Location: 22757 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364. (818) 225-9114
Date: February 1, 2016
Cuisine: French American
Rating: Totally Legendary!
The Foodie Club is the most “elite” of my regular groups, with dinners that really take it to the next level. So after the Old California dinner and the Yamakase blow out Larry really thought we out to hit up Brandywine.
Located on Ventura in the far valley, this French American has been open and popular for 28 years.
The decor is cute and romantic, and it’s run by a husband and wife team. She cooks and he runs the front room. But despite the “classic” decor and menu there is NOTHING dated about the execution here. This place has a 28 on Zagat, and for good reason. It’s run with serious attention to detail.
Ron brought this bonus: NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Light orange. Vibrant strawberry and orange zest aromas are complicated by notes of tea rose, smoky lees and chalky minerals. Bright, incisive red fruit flavors pick up a toasty nuance with air. Fresh, incisive and refreshingly tangy, with impressive finishing clarity and stony persistence.
Larry brought: 1991 Château d’Yquem. Parker 89-91. Yquem’s 1991 is a beautifully made, medium gold-colored wine with a gorgeous nose of creme brulee, roasted coffee, and sweet, honeyed pineapple and other assorted fruits. Full-bodied, unctuously-textured, and rich, but not yet revealing a lot of complexity or enormous weight. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2040.
Bonus from my cellar: 2001 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. ST 91+. Nose hints at spicy oak and flint. Extremely closed and inexpressive today; in a dry style but quite pure and delicate, with brisk acidity. Best today on the subtle, long finish. A very stylish wine but still stunned by the recent bottling.
From my cellar: 1999 Gros Frère et Sœur Richebourg. VM 92. Bright, deep ruby-red. Complex nose melds violet, bitter chocolate, earth, meat and a hint of medicinal austerity. Dense, rich and thick; a wine of compelling richness and sweetness, but also solidly structured despite its accessibility today. Finishes with lush but firm tannins and exhilarating notes of cassis and violet. Lovely pinot noir.
Another bonus from Ron: 1999 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. VM 94. Raveneau’s 1999 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre is in a marvelous spot right now. Petrol, smoke, slate, apricot pit and wild flowers are some of the many notes that grace the palate in an utterly vivid, vibrant Chablis endowed with magnificent purity and pedigree. At fifteen years of age, the 1999 Montée de Tonnerre still has a lot to say. What a beautiful wine!
Walker brought: 1971 La Mission Haut Brion. Parker 87. 1971 is a delicious La Mission that has been fully mature for the last 5-6 years. This rustic wine has a big, earthy, cigar-box, mineral-scented bouquet, generous yet coarse flavors, and a powerful, dusty finish. I would expect it to continue to drink well for at least a decade.
Larry brought: 1988 Mouton-Rothschild. Parker 89. The 1988 Mouton has an attractive aroma of exotic spices, minerals, coffee, black currants, and sweet oak. Much like the 1989, the bouquet is staggering, but the flavors are distinctly less profound. In the mouth, it is a much firmer, tougher, more obviously tannic wine than the 1989, with medium body and outstanding ripeness. A beautifully made 1988 that will last 20-25 years, its short finish keeps it from being sublime. The 1988 is somewhat reminiscent of the 1985, but with more tannin. Anticipated maturity: Now-2020
Ron brought: 1989 Palmer. Parker 96. Deep garnet-brick. Dark chocolate covered cherries, espresso, cinnamon, rose petals, tree bark and loam. Medium to full body with layers of concentrated fruit and spice flavours supported by crisp acidity and a medium+ level of fine tannins. Very long finish.
Will brought: 1990 Haut Brion. Parker 98. In terms of the brilliant complexity and nobility of the aromatics, scorched earth, black currants, plums, charcoal, cedar, and spices, the 1990 offers an aromatic explosion that is unparalleled. It is always fascinating to taste this wine next to the 1989, which is a monumental effort, but much more backward and denser, without the aromatic complexity of the 1990. The 1990 put on weight after bottling, and is currently rich, full-bodied, opulent, even flamboyant by Haut Brion’s standards. It is an incredible expression of a noble terroir in a top vintage. While it has been fully mature for a number of years, it does not reveal any bricking at the edge, and I suspect it will stay at this level for another 10-15 years … but why wait? It is irresistible now.
Erick brought: 1986 Leoville-Las Cases. Parker 100! The late Michel Delon always thought that this was the greatest vintage he had produced. We often tasted it side by side with the 1982, because I always preferred the latter vintage. Of course, the two vintages are quite different in style, with the 1986 a monument to classicism, with great tannin, extraordinary delineation, and a huge, full-bodied nose of sweet, ripe cassis fruit intermixed with vanilla, melon, fruitcake, and a multitude of spices. The wine has always been phenomenally concentrated, yet wonderfully fresh and vigorous. The wine still seems young, yet it is hard to believe it is not close to full maturity. It is a great example of Leoville Las Cases, and another compelling reason to take a serious look at the top Cabernet Sauvignon-based Medocs of 1986.
Mark brought: 1986 Mouton-Rothschild. Parker 100! Deep garnet-black colour. An incredible array of aromas on the nose: blackberry, black cherry, tobacco, espresso, leather, black olive and loam. The palate is absolutely seamless from first impression to finish, effortlessly building layers of complexity in the mouth and leading to a very long, earth and spice finish. I can’t see how this could possibly be improvement so have no alternative but concede perfection.
Emil brought: 1986 Chateau Margaux. Parker 98. A magnificent example of Chateau Margaux and one of the most tannic, backward Margauxs of the last 50 years, the 1986 continues to evolve at a glacial pace. The color is still a dense ruby/purple with just a hint of lightening at the rim. With several hours of aeration, the aromatics become striking, with notes of smoke, toast, creme de cassis, mineral, and white flowers. Very full-bodied, with high but sweet tannin, great purity, and a very masculine, full-bodied style, this wine should prove nearly immortal in terms of its aging potential. It is beginning to budge from its infantile stage and approach adolescence.
Erick brought this bonus: 1986 Talbot. Parker 96. A fabulous wine, and one of the two greatest Talbots of the last 50 years, this wine still has a very murky garnet/plum/purple color and a spectacular nose of sweet creme de cassis intermixed with freshly ground pepper, melted road tar, herbes de Provence, and beef blood. It is followed by an enormously concentrated wine of full body, layers of concentration and sweet tannin. The wine seems to be just hitting its plateau of maturity, where it should last for at least 10-15 more years. A prodigious Talbot. Anticipated maturity: Now-2020. Last tasted, 6/02.
Bearnaise and Bordelaise sauce for the steaks.
Walker brought: 1986 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Celestins. Parker 95. Few Chateauneuf du Papes from this vintage turned out well, and the few that did required consumption during their first decade of life. Bonneau’s 1986 is just hitting full maturity. It offers a concoction of jammy, concentrated licorice-infused black cherry fruit, with hints of tobacco, cedar, beef blood, smoked herbs, and Asian spices. As the wine sits in the glass, aromas of licorice, Peking duck, and other exotic scents emerge. An amazing effort, it may be the only Reserve des Celestins I own that can be classified as fully mature.
Another bonus from my cellar: 1946 Bodegas Toro Albala Don Px Convento Seleccion. Parker 100! The 1946 Don PX Convento Seleccion produced with Pedro Ximenez grapes dehydrated under the sun at the time of the Second World War, was only bottled in September 2011. This is an extreme wine, my first descriptor was ultra-mega-super concentrated. It is unbelievably powerful, both in the nose and the palate, full of umami, with sweet cinnamon, Christmas cake, camphor, petrol, lemongrass, Belgian chocolate and butter. Incredibly complex and rich, sweet, balanced and smooth in the palate, it is both very sweet and somehow salty, and with time it develops a black olive note. It combines the texture of the 1962 and the elegance of the 1949. It is as decadent as it gets. 825 bottles were produced. This wine will survive all of us. These wines are kept for generations and offered in very small quantities, but it’s amazing that you can still buy and drink something so old, and I’m even tempted to say that it might represent good value for what it is. A real tour de force sweet wine. Drink it if you ever have the privilege to do so from 2013-2060.
The food was so spot on. I admit, I was slightly skeptical going into it despite Ron and Larry’s great reviews. The menu seemed a bit “old fashioned” for my taste. But the execution! Wow! The kitchen here is seriously on point. These are classic dishes, but most of them are among the best versions of said dishes I’ve ever had. And there is nothing wrong with the classics when you knock them out of the park. This is far easier said than done, because all over the country (and France) you can find lots of mediocre attempts. Not here. The foie, escargot, caesar salad, and bouillabaisse were all to die for.
Everyone seriously stepped up on wine too. Some real knockouts. The 71 Mission was surprising. The Celestins, 90 Haut Brion, and 86 Margaux were crazy. But nearly everything was amazing. And so much food and wine too. We had to leave a lot on the table of both — if I had more I would have exploded.
This was one hell of an evening. Legendary!