Last week I had the opportunity to experience Burgundy in New York City. No, not this fall’s fashionable color; I’m talking about Burgundy, France – the heart of Pinot Noir and my home away from home. La Paulée is a traditional celebration for the end-of-harvest in Burgundy. It has a long history in Meursault specifically, but I can tell you from experience, that many towns and villages still have “paulée” parties when the grape picking is finished. The two Paulées I have been to in France featured friends gathered around long tables filled with food and many bottles of wine. Everyone laughed, drank and sang songs (like this one of course) until the wee hours of the morning.
Daniel Johnnes, wine Director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, author, and importer has done so much to further the understanding and appreciation of Burgundy (wine and culture) in the United States. In particular, he founded La Paulée in 2000, an annual event that alternates between NYC and San Francisco every year. The biggest names in Burgundy winemaking, along with some rising stars, come to the States to celebrate the new vintages and, as is true in Burgundy, bring people together in a casual, fun atmosphere of food and wine. This year, I got to experience what I love about France in my new home of NYC.
My ticket into the rather prestigious event was actually thanks to my stint as an Au Pair, and not my current job in the wine industry – oddly enough. The winemaker who hired me as a nanny for his children in 2010, is one of the selected wine makers involved in the event each year. I was so excited to see him and his friends whom I had spent so much time with during my year in France. After catching up with them in between actual tasting sessions, I made sure to do my own share of wine tasting; how could I pass up drinking some of the best Pinot Noirs? The best part of my short time at the event was a casual run-in with Aubert de Villaine, winemaker from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, one of the most famous and sought-after wine producers in Burgundy. As I stood next to this man who I knew “looked so familiar,” I just couldn’t put my finger on who he was. I was mid-conversation with Erwan Faiveley from Domaine Faiveley, when Aubert came up next to me. Nonchalantly, Erwan said hello to him, poured him some wine and continued talking to me. I looked up (Mr. Villaine is tall) and remember thinking that I recognized this man for his dark, very particular, eyebrows. I knew I should have know who he was, and I didn’t want to stupidly introduce myself, so I just smiled and moved along my way. It was only when I returned to work and “googled” him (my answer to any and everything) that I realized who I had been standing next to.
Even if I didn’t get a chance to attend the gala dinner, and even if I didn’t know who Aubert de Villaine was, it was such a great experience to spend time in the same room as these great wine producers of Burgundy. Even more important for me, it was special to visit with my French family! As I continue my career in this amazing industry of wine, I know that my relationships with these people will continue to grow, and my world will continue to shrink – in a good way.