Everything You Need to Know About the Boulder Burgundy Wine Festival

10 years ago this fall, Master Sommelier and owner of the Boulder Wine Merchant, Brett Zimmerman, launched the first-ever Boulder Burgundy Festival. 

This fall, despite the challenges posed by social distancing, Zimmerman and his team are celebrating the 10th anniversary of what has become one of the most important fine wine gatherings across the U.S.

This year’s festival is going to be different, of course. All the seminars are going to be held on Zoom. Even the Grand Tasting — another one of the festival’s most popular event (because guests get to taste literally hundreds of wines) — will be held virtually. 

But the upside of this year’s virtual festival is that even more winemakers will be involved this year. Generally, there’s been just one featured producer for each festival. But this year, there will be a number of winemakers and grape growers connecting from France.

The other great news about this year’s festival is that Zimmerman has decided to make the seminars open to anyone across the world who wants to follow along. This represents a truly unique opportunity for young sommeliers and wine professionals to interact directly with some of the top winemakers in Burgundy today.

The History of the Boulder Burgundy Festival

From the outset, Zimmerman has always said that he wanted to create an event modeled after much larger gatherings — such as the La Paulée de New York and La Paulée de San Francisco. These events were founded by his friend and colleague Daniel Johnnes, one of New York’s most well-known sommeliers and a much-admired member of the Burgundy community in America.

In the early years of Johnnes’ festival, Johnnes asked Zimmerman and a number of Master Sommeliers to help get his festival off the ground. And as is typical of the Court of Sommeliers community, all were eager to help. 

That’s where Zimmerman’s germ of an idea was born: To create an event similar to La Paulée in New York and San Francisco, but not as large, and not as exclusive. 

From day one of planning, Zimmerman wanted the Boulder Burgundy Festival to be enjoyed by everyone — from top collectors to your average-Jane-and-Joe wine lovers who want to learn more about Burgundy — a wine region known for its prohibitive prices.

Highlights of the 2020 Boulder Burgundy Wine Festival

Zimmerman also wanted to add an event that was modeled directly after the famous La Paulée de Mersault in France. Every fall, Burgundian winemakers gather in the village of Mersault once the harvest is finished to celebrate the vintage. 

The event is called La Paulée (from the French word poile or sautée pan) because in the 1920s, when the historic La Paulée was held, the food served was always simple country food. The word paulée means literally a panful or the amount that a pan will hold. The idea was that the meal that was to be served would be cooked in a single pan.

Zimmerman drew inspiration from the original La Paulée to create what would become the Boulder Burgundy Festival’s signature event, the “Paulée-Inspired Lunch.” 

At this year’s virtual festival, it won’t be possible to hold the lunch, of course. But beyond the seminars and tastings that will feature top producers from Burgundy, Zimmerman plans to make the Grand Tasting a sort of “cocktail party,” where guests can ask questions and trade notes and impressions about wines. The idea, he notes, is to recreate the conviviality of the in-person festival. 

Notable Guests at the Boulder Burgundy Festival

Over the years, Brett has hosted some of the world’s leading wine writers at the festival. This includes (but isn’t limited to) Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov, and Food & Wine magazine executive wine editor Ray Isle have all attended and been featured speakers.

Each year, the fest also includes top Burgundy producers like Étienne de Montille, Jean-Marc Roulot, and Jeremy Seysses and many others among them. They fly in especially for the festival to connect with clients and old friends. 

This year’s events will feature seminars with Julie Gros of the famed Anne Gros winery and Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon. 

Many sommeliers have volunteered their time to help out at the fest, including numerous Master Sommeliers (like Bobby Stuckey, Jay Fletcher, and Carlton McCoy) and celebrity sommeliers (like Rajat Parr and Robert Bohr). They do so in part because the close-knit wine community in the U.S. sees the immense value in helping the younger and less-experienced sommeliers learn more about the wines of this region.

This year’s gathering will feature talks by high-profile wine professionals like Lyle Railsback from Kermit Lynch imports and Bertrand Leulliette, owner of Bertrand’s Wines.

Enjoying Wine for a Good Cause

While the less-experienced volunteers get to taste otherwise prohibitively priced wines, including many rare bottles, the higher-profile sommeliers have an opportunity to help their community while also raising money for charity.

The Boulder Burgundy Festival raises money for local and national charities. All the money raised by the festival is paid directly to the selected charities, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved. 

This year’s charities include There with Care, which provides services to families and children in times of medical crisis; Impact on Education, which addresses economic and learning barriers for public school students; and Somm Foundation, which raises money to help young wine professionals travel to Europe to study wine.

How to Attend the Boulder Burgundy Festival

All you have to do is visit the Boulder Burgundy Festival website. There, you will find the option to register for each event by making a donation of your choice (including a $0 donation). 

All the money donated will go directly to this year’s charity partners. In keeping with the spirit of this now ten-year-old festival, Zimmerman encourages wine professionals from all walks of life to sign up. And because it’s all going to be happening virtually, participants can be anywhere in the country — or the world.

10 Years and Still Going Strong

Even though this year’s event is much smaller than previous years, the planning has been just as challenging. Zimmerman and the Boulder Wine Merchant want to share their heartfelt thanks to all of this year’s volunteers, as well as the festival’s sponsor partners. 

This year also marks the first year that the festival has a “title sponsor,” Coravin.

For those not familiar with the Coravin wine preservation opener, they allow you to pour the wine from the bottle without removing the cork.

Coravin founder and inventor Greg Lambrecht will be joining us this year for a special seminar featuring Domaine des Comtes Lafon.

Of course, the festival wouldn’t be possible without the guests. Zimmerman and the Boulder Wine Merchant would also like to share their warm thanks to everyone who has helped to make the Boulder Burgundy Festival such a wonderful experience for everyone involved over these last 10 years.

Sign up for the 2020 Boulder Burgundy Wine Festival today >