Above, from left: Brett Zimmerman, founder of the Boulder Burgundy Festival, and Margot Pascal, one of the owners of Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, one of Burgundy’s oldest wineries and youngest rising stars.
Me to legendary sommelier and wine educator Jay Fletcher: “Hey, Jay! When’s the last time you tasted a flight of six Aligoté?”
Jay to me: “Never!”
Our seemingly banal exchange gives you a sense of how remarkable this year’s Boulder Burgundy Festival was.
Disclosure: the Boulder Burgundy Festival has employed me as a media consultant for more than a decade.
Remarkable because it included the gathering’s first in-person events since the 2019 festival.
Remarkable because wine writer (and my dear friend) Alice Feiring flew in to present a flight of six different expressions of Aligoté, many of which are produced in diminutive amounts and were painstakingly sourced by festival founder Brett Zimmerman.
Remarkable because the brand-spanking-new Coravin sparkling wine preservation system had its in-person debut on the first day of the festival (a wine tool that many agreed is going to be a game-changer for restaurants).
Remarkable because Margot Pascal, co-owner of one of Burgundy’s oldest estates and one of its youngest rising stars, presented two flights of her family’s wines, including a showstopper Givry monopole and two wines made from Chardonnay and Chardonnay Musqué, a rare clone that wowed the roughly 30 collectors and wine professionals who had gathered to taste at the festival’s Sunday seminar.
Above: Brett Zimmerman and Bobby Stuckey, co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine where the event’s marquee dinner was held on Saturday night.
Tasting with Margot, at both her Sunday seminar and the Saturday night marquee dinner at Frasca, was one of the wine highlights of my year.
As Brett pointed out at the Sunday event, her wines are relatively new to the U.S. market and are already highly allocated. We were extremely fortunate to get to taste her family’s bottlings, all raised on her family’s estate, where wine has been continuously made for more than nine centuries.
They purchased the historic but then run-down farm in 2004 and have spent the last decade and a half restoring the iconic property and reviving the grape growing and winemaking there. The farm is organic certified and Margot’s family has employed biodynamic farming practices there for at least four years.
These wines are soon going to be impossibly hard to come by, Brett noted.
And if her Givry premier cru and Givry Clos Pascal monopole weren’t enough to bring the crowd to its feet, Margot’s Montagny Les Combes premier cru, made from Chardonnay and Chardonnay Musqué, would have been a showstopper on its own. It comes from some forgotten rows of the latter clone that Margot’s family discovered when they took over the property.
When’s the last time you tasted two vintages of Montagny Les Combes side-by-side? When’s the last time you tasted a Chardonnay Musqué? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Above: when’s the last time you tasted six different Aligoté in one sitting? If the answer is “yes,” please stop reading this post!
And if Margot’s flights weren’t enough to bring the house down (they did just that on Saturday night at Frasca, which turns into a French restaurant once a year for the festival), the flight of Aligoté presented by Alice was as utterly eye-opening as it was wholly delicious.
Alice, as the delighted group of tasters learned, has spent a lot of time on the ground in Burgundy tasting and researching Aligoté, a white grape often overlooked because of Chardonnay’s lucrative dominance.
“I love an underdog,” she said.
There was also a moving tribute to her close friend Becky Wasserman, for whom we all raised the first glass of wine that morning. We learned that there will be a tribute bottling of Aligoté produced to honor her legacy, career, and behemoth influence in the wine world. It will be made from vines planted in Becky’s birth year. “She loved Aligoté,” said Alice. “She loved an underdog.”
Gauging from the ooos and aahs emanating from the tasters, the flight seemed to thrill the room with its astounding range of aromas, flavors, and textures. More than one taster, including some top wine professionals who were in attendance, remarked on how these wines over-delivered.
And Alice gave a benchmark talk about her experiences with the wines and the people who make them.
The word remarkable was uttered more than once.
Above: Bobby presents the back of the house at Frasca on the night of the marquee dinner featuring Margot’s wines.
But maybe the most extraordinary thing about the festival was the fact that for most, it was the first in-person wine event they had attended since 2020. Last year’s festival was held entirely online. And it wasn’t clear if an in-person festival was going to be possible this year. What a blessing it was to be there: seeing cherished friends and colleagues after so much time apart was a deeply emotional experience for many, me included.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to Brett, the Boulder Wine Merchant crew, and the greater Boulder wine community for hosting Tracie and me this year. What an incredible experience.