What do you call a dinner where 380 people bring their own wines? A party. But when people bring some of the best Burgundies from top vintages in the last 60 years (and each person pays $1,400 for the privilege of attending), it's the best BYO bash of the year, officially known as La Paulée de New York.
Held on March 3 at Skylight, a SoHo events space, this was the fourth La Paulée in New York since the inaugural event was held in 2000 (in 2001, it was staged in San Francisco). The gathering of Burgundy lovers from around the United States was started by New York sommelier Daniel Johnnes, who based his event on the annual harvest party in the village of Meursault, in Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
"It really hasn't changed in many ways," said Johnnes. "It's all about people getting together and sharing wine and having a good time. Because Burgundy is in great demand in today's world, it's gotten a lot bigger."
La Paulée is essentially a Burgundy love-fest celebrating the wine, food and conviviality of the region. Each year it starts with a walk-around tasting of red and white Burgundies in the afternoon, with many winemakers on hand to pour and discuss their wines. (This year the wines came primarily from the 2004 vintage.) That evening is a six-course dinner, this year prepared by chefs Daniel Boulud, Michael Mina, Michel Troisgros and Olivier Muller.
But just as the Meursault harvest party started small--as a lunch at Domaine des Comtes Lafon in 1923--and became an event at which growers brought bottles from their cellars to share with other growers and harvest workers, La Paulée de New York's dinner features some of the rarest Burgundy treasures, shared by all. Guests passed bottles big and small from famous names and places such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Leroy, Dujac, Coche-Dury, Ramonet, Raveneau, Jadot, Rousseau and de Vogüé, just to name a few. Many wines hailed from vintages in the 1950s and '60s.
But the bonhomie was not without a cause. The evening, which included an auction, raised $239,000 for City Meals on Wheels. The top bid was $50,000 for a jeroboam of Dujac Fils & Père Romanée-St.-Vivant 2005. Jeroboams of this famous grand cru, from the debut vintage under the Dujac label, are not available commercially.
Next year, Johnnes plans to take the party back to San Francisco. "It's a great market there, and I think it's time to go back, probably in March."