It turns out Oktoberfest and beer aren’t the only things Europe has going for it in the fall. The French celebrate the grape harvest in Burgundy with La Paulée de Meursault. It started with a congenial lunch party but soon evolved into an international wine celebration.
Merriman’s Kapalua Beverage Director Jeff Groh promises that once you taste Burgundy, it will change your life forever. He should know, because he’s been tasting them all year and has picked his favorites to highlight at this fete that promises no California and no corkage: in fact, in classic French tradition, he’s encouraging everyone to bring their favorite Burgundy pick.
“Everybody has a list and going to La Paulee is definitely one of those things I have to do before I kick the bucket,” says Groh. “I figure if we can get this rolling as a super fun annual wine event, it will help me pass time until I meet the right member of the French aristocracy and get an invite to the party in Meursault. Another consideration was just trying to come up with an event that was both wine-focused and super fun. I’d rather throw a wine party than a stuffy wine dinner and the whole history of the La Paulee fit perfect into that mindset. I was especially stoked on the idea of a wine event where everybody could bring a bottle to share–you just don’t see those types of events very often in a restaurant. Operators are often too focused on just selling wine at these dinners. We wanted to make sure we were selling fun.”
The Burgundy region in France is known for its glorious pinot noir and Chardonnay. This event is about recognizing and tasting the richness in beautiful grapes grown in this region for about 2,000 years. The first La Paulee events were organized in the 1920s by Count Lafon and attended by winemakers and their close cohorts. These days there’s a charity auction, formal dinner and the lunch held in the Chateau de Meursault is attended by over 700 wine enthusiasts.
“Flavor, aroma, structure and history set these wines from Burgundy apart from the rest,” says Groh. “Sure, you can occasionally run into a wine from Oregon, Cali or New Zealand that smells like it could’ve been Burgundy, but they’re rare. When Burgundy is really good–and this is both reds and whites–they’re sumptuously layered with aromas and flavors. From a purely structural standpoint, Burgundies at their best balance on a razor’s edge of ripeness: where delicacy in structure is balanced by multilayered aromatic complexity. The wines dance on the mouth.”
What’s more, your opu will be satiated by a thrilling five courses designed to go with the wines. That means bringing your appetite to experience Hawaiian Regional Cuisine with a French twist, and sometimes French cuisine with a Polynesian influence.
“It’s a two-part theme to the dinner,” says Groh. “Part one, dishes that will go great with the wine; and part two, Hawaii Regional Cuisine but with a bit more of a nod to French culinary influence. The first course is a composed cheese dish; second course is an opakapaka royal glacage; third course is a quail and cocks comb dish that, excluding the passionfruit, isn’t that far afield from a coq au vin dish you’d find in a Parisian bistro; fourth course is a duo of prime beef; and dessert is a Kula strawberry crepe. Chef always does a great job of incorporating the flow of wines into the design of his menus. We have two clear white wine-friendly courses and two courses that will be brilliant with pinot noir.”
As for what what wines Groh will be pouring, he says there will be “a white from a lieu-dit that Dominique Lafon owns in the Macon, a 1er Cru Meursault that was produced by Michel Picard for the Hospices de Beaune, an epic Bourgogne rouge from 2009 that was made by the great Frederic Magnien, a Passetoutgrain from Robert Chevillon that is made from 45 year old pinot noir vines in a declassed area of Nuits-St-Georges and a 2005 Morey St Denis from Auguste and Lucien Lignier.”
So is Groh taking off to the original La Paulee anytime soon? Probably not.
“Hey France I’m still waiting for my invitation,” he says. “Don’t make me feel like the last girl that gets invited to the dance!”