A special week, actually more like two weeks, wrapped up in Kansas City last weekend.
It was the end of La Paulee Burgundy Week, a celebration of all things Burgundy, France, but mainly the food and the wine of the region.
La Paulee began as a harvest festival in the small town of Mersault, Burgundy, back in the 1920s. In 1990, the festival was brought to New York City, then later to San Francisco. This year, for the first time ever, La Paulee made it to to Kansas City’s Tannin Wine Bar Kitchen.
Tannin’s general manager Barry Tunnell was the man largely responsible for bringing the Burgundy bash to town. I caught up with him to ask him how things went, and asked him to share any lessons learned.
“I think that we’ve confirmed some things that we already thought — first, Burgundy and its wines are extremely important from a historic perspective, they’re delicious and they’re wonderful to pair with food,” he said.
There’s also a maddening amount of information to know about the wines of Burgundy, Tunnell said.
“Many of the wines are very rare and highly sought after,” he said. “Some times, though, it feels like these are wines that are more talked about than drank.”
I got the chance to attend two of La Paulee’s events, a fabulous six-course dinner featuring the food of Tannin’s executive chef Brian Aaron and the wines of importer Neal Rosenthal and a magnificent Burgundy tasting featuring more than 60 white and red Burgundies.
First, let me share some thoughts about the dinner, which was like stepping into a Burgundian cookbook from 50 years ago. The dinner, a sumptuous six-course affair, served up one Burgundian classic after other.
Escargot en Croute was followed by a Red Wine Poached Egg, then a grilled Frog Leg, Rabbit Confit, Boeuf Bourguignon and finally Crepe Suzette. Each course was paired with one of Rosenthal’s stellar Burgundy wines and the matches were spot on.
The best match of the night, in my opinion, was the Pulled Rabbit Confit, Egg Noodle, and Dijon Cream Sauce with the Edmond Cornue 2008 Ladoix. Ladoix is a lesser-known Burgundian bottling and it was the first time I’d had it. Even though it’s a village-level wine — one of the lower Burgundy classifications — the Ladoix still impressed. Somehow, it managed to be both heavy and light simultaneously. While I may not be able to crack the Ladoix code, and I can say it was my favorite red wine of the night and the perfect partner for the rabbit.
I had a favorite white wine food and wine pairing as well. The wine was the Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers Premier Cru. The Chassagne was lined up with the Grilled Frog Leg. The Frog Leg was fine. The wine was stellar, a testament to just how good white Burgundies can be and a reminder that I need to drink them more often.
La Paulee Week concluded with a Grand Tasting with no fewer than 62 Burgundy wines on display. The tasting was originally scheduled for the beginning of La Paulee Week, but nasty nasty weather forced organizers to reschedule. I couldn’t have been happier. Not because they had to reschedule, but because I was out of town on the original date but in town and present for Burgundy tasting date deux.
I’m embarrassed to say that I tried the majority of the wines, though I did my fair share of dumping, and I attacked the tables with an aggressive plan. My idea was to try the whites first in order of weight — Chablis and Mersault followed by Chassagne and Puligny — then dive into the reds, focusing on wines from the Cote d’Or and Cote Chalonnaise. If I had any time, any or any palette, left, I would then tackle the Cru Beaujolais.
For the most part, my plan worked. As for the wines, there wasn’t a disappointment in the bunch. The Val de Mer Petit Chablis at $20 perhaps provided the most “bang for the buck” as far as white were concerned. The white wine of the tasting, in my opinion, was the Domaine Bachellet-Monnot Puligny Montrachet. At $64, unfortunately, I will not be purchasing it by the case.
As for the reds, there were many that I enjoyed immensely, but five that absolutely blew me away. They were the Gevrey-Chambertins of Domaine Harmand-Geoffr, a village wine, an old vine expression, two single vineyards and a premier cru “Monopole,” meaning they are the sole producers of wine from that vineyard.
Ranging from $64 to $82 a bottle, the Harmand-Geoffroy Gevery-Chambertins don’t come cheap, but boy do they ever pack a punch. These wines were everything you’d want in a Red Burdundy-layers of fruit, hints of earth and spice, long finishes and complexity most wines don’t come close to approaching. These are exactly the kinds of wines Tunnell wanted to get into people’s glasses.
Looking ahead, Tunnell wants more — more wines, more events, more exposure to some of the greatest wines in the world.
“Burgundy will continue to be a centerpiece of our wine program at Tannin,” he said. “We’ll continue to share top quality Burgundies by the taste, glass and bottle. We’ll also seek to host more exciting Burgundy events, tastings, and dinners with special guests who work directly with the Burgundy region.
“From the top to the bottom of the classification, the best producers in this region are making immensely charming, beautiful, characterful wines.”
In the end, all I can say is, “Thank you, Barry. Let’s do it all again.”
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.