La Paulee 2013 NYC Gala Dinner-Lessons Learned

Let me start this by saying I was very disappointed. My instincts told me that if you are not at the right table you will not get to drink really well. I tried through multiple phone calls to get good positioning, but to no avail. The people at my table were very nice, but I was bringing relatively great burgundies with age and anticipated the same in return, which Daniel was aware of. Don C from the BB was there and it was a pleasure to meet him. A couple of winemakers were at our table and they were a pleasure to talk with. When you are not in the in crowd you don’t get the good stuff. A little of the good stuff wandered our way, but only 10% at most of what the in-crowd gets. Daniel and his staff were lovely, but for me they did not deliver. I wandered the room and exchanged some of my wine for other wines of similar caliber, but too much effort went into doing this and it made me feel a little like a beggar.

Then there is the issue of cost. $1500 to attend is not cheap. The food while very good and prepared by great chefs, should have knocked my socks off. The best wine they poured a nice glass of was Jadot 1990 Beaune Clos Ursulles. They rest was good, but not $1500 good. For my wife and myself $3000 would buy a meal at the best Manhattan has to offer with $2500 to spend on wine. The numbers for this event do not add up. For a little more I could spend a week in Burgundy including food and airfare and taste wine at many Domaines.

I am not sorry I attended, it was a life lesson, and I thought it should be on my bucket list. In the current format I will not revisit the experience.

BTW, the Grand Tasting of 2010 burgundy was worth the money and very enjoyable.

Hi Andy - nice to see you here, but I’m sorry to read of your disappointing experience.

Good to know as I plan to attend in SF next year.

Anyone know if SF is different or if the challenge is the same for the Gala dinner?

Interesting. What did you bring? And when you say that the staff “didn’t deliver”, what were you looking for them to deliver that they didn’t?

Out of my curiosity, what did you bring and what did the rest of your table bring?

Am I to understand that for $1500 a seat you have to bring your own wine ? Or is this in addition to what Daniel was pouring? If Daniel was also pouring, did they pour different wines at different tables?

I brought a 1969 Prieur Volnay Santenots 1971 Leroy Echezeaux, 1979 Dujac Clos de La Roche and a Magnum of 1983 Burklin Wolfe Eiswein. This was for the three of. Don C who was at my table brought a 1990 Gros Richborg, Trapet the winemaker poured a 2000 Chambertin, there were some older whites that were interesting. I didn’t see much else that was that interesting.

P…I mentioned several times that I was bringing old reds,even perhaps a mag of DRC, to the organizers. I then had a lengthy discussion about the type of table I would like to sit at if possible. I was assured I would be at a really appropriate table. This simply did not happen.

Dale, you do not have to bring any wine, this is optional. Some people bring a lot of wine, some none.

Diane, glad to be here. Thanks

LOL. Given the “in crowd’s” willingness to buy, sell, and fawn over staggering quantities of fake Burgundy and the purveyors of same, consider yourself lucky.

Also, that’s hilarious that the best wine they poured for $1500 a head was a 1990 Jadot Beaune. What a swindle.

Hey Andrew! Sorry I didn’t run into you over the weekend and last night as I would have definitely shared several nice things with you… Sorry your expectations were not met and that others around you didn’t help to make your dinner better! There are many fun and generous people/friends that attend the Paulee weekend that make the whole weekend a must for me - I try my best to meet/share with all of them as my life is richer because of it. CHEERS

Just out of curiosity/to be contrarian, what exactly did you expect the organizers to do for you? You are hardly the only one out of close to 400 dinner attendees who brought old reds - that’s kind of the point. In theory, it shouldn’t (and doesn’t) matter which table you are at. I think your beef is with your table-mates, not Daniel, Bethany, etc.

Andrew, I get where you’re coming from. I attended the past 2 Gala Dinners, but not this year. For my wife and I, $3K per year is nothing to smirk at. And that’s with the full understanding that you will not get “great wines” other than those you bring or that others share. The “in-crowd” tables aren’t 100% guaranteed Burg nirvana. Even DRC can be corked or flawed and you often don’t get adequate quality time (or in past years, sufficient glassware) to appreciate a number of wines that deserve an entire evening’s contemplation. It’s an excellent party with some extremely generous attendees. To some extent, it’s what you make of it. Jon and Don Cornutt are both great fun, wherever your table. Although young, that 2000 Trapet Chambertin is a darn nice wine.


It was nice to meet Andrew. I was at the other end of the table which was a long way.

We had a few really nice things and tried to send them up.
We should have corraled you down to our end.

I understand your point of view however. I came for the first time in a while this year with about 6 friends from ATL. We made it a party along with Dominic from Montreal and his sommelier friend.

Our sommelier was fantastic. She is the new wine director for David Chang. The eiswein was out of sight btw. Hope you enjoyed the Jean Gros Richebourg.
We also sent up a 2000 Corton Reynards from Leroy and a few other goodies. The only person around you that I knew was Craig Ganzer at the end of your table.

Anyway, we should have moved you down with us. The Jobards were nice but we corraled Phillip Proust from Bouchard and he brought a ton of stuff over. He is major fun. Most all the wines were young but all outstanding! Baby Jesus 99 out of magnum was in a good place! 1993 La Romanee was wonderful.


I totally understand your feeling. The same thing happened to me several years ago. I went to La Paulee, and had several email exchanges with the organizers about some of my friends who were attending and had asked to be seated with or near them. I had planned to bring a fine Burgundy, but when a friend of mine saw what I was bringing, he whispered to me “If you bring that, you will be humiliated. Most people will bring legendary wines.” So, I tossed the bottle I was planning on bringing, and brought a couple of bottles of DRC.

When I got there, to my surprise, I was not seated with any of my friends, but at a “no man’s land” table. The wines the others brought were ordinary Burgundy or new world pinot wines. My wines stood out like sore thumbs. The others at my table gladly helped themselves while I drank their Oregon pinot.

The food was basically hotel food. I’m not slamming it, just describing it. Just too many people–its like they are cooking for a hotel banquet. The idea that Michel Troisgros or Daniel Boulud is preparing your food in an artisanal way is myth.

Also, to me, it was just too much of a good thing. I actually went away thinking the oeno-orgy disrespected the wines. Each wine was better than the next. One legend was upped by a better legend.

That was the last La Paulee I attended. I so respect the organizers, and the idea. Daniel J. does an amazing job and I’m really glad they do this. It just isn’t for me. I’d prefer a mag of La Tache over a nice dinner with 2-4 people, and for less money.

Sorry, but $1500 for a BYO?
Was P.T. Barnum the maître d’?

Thanks for sharing your cautionary tale. I have never attended La Paulee. I considered going this year, but by the time the American Express exclusive purchasing period was over, the vertical tastings were sold out. The gala dinner sounds like a potentially great experience, but as I would have been going alone, it also seemed like a bit of $1500 crap shoot. Which left the grand tasting, no doubt a great and informative event, but in the end not worth the trip for me by itself.

I went once and loved meeting people I had only encountered on the web, chet kern among them. But it was too frantic and when I had to dump a great Bonnes Mares just to try quickly another wine, I felt it disrespectful to these great wines. I didnt get to pay enough attention to the wines and it was all way too rushed.

Thank you all for justifying my absence in this year and in others. I think Wilfred said it best… I’d rather drink my mag of La Tache with a group of 2-4 over a nice dinner.

That’s my experience with almost all gatherings larger than 4-6 people.


Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it. I can imagine its tough when you don’t have a crew together. If you give it another chance, let Favre and I know!


Never been to this big NYC La Paulee, but Antonio’s La Festa del Barolo is based on this event. The first La Festa (2011) was quite enjoyable, but the dinner was less than half that price ($700 per), and I was sitting with my long-time Barolo group. I would say that is key. Put together your own group, then ask for a table for your group. Then you can all agree about the type of wines. There were only 8 people to a table at La Festa (including 2 winemakers at ours). Sounds like there were more at La Paulee from Don’s description.