"The first duty of wine is to be red; the second is to be a Burgundy."
So say many hard-core oenophiles around the world, for whom the sun rises and sets according to the vintage charts, weather forecasts and harvest projections associated with a relatively tiny (we're talking roughly 200 miles) piece of real estate in northern France. It is here that purists believe some of the most spectacular wines in the world are made; if you love pinot noir in particular, than there are none worth drinking besides those from Bourgogne.
Importers and collectors hoard wines from Burgundian regions like Montrachet, Gevrey-Chambertin and Mersault like New Yorkers this week clung to bottled water and iPhone chargers; so much so that many of the most prized offerings remain so tightly allocated that they're practically impossible to obtain. And here in Colorado that essentially means "no Burgundy for you." That is, unless you attended last weekend's glorious Boulder Burgundy Festival, where serious Burgundy hounds from around the country flocked to the Flatirons to partake in 48 hours of pinot noir and chardonnay-soaked debauchery.
To accuse Colorado native (and Master Sommelier) Brett Zimmerman of being maybe just a tiny bit obsessed with Burgundy would not be a stretch. Purchasing the Boulder Wine Merchant in 2010 after a career progression through the Flagstaff House, rock star sommelier-producing factory Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and his own restaurant, Mateo, his adoration of these wines motivated him to organize the first-ever Boulder Burgundy Festival in 2011. "I wanted to offer Boulder and the surrounding areas an opportunity to taste the amazing, and sometimes difficult to source, wines of Burgundy," says Zimmerman. "Additionally, it was a bit of a selfish move in order to taste the wines myself and get Colorado more on the map for allocations with our distributors and importers," he adds.
Clearly, he was onto something -- and Colorado's Burgundy fans have proved his instincts were dead right. Last weekend's festival was double the previous year's turnout. Things kicked off with a bang on Saturday with a seminar hosted by a wine geek's dream lecturer: Paul Wasserman, a Burgundy importer representing some of the region's finest houses, including Lafon, Lafarge and Mugnier. Forty-five very lucky tasters were treated to a true Burgundian insider's view (and palate) at this first-time Boulder Burgundy Festival event.
Next up on Saturday was the Burgundy Lunch at Radda Trattoria, Zimmerman's nod to the annual "Le Paulée de Mersault," which originated as a traditional harvest celebration in Burgundy to share a bounty of wine and food with friends and family. The festival's version of this affair may have been the money shot of the entire weekend, where $85 scored you some half a dozen scrumptious courses paired with, um...several dozen stellar wines. Grand cru and premier cru bottles were popped and poured by legendary local (Frasca Food & Wine's Bobby Stuckey) and not-so-local (New York's Robert Bohr and San Francisco's Rajat Parr, to name a couple) somms for more than four hours; Colorado wine biz insiders generously shared with wide-eyed fans some of the rarest wines of the weekend -- from their private collections.
Speaking of Stuckey, you might not have thought a guy whose entire world seems to revolve around wine from a little-known region in northeastern Italy would host an all-Burgundy dinner at his restaurant that focuses on that same Fruilian cuisine. Well, think again -- because that's exactly what he did, hosting a sold-out "Stars of Burgundy" dinner for 80 ballers -- er, well-heeled wine drinkers -- on Saturday night. Although the sticker price for this affair rang in at $250 per head, from all accounts it was worth every red cent.
For those wine-loving warriors whose livers and fine motor skills continued to function, Sunday offered two additional opportunities to continue exploring the finest wines of Burgundy. Returning for his second Boulder Burgundy Fest was the infinitely entertaining Jeremy Seysses from illustrious wine producer Domaine Dujac, who guided attendees through a vertical of his family's Grand Cru Clos de la Roche. Incredibly special bottles from the 1996, 1997, 2006, 2007 and 2009 vintages illustrated exactly what Grand Cru Burgundy wines are all about.
Closing out the weekend was the Grand Tasting, where more than 170 guests paying a measly $50 descended upon the St. Julien Hotel to sample top bottles offered up through the Boulder Wine Merchant supplier allocations. Even better? The chance to chat all things terroir with top importers and Boulder-based somm-turned-sombra maker Richard Betts. Opining on the success of the weekend, Zimmerman offered, "For me, the highlight of this year's festival was the quality of the people who were in attendance at each event. Winemakers like Domenico Clerico at the lunch, our group of sommeliers which was off the charts in terms of superstars, and of course, the customer quality was amazing. I was told by all of the suppliers how impressed they were with the quality of questions that were asked at each event. We love that!" And you know what? So do we.
Be sure to stop by the Boulder Wine Merchant and pick up a few of our favorite bottles from this year's Boulder Burgundy Festival:
Pinot Noir Albert Morot Beaune Touissants 1er 2009 ($57) Hudelot Noellat Nuits St. Georges Les Murgers 2010 ($96) Cathiard Chombolle-Musigny Les Clos des L'Ormes 2006 ($72) Domaine Joblot, Givry Cellier Aux Moines 1er 2010 ($64)
Chardonnay Drouhin Beuane Clos des Mouches 1er 2009 ($136) Bernard Moureau Chassagne-Montrachet Maltroie 1er 2010 ($109) Robert-Denogent "La Croix" Pouilly-Fuissé 2010 ($118) Buisson-Charles Mersault Le Tessons 1er 2010 ($83)
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