Tuesday, March 10, 2015

La Paulée Collectors Dinner and the wines of Domaine Méo-Camuzet

The reputation of La Paulée precedes it. A decadent, boisterous celebration of Burgundy rotating annually between San Francisco and New York, it was the brainchild of Sommelier Extraordinaire Daniel Johnnes but is now, to all intents and purposes, owned by New York Chefs, New York Sommeliers, Burgundian vignerons, and Burgundy lovers from all over the US. It was held in NY this year and we were there. It was all that was promised; and more.

La Paulée initially extended over a few days but it has now grown to the point where official events stretch out over an entire week and local wine retailers milk it for almost a month. The first event that we attended was the Collectors Dinner held at ElevenMadisonPark and featuring the wines of Domaine Méo-Camuzet. Dinner would be served in the private dining room above and to the left of the main dining room (as you enter the restaurant) so, after we were relieved of our coats, we were ushered up the stairs to the check-in area.

Ron and Bev were already there and were positioned strategically at the entrance to the cocktail/dining area. After stopping at the check-in station, we joined them and were quickly accosted by a waiter offering glasses of Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2007. We were informed that this was the first place in the world that this vintage of this Champagne was being poured.

A variety of Canapés were served during the cocktail hour and were consumed with delight by the arriving attendees. After much socializing and imbibing, we were invited to take our seats. Daniell Johnnes, in the introduction, mentioned that this particular dinner used to be held on the weekend (and used to be the highlight of the weekend). Given the growth of La Paulée, it had now been pushed back to Wednesday night.

The first course served was a Cyclopean (my word) Oyster Vichyssoise with Caviar which was accompanied by additional copious amounts of Delamotte.

The second course was Lobster Poached with Daikon Radish and Citrus accompanied by a Champagne Salon 1983 en magnum. We were informed that the Champagne House only had 24 of these mags in its cellar and five had been sent to this event. The wine had been disgorged in June 2012. The 1983 vintage had experienced bad spring and winter weather but had been very good for Champagne, with high acidity and excellent sugar levels in the fruit being the order of the day.

The lobster was exceptional and bolstered by the Salon with its notes of orange rind, citrus, distant bread, tropical fruit, and green apple. Excellent acidity and mousse.

At the conclusion of the second course, Jean-Nicolas Méo, the winemaker at Domaine Méo-Camuzet, was introduced to talk about his estate and the wines on offer for the dinner. He began by noting that his domaine is both recent and old. Old in that the vineyard has been in the family since its founding by Etienne Camuzet in the early 1900s but recent in that producing its own wines is a relatively recent endeavor. His father, Jean Méo, inherited the estate upon the death of his aunt in 1959. Jean-Nicolas came to Burgundy in 1989 to run the estate and encountered Henri Jayer, one of the sharecroppers working on the estate -- and a brilliant winemaker in his own right -- and learned at his feet.

In Jean-Nicolas' view, Burgundy has changed dramatically over the past 25 years: Vintages seem to have been more difficult in the last few years and have been cooler. He sees 2006 as the end of an era. It was a ripe vintage which was harvested at the end of September. It was high in alcohol but balanced and not as lush as the 2005. It is a vintage which has evolved slowly. He wished us an enjoyable dinner.

The third course was a Foie Gras marinated with Black Truffle and Purple Potato accompanied by a quartet of 2006 Méo-Camuzet wines:

  • Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Chaumes
  • Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Aux Murgers
  • Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
  • Corton Grand Cru Clos Rognet
The wines yielded a spectrum of different aromas and flavors. The Vosne-Romanée showed coconut and spice, strawberries, savoriness and a slight phenolic note. It had strawberry cherry on the palate, excellent weight, and was balanced with a nice, round mouthfeel. The Nuits-St.-George was unyielding on the nose with spice and a slight creaminess on the palate. This wine was non-complex. The Clos Vougeot yielded strawberry, with a lemon tinge, tobacco, leather, spice, dill, and tree bark. Length and intensity wanting. The Corton showed pinot fruit, coffee, and mocha on the nose and power and weight on the palate. Great length and intensity. Still young.

The next course was Celery Root Braised with Black Truffle. The wines were from the Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Brûlées climat and were produced in the years 2002, 1999, and 1990. The wines were served youngest to oldest in this flight, an approach that differs from my preference. The dish was excellent. The 2002 Les Brûlées showed strawberry, spice, dried herbs, and rosemary. Vibrant. Jumped off the palate. Chewy. Long, herby, savory finish. This turned out to be the wine of the flight. The 1999 Les Brûlées exhibited strawberries, spice, walnut, coffee, and mocha. Savoriness on palate. Finish could have been longer. Strawberry, vanilla, and elegance were the hallmarks of the 1990 Les Brûlées along with a marked color differential. Blackpepper on palate. Evolved. Slight bitterness. Finish interruptus.

The meat course was Venison Roasted with Parsnip and Mushrooms braced by Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Cros Parantoux (1999 and 1988) and Richebourg Grand Cru (1999 and 1988) wines. Prior to the start of the course, Jean-Nicolas rose once again to describe the wines. He sees these two wines as being flagships of the domaine. He thinks that the 1999 shows "tight" at this time but is the greatest vintage that he has ever made. Nineteen eighty-eight was Henri Jayer's last year and so this vintage is made unfiltered. His (Jean-Nicolas) style is a little more "hands on."

The 1988 Richebourg exhibited deep red fruit, rhubarb, créme brulée, spice, earth, and vanilla. Weight and intensity on the palate. Long, savory finish. This is still a young wine. The 1988 Parantoux was corked. The 1999 Richebourg had a nose of classic Pinot fruit and spice. A little shoe polish. Delivers on the palate. Great intensity and life. Long, spicy finish. A young wine. The 1999 Parantoux was open and less finely honed than the other wines in this flight. Still young though. Overall the Richebourgs were better wines than the Cros Parantouxs in this flight. Slightly disappointing for me as I have a romantic attachment (Jayer-inspired) to the Parantoux.

Sorbet with Crème Fraîche and Maldon Salt
This was an excellent event. Fifty-three Burgundy devotees, excellent food, great wines, and one of the leading winemakers in the world explaining his wines to us. Daniel Johnnes invited the Chef, Daniel Humm, to take a bow for the excellent fare that he had placed before us. We showed our appreciation for his great work. What a start to our La Paulée.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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