domaine Robert Chevillon Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Vaucrains
Fun to drink.

* 1993 Dominique Laurent Mazis-Chambertin
Surprisingly good, as I usually don't like Dominique Laurent's wines, he tends to go overboard with the oak.

Flight 9

* 1993 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brulees-

* 1993 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares-
So so, not great, not bad, but should have been better.

* 1993 Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Musigny-
Not bad, but not nearly as good as it should have been. Freddy's one of my favorite producers. Sigh.

Flight 10

* 1972 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Nicolas Rolin Bouchard Père et Fils-
Served from mag, this also belied its age with a youthful vigor. Delicious if a bit simple.

* 1972 Maison Leroy Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Champeaux-
Really good. Fruit was interesting and strong. Expressive in a unique way.

* 1964 Gros Frere et Sœur Clos Vougeot "Musigni"-
Ooooh, delicious, still very much alive and proof that old Burgundy rocks.

* 1969 Jaffelin Chambertin-
Blah, not much going on.

We ended the evening around midnight with some stinky cheeses and a 1970 Grahams that was quite good too. But after all that Burgundy, it was tough going to Portugal. What a day it had been, and we were looking forward to Day Two and its Grand Tasting...

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