Wednesday, August 06, 2008

La Paulée (in Colorado)- Day Two

Hey, look at that, I geeked out somewhat in my previous post! What a shock (not)!

OK, sorry, but I was really swept up in the excitement of the memory of having tasted some real vinous delights. Most of these are extremely hard to get and shockingly expensive, so having them all at one sitting was a real treat. Especially to this old Burghead.

So I promise I won't go overboard with Day Two... Well, I'll try not to.

Day Two of our little Paulée was a two parter: a lunch tasting of the 2005 Burgundies, and a dinner Burgapalooza of rare old wines. If you aren't aware of it, the 2005 vintage in Burgundy was one for the records. The weather was perfect, the grapes ripened on time, everything was in balance, and as many winemakers have told me, all they needed to do was get out of Nature's way. If you've ever wanted to try Burgundy, look for 2005 Village-level wines: not only will they be abundant and relatively cheap (for Burgundy, approx. $25-50), but they will offer fantastic experiences.

Of course, this will mean you are well on your way to the Dark Side that is Burgundy...

The 2005 Grand Tasting was organized according to the rules of the real Paulée in France: we each brought one Village, one Premier Cru and one Grand Cru of a well-regarded producer. That made for a lot of wine, but we were there to taste, not drink. If I wanted to get drunk, I'd chug some vodka.

This was one of the best 2005 tastings that I've been to in a while due to the level of organization and the generosity of the folks coming. These wines showed beautifully, and the weather gods were smiling on us.

The wines in general were remarkably open and ready to go, except for the Grand Crus. All the wines had an amazing power and lift to them, and, except for the ones that had been clobbered with oak, a gorgeous purity of fruit. Most of that fruit was elegant and well-sown-together, nothing seemed out of whack, I mean even the tannins were fruity if sometimes overwhelming (again, the Grand Crus). This is a vintage to own as much as you can, I hate to say. I bought more after tasting these myself, there is so much upside potential it makes my head spin.

Instead of listing the wines with my impressions, I'll post the names of the producers. Why? Because unlike most wine regions of the world, when choosing which Burgundy to buy, it's all about the producer. Let me repeat that: it's all about the producer.

So, here we go:
-Nicholas Potel= very good wines, true to their place of origin and quite transparent.
-Michel Magnien= not bad, a bit heavy-handed with the oak, but good for folks who like CA Pinot.
-Rene LeClerc= always a reliable if relatively unknown producer, his wines were delightful and quite terroir-specific (something I look for in Burgundy).
-L&A Lignier= descended from the vaunted Lignier domaine after the father Romain's death a few years ago, these wines were killer in all the flights, so good that I went out and bought more at my wife's urging.
-de Vogue= not to my liking in general, these sometimes were a bit clumsily oaked, though when it was good it was very much so.
-Trapet= extremely refined and elegant, lovely.
-Dujac= though I've always liked this domaine, it's more for the hedonistic value than the pure expression of the wines' identity. Dujac has a definite signature in its wines, one that I like. The hedonist in me loves them but the purist in me sometimes shakes his head in frustration.
-Roumier= what can I say? It's Roumier. One of my favorite producers, his wines were elegant, true to their terroir, yet carried themselves with power and elegance all rolled in one. To say the least, Christophe has scored a home-run in 2005 with every single wine we tasted. Amazing.

After the Grand Tasting, I quickly hit the gym (this business is ruinous to waistlines, as you can imagine), then showered and changed for the Grand Finale.

I didn't know what I was in for, this was a true orgy of Burgundian delights. Flight after flight of amazingly rare and old wines whizzed by my inquiring palate, making me swoon in delight so many times it should have been illegal. The food was great too, and the company awesome, but the wines, my God, the wines!

At several points I had to stop and sniff and sit there, realizing I held in my hands vinous proof of God's existence. Starting with old Champagne in magnums is always nice: 1982 Bollinger RD Extra Brut and 1985 Krug, wines I could have enjoyed on their own for a long time. Then the other wines appeared, and all semblance of restraint fell to the wayside. I can resist all things but temptation, after all.

How can one refuse a 1955 Charles Vienot Chambertin Clos de Bèze that is still lively and full of vigor? Or a flight full of Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée Saint Vivants alongside a 1988 DRC La Tâche? The La Tâche was itself proof of God's existence, an ethereal beauty full of Asian spices, light red fruits and this mouthfeel that made me sit back and sigh.

Then, the flight that made me a believer: 1991 Emmanuel Rouget Cros Parantoux, 1988 Joseph Drouhin Grands-Echezeaux, 1988 Maison Albert Bichot Grands-Echezeaux Domaine du Clos Frantin, 1991 Emmanuel Rouget Echezeaux. The book-ending Rougets were so hauntingly beautiful that all I could do was sit and go back and forth, smelling each one, my head dizzy with the complex aromas they were offering. Such power, such lift, such grace and elegance, oh my God I think I can still taste them... Sigh...

When Burgundy is like that, it's a scary yet exciting and soul-stirring experience. Yes, there were many more wines, but these were the ones that stayed in my memory. Heck, they've gotten their dark little tentacles wrapped around my soul and are making me smile even as I write these words.

While the wines were fantastic, it was the people who really made this worth the cross-country flight. We would never have all met if it weren't for this passion of ours, and for that I am thankful. The generosity shown this weekend left me speechless, as most of these wines are stratospherically expensive and incredibly rare. Thank you to everyone for sharing!

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