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A Week in Burgundy With John Truax (Part 4)

SUNDAY November 15th 

We were invited to a grand lunch at Becky Wasserman’s house in Bouilland. Her husband Russell Hone is a celebrated amateur cook who once worked for celebrated  Richard Olney. He made a dish that he has become renowned for - leg of lamb with 100 cloves of garlic. Take a leg of lamb, generously salt and pepper, brown in goose fat, flame in brandy, add 100 peeled cloves of garlic, cover with Sauternes and cook at a low temperature overnight until the meat is falling off the bone. Lunch for eighteen people, young and old, mostly people in the wine business, some very early in their careers, some retired, semi-retired or just tired - like me.

Champagne aperitif, lovely raw oysters with 2010 Bessin Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume. With the lamb we had great wines - 2007 Denis Bachelet Gevrey Chambertin, 2007 Domaine Dublere Charmes Chambertin, 1999 Gouges Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Chaignots, 1999 Leroy Nuits St Georges les Lavieres - quite the Sunday lunch! 

After lunch at Becky’s, Jay and I got a ride back to Beaune and went directly to the Hospices de Beaune auction. We went through the security checkpoint at the market hall in the center of Beaune. The auction had been going on for several hours. It had started in the morning after a moment of silence and the 600 or so in attendance rose and sang La Marseillaise. This is not how the Hospices auction usually starts.

The first barrel sold was purchased by Huang Shan, the beautiful Chinese wine writer who sat opposite me the night before. I saw my friend Pascal Marchand and went over to sit with him and ask how the auction was progressing. We chatted quietly while listening to the auctioneer. I noticed other people I knew in the crowd and went to speak to one of the New Yorkers I was with the day before. He told me he had been outbid on every barrel he wanted to get and was dismayed. The prices were through the roof. He thought the best wine was the Clos de la Roche Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron / Georges Kritter. The barrel sold for a record price, $117,700 Euros. The piece du Presidente, a 228 liter barrel of 2015 Corton-Renardes sold for a record $480,000 euros - purchased by an unidentified donor in Paris who wanted to donate it to the victims of the terror attacks. A third of that money will go to a national federation for victims and the remainder will be split between two medical foundations, the Institute Curie and the AVC Foundation.

There had been spontaneous bouts of fundraising throughout the day for the same reason. The American branch of the Chevaliers du Tastevin donated 40,000 Euros. The very front rows of the auctions hall were filled with negociants, Drouhin, Champy, Bouchard, and the like. They were waiting to snap up some barrels at reasonable prices just like they’ve done for generations. I saw Benjamin Leroux come in, sit down for about five minutes, raise his paddle, purchase a barrel and promptly leave. He obviously had done his research. Jay successfully bought a barrel of Meursault Charmes Cuvee Albert Grivault. Until 2005 when Christie’s took over the Hospices auction, only negociants could buy barrels, individual purchasers were unable to buy directly.

Sunday night we went to dinner at the Bistro L’Hotel. Me, Jay, our three New York wine trade friends. Again, there here was much discussion over what wines to order for dinner. I wanted to get a magnum of 2007 Chignard Fleurie Cuvee Speciale to go with the poulet de bresse but these guys didn’t come all the way to Burgundy to drink Beaujolais. I lobbied for a magnum of 2000 Simon Bize Savigny Les Beaune Bourgeots, which is what we finally agreed on. We had a bottle of champagne to start and some white burgundy with wonderful spring rolls filled with langoustines.  We ordered the chicken and rare steak and drank too much wine. It was not too contentious of a meal.