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Scenes from a “Paulée-inspired” lunch at the wonderful Flagstaff House

raj parr burgundy

Posting in a hurry this morning, as I prepare to head to the Chablis Brunch at Kitchen Upstairs this morning: an end-of-the-night gathering of sommeliers at Pizzeria Locale kept a blogger up until the wee hours.

But here are a few quick highlights from yesterday’s sold-out “Paulée-inspired” lunch at the wonderful Flagstaff House, one of the top dining destinations in the U.S. today.

That’s the inimitable Rajat Parr pouring for guests, above.

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One half of the restaurant was filled with collectors. The other half with wine trade members. Everyone brought collectible and rare Burgundy from their cellars.

better scallop

The food was stupendous. Can you imagine a better dish to pair with great Chardonnay?

brett zimmerman master sommelier

Festival founder and Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman (standing, foreground) was remarkably calm despite the challenges posed by organizing a weekend of events for leading American wine collectors and professionals. But then again, with so much top-flight wine being poured so liberally, levity was in order. That’s Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey in the background, pouring.

don monette mark

Those are Flagstaff House owners Don (left) and Mark Monette. Chef Mark’s cooking is sensational (more on that later). Super nice people, too. When I asked if I could snap a photo of them, Don said with the biggest smile, “I’m very proud of my son.”

how to pour burgundy wine

We’ll be posting more notes from this incredible lunch and other festival events shortly.

Stay tuned… Now it’s time to go taste some more Burgundy.

Notes from the Guild of Sommeliers “Old and Rare” Tasting

richard betts sommelier boulder

Yesterday’s “Old and Rare” tasting was presented by Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher (standing), who has mentored many of the top wine professionals working in the U.S. today.

The wines came from the Guild of Sommeliers “trust”: a collection of rare wines donated to the Guild by a leading American collector. They are used for educational purposes and also, as in this case, to raise money for the myriad scholarships that the Guild offers to young American wine professionals.

As Jay pointed out, the modest fee per seat at the event hardly came close to the value of the wines being poured.

The seated panelists, all of them Master Sommeliers, from the foreground moving back: Brett Zimmerman owner of the Boulder Wine Merchant and founder of the festival; Bobby Stuckey, owner and wine director at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder; and Richard Betts, author and spirits producer.

jay fletcher master sommelier

What a flight of wine!!!

From left to right:

Domaine Jean Collet 2004 Chablis Valmur Grand Cru
Domaine Ramonet 1993 Bievenues-Batard Montrachet Grand Cru
Domaine Paul Pernot 1998 Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Camille Giroud 1976 Corton-Clos du Roi Grand Cru

The highlight of this first flight was the Paul Pernot, which elicited high praise from each of the panelists.

Bobby noted its “electric” character underneath its “richness,” calling it one of the greatest values in the flight.

best flight burgundy wines

Wine collector Adam Plotkin, who attended the tasting, shared this photo of all the labels.

It was such a thoughtfully chosen flight and it brilliantly illustrated the breadth of Burgundy and its aging potential.

Here’s the second flight that was poured:

Domaine Michel Lafarge 1995 Beaune-Grèves 1er Cru
Louis Jadot 1990 Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru
Domaine Georges Roumier 1982 Ruchottes Chambertin Grand Cru
Domaine Emmanuel Rouget 1998 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaumonts 1er Cru

The Louis Jadot was arguably the stand-out.

Jay talked about what an exceptional, however warm, vintage this was for Burgundy.

“One of the greatest,” he said, “and most successful.”

Brett noted the “powerful core of fruit” in this now twenty-four-year-old wine.

But perhaps even more so than the wines, the stars were the panelists themselves.

It was incredible, for example, to hear Richard rattle off vintage notes on the 1998 harvest from the top of his head.

To watch the four Master Sommeliers banter as they traded impressions and insights was spectacular.

The Boulder Burgundy Festival begins! #BBF14

master sommeliers boulder

The festival kicked off officially this morning at 11 a.m. with a fantastic tasting led by Master Sommeliers, from left, Brett Zimmerman, Bobby Stuckey, Richard Betts, and Jay Fletcher.

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They led a rapt audience of collectors and trade through a dream flight of older wines from the Guild of Sommeliers trust (see the wines below).

best burgundy tasting

We’ll be posting more notes from the panel member’s talks and tasting notes for the wines.

But in the meantime, we just wanted to get this initial post up to let you know that Boulder Burgundy Festival 2014 has begun… stay tuned!

Olivier Bernstein, yes! Olivier Bernstein to be poured at this year’s festival

olivier bernstein wine burgundy

“There’s not a lot of opportunities to taste wines like these in the U.S.,” said William Davis a Denver-based regional trade ambassador for the Wilson Daniels company, a leading importer of fine wine in North America.

He was referring to the wines of Olivier Bernstein, some of the most sought-after labels from Burgundy today.

When Bernstein signed a contract with Wilson Daniels just over a year ago, it marked the first time his wines would be available to the general public. Until Bernstein agreed to allow the importer to bring them into the U.S., they had only been accessible to a small group of elite, fine wine collectors.

“We actually received the wines in March,” said Davis, “but we decided to hold them back… until now.”

When Davis pours the wines at the Boulder Burgundy Festival grand tasting a week from Sunday, they will be making their Colorado debut he said.

Pretty exciting stuff, if you ask us.

Bernstein has only been making wine in Burgundy since 2007, first as négociant and now as a vineyard owner as well. But it’s only taken the span of seven years to shoot him to the top of the charts, so to speak.

Here’s what some of the experts have been saying about the wines.

“Bernstein has put together a remarkable micro-négociant operation that now includes a few estate vineyards, including parcels in Mazis and Champeaux. The Bernstein wines are made in a fruit-driven style that is all about texture and volume… Bernstein’s wines are incredibly exciting.”

Antonio Galloni

“In a very short space of time Olivier Bernstein has established himself as a new star in Burgundy, receiving superb press notices from his very first vintage, 2007 from both Jancis Robinson and Allen Meadows among others.”

Jasper Morris, Master of Wine
Author of Inside Burgundy

“Time stopped while I had this in my mouth.”

Stephen Tanzer
International Wine Cellar

“Potentially one of the top grand crus of the vintage [2007].”

Allen Meadows

The difference a glass makes

riedel pinot noir burgundy glass

Above: Boulder Wine Merchant owner and Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman has obtained the Riedel Burgundy glass for the Fourth Annual Boulder Burgundy Festival.

It’s one of those questions that sommeliers and wine professionals get asked a lot.

“Does the shape, size, and quality of the glass make a difference in the way the wine tastes?”

The answer, not surprisingly, is yes, it does matter — a lot.

“A great wine in the wrong glass at the wrong temperature can be a train wreck,” says Boulder Wine Merchant owner, Boulder Burgundy Festival founder, and Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman.

“If you do the Pepsi challenge by tasting a great wine out of a superior glass like the Riedel Burgundy glass” made from crystal “and a Libbey glass” made from glass, “you’ll immediately smell and tast the difference.”

One of the most important things about a crystal glass is that the crystal defuses heat much more easily than the thicker, heavier glass does.

Even when a wine is cooled to the correct temperature, the Libbey glass will convey the warmth of the drinker’s body and the room temperature to the glass more quickly than a crystal glass.

But it’s also the diameter of the glass at its widest point and its aperture that help to enhance the wine lover’s experience.

Different grape varieties will perform differently depending on the size of the glass.

As Riedel writes on its website, its “Vinum” series (like the Burgundy glass pictured above, image via the Riedel site) was “the first machine-made glass in history to be based on the characteristics of grape varietal.”

Before it was created in 1986, varietally specific stemware was out of reach for most consumers.

We’re very pleased to announce that Brett has reached an agreement with the Riedel management that will allow him and his team to served all festival wines in the Riedel Vinum Burgundy (Pinot Noir) glass.

“If there were just one glass,” he says, “I could enjoy everything in that glass.”

“It’s so important for us to be respectful of the winemakers who participate and their wines. They took the time to create this beautiful wine and then they come all this way to share it with us. To serve it in a subpar glass didn’t make sense to me.”

The organizers of the Boulder Burgundy Festival would like to thank Doug Reed of Riedel and his team for making this possible.

Top US sommeliers for fourth annual Boulder Burgundy Festival

robert bohr sommelier

Above: Robert Bohr (left) and Rajat Parr (right) are just two of the leading U.S. wine professionals who will be taking part in this year’s festival (see the list below). Not only do festival-goers get to taste the wines and meet a handful of Burgundy producers, they also get to interact with some of the best sommeliers in America today.

One of the cool things about the wine world is the talented, dynamic people you meet.

And one of the coolest things about the Boulder Burgundy Festival is that it brings together some of the top wine professionals working in U.S. today (see the list below).

Here in America, we’re living through a wine “renaissance.”

A generation ago, wine seemed to be reserved solely for the entitled and elite. But today all of that has changed.

Across the nation, from large urban centers like New York and San Francisco to smaller cities like Austin, Texas and Raleigh, North Carolina, more and more restaurant professionals are obtaining “sommelier certification” from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

And even more tradespeople and laypersons are joining and following the excellent Guild of Sommeliers, which strives “to promote wine education, enrichment, collaboration and healthy debate among our members while maintaining the chief values of the sommelier profession: integrity, humility and hospitality.” The group aims “to help our members broaden their knowledge of the world’s wine regions, enhance their beverage service skills, network with other wine enthusiasts, and stay up-to-date on industry news and trends.”

And that’s not to mention the growing number of Master Sommelier candidates who are braving the rigorous testing — blind tasting, service, and theory — required to join the elite Court. There are currently 140 Master Sommeliers in the Americas and 219 worldwide and five of them (see below) will be in attendance at this year’s festival.

It’s a golden age for wine in America and many of our country’s brightest and best wine pros will be joining us this year to pour, pair, and parse the finer points of the great wines of Burgundy.

None of them are compensated for their participation: they come to trade notes, catch up with colleagues and clients, and — most importantly — to enjoy the wines and expand their own wine knowledge.

The wines and the winemakers are the stars, of course, but the gathering of so many remarkably talented wine professionals, from some of our nation’s leading restaurants, is worth the price of admission alone.

The list of participating sommeliers follows…

Grant Reynolds, Charlie Bird, NYC
Eric Railsback, Les Merchands, Santa Barbara
Jordan Salcito, Momofuku, NYC
Robert Bohr, Grand Cru Selections, NYC
Rajat Parr, Sandhi and Domaine de la Cote Wines, Santa Barbara
Mark Bright, Saison, San Francisco
Jay Fletcher, MS, Director of Fine Wine for Southern Wine and Spirits, Aspen
Carlton McCoy, MS, Wine Director of the Little Nell Hotel, Aspen
Chubby Oveges, Assistant Food and Beverage of the Little Nell Hotel, Aspen
Matt Mather, Sommelier with Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder
Carlin Karr, Sommelier with Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder
Bobby Stuckey, MS, Owner of Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder
Richard Betts, MS My Essential Wines, Sombra, Scratch & Sniff Wine Book
Carla Rzeszewski, TLU Wine Co.
Brett Zimmerman, MS, Owner of Boulder Wine Merchant, Boulder
Melanie Kamen, The Flagstaff House, Boulder
Jonathan Pullis, Chefs Club, Aspen

The woman behind the magic

best wine service colorado

Exceptional wine service requires thoughtful planning, precision, and focus.

And when you’re dealing with top Burgundy wines like those we’ll be pouring at the Boulder Burgundy Festival next month, attention to detail in event planning is key.

There are many moving parts in a festival like this and everything has to be perfect.

That’s why we turn to Heather Dwight, Boulder-based event planner and owner of Calluna Events, to run the festival.

It’s now the second year in a row that she’ll be working with us. But our relationship goes beyond our partnership for the yearly Burgundy gathering.

Throughout the course of the year, we work with her and her team on private and public wine events that we organize, from intimate tastings for high-level collectors to wine-themed parties.

And in turn, Boulder Wine Merchant owner and Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman consults with Calluna on the wines it serves at its own events.

“We partner with Boulder Wine Merchant and Brett,” says Heather, “with clients ranging from small, intimate dinner parties with wine pairings as a focus to larger cocktail parties and wedding receptions. We truly value the partnerships we have with Boulder Wine Merchant because it allows us to provide expert resources to our clients from a Master Sommelier when navigating their choices for wines for their event.”

So when every glass (or “stem” as they are called in the trade) has been polished and everything is set to go, it’s thanks to Heather and her team that the magic happens.

Click here to learn more about Heather and Calluna Events.

Domaine Lignier Michelot: it’s the “materia prima” that makes the difference

morey st denis harvest 2014

Above: The 2014 harvest team at Domaine Lignier Michelot (image via the Domaine Lignier Michelot Facebook).

As you peruse the many pages and posts about winemaker and grape grower Virgile Lignier Michelot and his family’s winery, Domaine Lignier Michelot, you find that nearly every one of the great Burgundy writers and trade insiders points to a fundamental shift in the winery when Virgile began making the wines in 2000, taking over for his father.

He underwent “an epiphany in the vineyard,” writes the legendary Burgundy merchant Becky Wasserman on her site.

She echoes a note from her son Peter: “Virgile has changed his philosophy from one of technical winemaker to passionate vitculturist where all energy is spent on ensuring the growth of the very best vines and letting the wine make itself.”

“Father and son had worked well together and without conflict,” writes Burgundy blogger and author Bill Nanson on his excellent site Burgundy Report.

“But in 2000, right from the start, Virgile chose to make changes that reflected his own philosophy — mainly in the vines. Green pruning and working the soil without herbicides were the starting point.”

(We highly recommend Bill’s profile of Virgile and the Domaine, including notes on the growing sites and a handful of tasting notes for some of the top wines.)

Peter perhaps puts it best in an anecdote about an early tasting with Virgile:

It was at a tasting in 2001 at the Domaine that Virgile pulls me off to the side.

Excitedly, he tells me, as if it is a secret, “I finally get it.”

My logical question: “What?”

Virgil: “It’s all in the vineyard. It’s not what I do in here, it’s out there. The raw material.”

Now, Virgile is a man with intensity and infectious energy. I was very excited. And I haven’t been let down since as his wines have continued to climb since that day.

Virgile represents a growing movement of young winemakers in Burgundy who have embraced transparency and anti-interventionism in winemaking over manipulation and technology.

After all, it’s the materia prima — Virgile’s “raw material” — that makes the wine, not the winemakers.

We’re thrilled that Virgile will be joining us at the Boulder Burgundy Festival this year.

Click here for details on the Friday, November 21 dinner to be held at Flagstaff House in his honor.