Representatives from 43 of Burgundy’s finest domaines came to New York in the first week of March for the 20th annual La Paulée de New York.
A homage to the traditional Burgundian end-of-year harvest festival, this year’s five-day celebration featured 13 events, from seminars to lunches and dinners.
The top-ticket package, which included four dinners, two tastings, one seminar and a lunch, sold for $22,000 (£17,250).
But not everything was expensive: guests could attend a seminar on the geology of Volnay with Frédéric, Chantal and Clotilde Lafarge of Domaine Michel Lafarge for $225 (£175).
Despite the sometimes-elevated ticket prices, each event was sold out, regardless of the growing concerns about COVID-19, which now means New York is shutting restaurants, bars and schools.
The central event of the five-day celebration is the gala dinner, this year attracting 400 people, described by wine critic Robert Parker as ‘…the dinner/tasting of a lifetime’.
Keynote speaker Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti spoke movingly about how La Paulée embodies the Burgundian culture of sharing.
With each of the 43 attending domaines providing gems from their cellar, often in large format, there was plenty of wine to go around.
Many collectors, such as Jim Finkel of New York, used the occasion to bring out long-treasured bottles of DRC, while I also spied Domaine Drouhin’s Musigny 1971, Leroy’s La Romanée 1953 and Ramonet’s Montrachet 1992 out of magnum – my wine of the night.
Wine service was assured by head sommeliers David Gordon, Patrick Cappiello, Hristo Zisovski, Jennifer Ely and Kimberly Prokoshyn, who directed an array of pourers.
The food was prepared by Junghyun Park of New York’s Michelin two-star Atomix, David Kinch of three-star Manresa in California and the Troisgros of their eponymous restaurant in Roanne. Cheese was provided by Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dariy in California, and dessert by Apollonia Poilâne of the famous Parisian bakery.
La Paulée de New York was originated and orchestrated by wine importer and sommelier Daniel Johnnes, who was wine director for Drew Nieporent’s Myriad Restaurant Group and its flagship restaurant Montrachet between 1985 and 2005.
In 2000, Johnnes had the idea of creating a version of the traditional Burgundian end-of-harvest festival called La Paulée. Named for a frying pan (poêle in French) it is, in the simplest terms, a highly developed harvest celebration.
The custom of a festive dinner to celebrate the end of the harvest was revived in 1923 by Jules Lafon, the grandfather of Dominique Lafon and, over time, it was enshrined in Burgundian tradition as one of the Trois Glorieuses (the glorious three days) capping off the weekend that also featured the auction of the wine of the Hospices de Beaune and the autumn gathering of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.
Johnnes and his Burgundian vintner friends, including Christophe Roumier, Dominique Lafon, Etienne Grivot, Jean-Pierre de Smet (of Domaine de l’Arlot), Patrick Bize, Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac, Jean-Marc Roulot and Alain Graillot of the Northern Rhône created the New York version as an homage to the Burgundian original.
One of the dinners this year featured these original vintners, with Chisa Bize taking the place of her husband Patrick, who died in 2013.