Location: 3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 829-4313
Date: February 27, 2014
Last year I went to an epic three night 2005 White Burgundy Dinner series (Part 1 can be found here), hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell. This year, he’s mixing it up a bit and we’re doing a 2004 Red Burgundy dinner and a separate 2006 White Burgundy tasting next week.
2004 red is a peculiar vintage. While plenty ripe, it has this reputation for the “green meanies,” a kind of odd herbaceous “green” taste. Don did a spectacular job arranging for nearly every major Grand Cru. This gives a pretty comprehensive sampling of 2004 Côte de Nuits.
This particular dinner is at Valentino, which has been a mainstay of the LA fine dining scene for decades. I first started coming here in about 1995 and it was a mind blowing change from the usual trattoria and red-sauce style Italians. Valentino is much closer to Michelin 2 star restaurant in Italy, although not as modernist as some of those are in recent years. If food in Italy turns you on, check out my Eating Italy segment.
Notice the awesome array of glasses in the background. Only about a third of them are visible. Few restaurants can handle this sort of thing, as they need over 400 stems of the same type and a dedicated Sommelier with sufficient experience and skill. Ours tonight was Julian Zaragoza, wine director, who has been at Valentino for around twenty years! He handled the whole wine service himself with extreme professionalism and personality.
We begin with a magnum of: 1990 Alain Robert Champagne Blanc de Blancs Reserve Le Mesnil. IWC 94. Bright yellow-gold with a lazy bead. Powerfully scented, strikingly complex bouquet of singed peach, pear, turbinado sugar, floral honey, marzipan and smoky minerals. Deep, palate-staining citrus and buttery orchard fruit flavors manage to be rich and energetic at once, picking up honey and talc notes with air. The long, sappy finish features seductive blood orange, minerals and a strong echo of marzipan. While this is complex enough to drink now, it also has the concentration and energy to reward further patience.
agavin: To my taste, a lovely mature Champy. Lots of complexity.
Flight 1: Musigny
2004 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Musigny. Burghound 93. Not surprisingly, this really hasn’t budged much from my initial in-bottle review published in early 2007 and I repeat that review here as it’s entirely on track, both in terms of the description but also with respect to its evolution. A simply sublime mix of spicy, elegant, pure and sophisticated red and black fruit aromas that do possess the barest trace of crushed leaf blend into supple, rich and again, extremely pure, indeed crystalline medium full flavors that are restrained and backward but not stern like those of the Bonnes Mares, all wrapped in a vibrant finish of exceptional intensity. This is superbly well focused and almost etches itself into the palate though the tannic spine is well buffered by plenty of mid-palate sap. A complete wine that will also demand a bit of patience.
agavin: Spicey, woodiest of the flight. A bit bitter on the finish with sour red fruits and a hint of cork. Kept getting better in the glass.
2004 Joseph Drouhin Musigny. Burghound 93. An exotic and spicy nose features raspberry, red current, anise and clove notes that give way to sweet, classy and notably finely detailed flavors that are also relatively forward early but tighten up considerably on the backend. In most vintages, this is the undisputed class of the cellar and while it may ultimately be so once again, in 2004 it has competition. Still, lovely stuff by any standard.
agavin: nose smelled like pot. hot red fruits with an herbaceous green red berry finish. Reasonably pleasant.
2004 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Musigny. Burghound 91. A perfumed and airy nose of lavender, spice and distinct floral notes highlight the intense, structured and quite powerful full-bodied flavors that culminate in huge and mouth coating length. This is a big wine yet impeccably refined, pure and classy and the length is most impressive. Like the Amoureuses, 2004 is not a great vintage by the daunting standards of this wine but it’s certainly a solid effort.
agavin: totally corked. each time I tasted it I made a face.
2004 Domaine Leroy Chambolle-Musigny. Burghound 94. This is equally stylish and classy though completely different with a stunningly complex and ultra floral nose combining spice, earth and dark pinot fruit aromas that continue onto the detailed, powerful and fantastically long flavors that stain the palate with almost painful intensity and sap. This may very well equal the Vosne one day as the qualitative difference between the two is subtle indeed.
agavin: slightly cloudy and unfiltered. smells of red fruits. bright strawberry jam taste with a greeny finish. seemed to get worse in the glass, but still one of the better wines of the flight.
2004 Louis Jadot Musigny. Burghound 95. As good as the Bonnes Mares is, it’s immediately clear that there’s another dimension present as this is at once more elegant, more complex and classier as well. An explosive nose of black pinot fruit and penetrating spice notes lead to notably rich and ripe flavors that exude ample mid-palate extract and while the tannins are quite firm, they are also quite fine. This should prove to be one of the vintage’s longer lived examples and it could surprise to the upside as the underlying material is outstanding. The texture is also noticeably different than most of the other wines of the range as Lardière indicated that there was some whole cluster vinification here.
agavin: darker. sour cherry, like cherry coke with licorice. very jammy. unusual, but one of the best wines of the flight.
2004 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes. Burghound 96. This is also very cool and even more reserved at present, revealing only reluctant glimpses of very ripe and ultra spicy red and black berry fruit notes that are very pinot in character. The rich, full and powerful flavors are sweet, supple and utterly classy and the intensity this wine displays is seriously impressive and the superbly long and strikingly precise finish is crystalline in its purity and exactness. There is a rigorous element here that suggests this will require the better part of 15 years to be at its best but when it gets there, this is going to be a thrill ride. Readers know that I am not given to undue hyperbole but I love this style of wine as it’s at once pure, understated, graceful and utterly composed.
agavin: smelled corky. tasted corky (or at least bitter). lots of stemmy taste too. Better than the Roumier, but not very pleasant. The acidity and fruit was in there under the funk.
Flight 2: Bonnes Mares & Morey St Denis
Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares. Burghound 90. A discreet hint of wood spice frames a potent mix of violet, red and black fruits, earth, herb aromas and hints of game that give way to textured, sappy, firm and intense flavors that are both serious and firmly structured. This will require time to come around though there is reasonably good phenolic ripeness and, in the context of the vintage, solid finishing power and pop.
agavin: smelled and tasted corky at first. Got a little better, but not much.
From my cellar: 2004 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche. Burghound 91-94. A superbly complex nose combining a stylish mix of red berry liqueur, blue berry and black raspberry fruit aromas nuanced with game, tea, smoke and hints of earth and leather. The big and well-muscled yet refined flavors are structured, firm and explosive and this finishes with a flourish as it’s at once classy and stunningly pure. Another terrific Lignier Clos de la Roche in a long string of them; just be aware that this will require moderate patience.
agavin: nice red fruits. a bit hot, but a pleasant wine and one of the best of the flight.
From my cellar: 2004 Bouchard Père et Fils Bonnes Mares. Burghound 92-95. he only wine in the range to display any reduction yet it’s not enough to hide the intense and utterly seductive red and black cherry nose that is classy, refined and pure followed by detailed and like the Clos de Vougeot, unusually fine for the appellation yet there is no absence of the classic Bonnes Mares power and muscle, all wrapped in a mineral-infused and incredibly long finish. Despite how beautiful this is, the overall character is almost understated. The Bèze might display a bit more complexity but this is my stylistic favorite of the group.
agavin: muted on the nose. Good fruit but a little bitter on an otherwise long finish.
2004 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes. Burghound 92. A stunningly complex mixture of earthy and animale red and black pinot fruit aromas lead to brooding, intense and jaw droppingly powerful and concentrated, chewy and complex flavors that possess a seriously long finish. There isn’t quite the raw depth of the Clos St. Denis at this point but it’s a very high quality ’04.
agavin: smelled of red fruits. unusual chocolate/coffee thing in the taste. Very pronounced and not unpleasant, but like someone poured chocolate liqueur in there. Perhaps a little green?
2004 Lucien Le Moine Bonnes Mares. Burghound 91-94. A superbly elegant and pure nose featuring dark pinot fruit and violet aromas of terrific complexity precede precise and almost racy flavors of exceptional freshness and vigor that explode on the hugely long finish. This is a gorgeous combination of style and grace yet with the barely concealed muscle and power of a fine Bonnes Mares. This will be accessible early yet the balance is so good that it should age well too.
agavin: muted nose. nice red fruits with a hint of coffee/coco too.
2004 Domaine Ponsot Clos St. Denis Vieilles Vignes. Burghound 93. This is one genuinely gorgeous wine with ripe, elegant and dense aromas and one can literally smell the concentration as the fruit is incredibly dense, nuanced and complex. The flavors are equally potent as this stains and drenches the palate with chewy pinot extract and culminates in a textured, structured and superbly long finish. This is a serious old style burgundy that possesses that “wow” factor but one that will need at least a decade in the cellar first.
agavin: ripe red nose. Deep red fruit taste with lots of spice. Finish continues for a long time, and was quite pleasant. One of the better wines of the flight.
2004 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Bonnes Mares. Burghound 91-93. A subtle touch of wood frames the intense violet, blue berry and discreet earth tones that complement big, rich, concentrated and powerful flavors that possess serious mid-palate density and outstanding volume. This is delicious, sappy and robust with the best phenolic ripeness of any wine to this point.
agavin: hard to place the nose. Tasted bigger, deeper and more oaked. Purple on the palette. Probably needs some time.
Flight 3: Chambertin
2004 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin. Burghound 93. The difference between Chambertin and Clos de Bèze is sharply etched in 2004 as this is cooler, bigger, richer and more powerful though less elegant and with a more limited range of spices specifically and aromatic breadth in general. The medium full flavors are reserved, tight, precise and very pure with extraordinarily good punch and precision, all wrapped in a firm, dusty and linear finish. I particularly like the mouth coating quality of the flavors as there is ample dry extract here, which serves to perfectly buffer the firmly tannic spine. Outstanding stuff and while not a truly great Rousseau Chambertin, it’s knocking on the door.
agavin: smells of oak and fruit. a tiny bit bitter at first, but after some time in the glass shaped up quite nicely.
2004 Bouchard Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. Burghound 93-95. The aromatic profile here is completely different with more complexity to the gorgeous mix of red and black pinot fruit, earth, spice, underbrush, smoke, game and iron notes that continue onto the broad, expansive and remarkably intense flavors that culminate in an unusually ripe, mouth coating and long finish. There is admirably good extract here and while the firm tannic spine will require at least a decade to really unwind, the mid-palate concentration is up to the challenge. In sum, this is one striking effort that exudes class.
agavin: strong nose and fairly classic gevry, although certainly there are greeny hints of the vintage.
2004 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. Burghound 93. A densely fruited and superbly complex nose of spice, earth, ripe red fruit aromas, leather and underbrush leads to rich, supple, elegant and pure flavors where the structure arrives all at once on the seriously long finish. This is not a big Bèze by the usual Rousseau standards yet the explosive finish and outstanding depth suggest that this will age well and hold for much longer.
agavin: very beze nose. red fruits with a long (slightly green/bitter) finish and a lot of power.
2004 Domaine Leroy Gevrey-Chambertin. Burghound 95. Again, the aromatic profile is completely different with a much deeper emphasis on iron-infused earth, underbrush and an understated sauvage quality that leads to stylish, powerful and almost implausibly complex flavors that exude a sense of raw power yet the overall impression is one of control and near perfect balance. A stunner of a wine that has complexity to burn.
agavin: funkier and unfilitered. Some green here.
agavin: more unctuous grape than the other wines in the flight, but a hint of green too.
2004 Claude Dugat Charmes-Chambertin. Burghound 90-93. A bit of reduction subdues the otherwise pretty and spicy red berry fruit aromas tinged with violets and a hint of wood spice but does not continue onto the rich, sweet and terrifically precise medium full flavors that offer serious depth and a good deal more mid-palate concentration all the while maintaining near perfect balance. An impressive wine that is at once generous yet detailed. Lovely stuff and one that should repay up to a decade in the cellar before drinking well over another.
agavin: I tasted a hint of cork/green, not particularly pleasant.
2004 Bernard Dugat-Py Mazis-Chambertin. Burghound 92-95. The first wine to display a hint of wood spice that frames explosive notes of cherries, raspberries, earth, game and an interesting smoky character introduces dense, sappy, mouth coating and palate staining flavors that are considerably finer than either the Charmes or the Mazoyères and possess genuinely stunning complexity. This is a classy, beautifully precise effort of real style and harmony and I like the subtle floral note that arrives on the backend. In a word, breathtaking.
agavin: searing powerful finish. Fairly nice.
Flight 4: Vosne-Romanée
2004 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée St. Vivant. Burghound 92. A deft touch of wood frames exuberantly expressive and luxurious black fruit nose nuanced by a huge range of spices including anise, clove and cinnamon with notes of tea and hoisin as well. The moderately full flavors are sappy, rich and sweet with ample volume and a palate drenching finish that benefits from an underlying sense of vibrancy. There is real energy here, which seems to collect and focus the flavors. Terrific stuff and exceptionally long with no trace of vegetal character on either the nose or the finish.
agavin: I knew instantly it was RSV. The whole flight reeked of vosne (in a good way) but the distinct RSV character was obvious. Nice finish.
2004 Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée. Burghound 95. Another step up in aromatic complexity with classic Vosne spice notes as well as the Asian spice cabinet notes associated with a fine RSV that add nuance to the potent mix of red and black pinot fruit aromas that merge into rich, mouth coating, concentrated and powerful flavors that put the attribute of class on parade. This is an exceptionally stylish wine with a richness and velvety quality that is incredibly seductive.
agavin: lots of vosne spice. very nice.
2004 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg. Burghound 93. This is in the same stylistic camp as the Grands Echézeaux as it is surprisingly understated and subtle with an intensely floral nose of red and black fruit aromas that are nuanced and beautifully elegant, merging seamlessly into linear, reserved, indeed almost brooding flavors that are as once supple yet precise and detailed, all wrapped in a powerful and muscular finish that delivers striking length. This is a really interesting wine because it’s a wine of contrasts yet it works because there is a gorgeous combination of finesse and power and again, I really like the sense of drive and energy here as well as the first rate balance. A terrific ’04.
agavin: I was pretty sure this was Richebourg. It had dark red fruits and a long lip smacking finish that was quite delicious. One of my two favorites of the flight (and the night).
2004 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche. Burghound 95. This too is sublime in its subtlety and grace with ineffably pure aromas and it strikes a balance between the opulence of the RSV and the restraint of the GE with an expressive yet ultra fine nose of rose petals, violets and seductive spice notes that introduce unbelievably refined flavors that seem crafted from silk and lace, culminating in a linear, mouth coating finish that detonates like a bomb and lasts and lasts. At present, this is taut and precise with the lithe muscularity of a world class gymnast yet it is not lean or unduly tight as there is a generosity to the mid-palate that serves to buffer the underlying tannic spine that will permit this to age for decades. This is clearly a great wine that epitomizes the concept of power without weight.
agavin: I thought it was the DRC RSV, probably mostly because I have a lot more RSV than La Tache. Either way it was great. There was more oak on the nose and it was clearly young, but it had a long lovely finish with a lot of vosne spice.
2004 Alain Hudelot-Noellat Richebourg. Burghound 92-95. I was actually a bit surprised by just how expressive this wine already is as I was expecting something akin to the grouchier Clos de Vougeot yet the kaleidoscopic nose is breathtaking in its breadth of spicy red and black fruit aromas and notes of leather, tea, earth, iron, wet stone and gamy undertones. The big, muscular, robust and powerful full-bodied flavors offer plenty of intensity yet no lack of elegance and while it can’t match the RSV in this regard, there is even more complexity today and more depth of material. Terrific stuff and highly recommended.
agavin: oak on the nose and an extremely pleasant lip smacking finish. I was pretty such it was Richebourg.
From my cellar: 2004 Domaine Robert Arnoux / Arnoux-Lachaux Romanée St. Vivant. Burghound 93. This displays a similar kaleidoscopic nose to that of the Suchots but with even more spice and hard as it is to believe, even more refinement and the aromas just ooze class. The ultra pure, sweet, precise and beautifully detailed flavors maintain their focus from start to the dazzlingly long and palate staining linear finish that also displays a subtle herbal component.
agavin: there was a slight taint or funk on the nose. The finish was long, but perhaps a little weird. It got better in the glass.
2004 Bouchard Père et Fils La Romanée. Burghound 92. Like the Liger-Belair version (see Issue 21), this is blessed with an absolutely stunning nose that is genuinely kaleidoscopic in its breadth and complexity featuring a touch of wood that frames black spice, earth, underbrush, hints of Asian spices, soy and hoisin. In certain important aspects, this quite resembles the Reignots, particularly the cool personality because even though the nose is amazingly expressive, the flavors sit back and wait for you to come to them. I like the refined texture here and together with the sappiness and excellent length, this makes a serious palate impression. Classic La Romanée in every respect whose only nit is the lack of great concentration.
agavin: a great wine. I thought it might be the La Tache from its sheer power, but I rarely have either La Tache or La Romanee so what do I know. The finish had a long complex Vosne spice thing going on. A lovely wine.
2004 Lucien Le Moine Richebourg. Burghound 92-95. A relatively reserved nose of spicy black cherry fruit with hints of musk and anise framed by discreet hints of wood highlight intense, ultra pure and very classy flavors that offer extraordinary depth and a fresh, vibrant and perfectly balanced finish. This too is very firmly structured yet the tannins are fine and while this will require time, it should be at its best in 10 to 12 years. A most impressive effort.
agavin: Le Moine seems to be making a more forward unctuous wine than everyone else. This was the deepest, most extracted of the flight with an almost un-pinot like rich grape quality, almost like a Sagratino or something. Lip smacking.
Flight 5: Dessert
2004 Turley Roussanne LPR Alban Estate Vineyard. IWC93. (8.5% alcohol and 30% residual sugar, from fruit harvested on December 15 with a small percentage of botrytized berries brought on through the use of overhead sprinklers) Deep orange-gold. Apricot liqueur, golden raisin, maple syrup, vanilla, honey and clove on the nose. Thick, fat and supersweet, with the wine’s ten grams per liter of acidity lost in its sugar. An extremely glyceral wine that winemaker Jordan says is lower in sugar and acidity than the 2005 (which came from grapes harvested two months earlier!), and less “electric.” Notes of honey and nuts on the extremely long and sweet back end.
agavin: a lovely dessert wine.
There is a lot to say about this tasting. First of all, Valentino did a great job as usual. The service was impeccable, and this is a difficult task (pouring lots of big blind flights). The food was good, although I could have used an extra carby course near the end, like a giant risotto. Erick and I had to take care of that after (see below).
I’ve never tasted such a comprehensive horizontal survey of Red Burgundy at once before. The incredibly distinct terrior of the different communes and vineyards was readily apparent. Really obvious and that was nice to see. Each flight smelled and tasted of its appellation.
2004 has a very particular vintage character, and it’s not a great one. All the flights except for the Vosne one had it in spades. I’ve tasted that herbaceous thing before, but never in such frequency. It stands in counter point to the bright fruit and mars the wines. I’m certainly not going to invest in the Roumiers (not that I was).
I was also surprised by the amount of cork. Not everyone seems to taste it, but I can’t stand those wet cardboard glasses. Normally, I only get about 1 in 100 badly corked bottles. We had at least 3 out of 28. Bad luck? Was I confusing the vintage character for cork? I don’t think so.
Still, there were a lot of good wines in there, if not at the percentage they would have been in a better vintage. The entire Vosne flight was great, and some superb.
Other big tasting dinners from this group: