Location: 3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 829-4313
Date: December 9, 2016
Rating: Best meal here in years!
The final Sauvages lunch of the year is always one of the best. The wine theme is not as singular, but instead concentrates on “greats” from France.
And the locale is Valentino, LA’s venerable high end Italian — and host to countless wine events (that I’ve been to).
2002 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. VM 95. The 2002 Brut Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is wonderfully open, expressive and resonant. The richness of the vintage comes through nicely, yet the more overt elements are very nicely balanced by a good deal of freshness. Baked apple, pastry, candied lemon, dried flowers and warm, toasty notes shape the generous, resonant finish. With time in the glass, the 2002 takes a on a striking, vinous character. Readers might want to consider opening the 2002 a few hours in advance, as it really blossoms with air.
The initial chaos tamed by Valentino’s master sommelier.
2004 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. BH 93. The color was very pale straw with green highlights yet there was the barest trace of oxidation on the nose. To be fair, it was extremely subtle, indeed two tasters didn’t notice it at first. Yet with air, it became worse and in the end, it was clear that there was a problem. I include the original tasting note here for ease of reference: A reserved yet elegant nose of white flower, green apple, pear and natural spice and wet stone notes that introduce detailed, fresh and wonderfully intense flavors that are exceptionally clean and bright, culminating in a bone dry finish replete with superb minerality. This is not as dense as the ’05 but the purity here is really something to see and as noted last year, it’s sufficiently structured that it will need the better part of a decade to reach its apogee. Note that there was a trace of reduction on the nose and this would benefit from 30 minutes in a decanter should you elect to try one.
2006 Marc Colin et Fils Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 93. A touch of pain grillé frames very ripe but not exotic fruit that includes pear, peach, orange and apricot as well as acacia blossom and honeysuckle that complements well the rich, fresh and vibrant flavors that also display a touch of gas on the textured, opulent and palate drenching finish. This is a big wine that is very Bâtard-like in character as there isn’t much elegance but it’s long on power and size. Buyers would also do well to decant this for 20 to 30 minutes first.
2010 Domaine Michel Mallard & Fils Corton-Charlemagne. 94 points. Initially it was lean and fresh on the palate, I kept thinking Chablis as it had this brightness to it that was really nice, but didn’t have the heft of corton charlie. After a few hours in, I went back to the decanter and it was a totally different wine. It picked up this round rich fruit of apple and citrus on the palate as it picked up more and more concentration and power. Really packed a wallop at the end of the night. Very much made in the style of CC that I like.
Polipo Grigliato Con Crema di Paptate E Sedano. Grilled octopus on a puree of potato and celery.
Calamari Farciti Ai Gamberetti In Brodetto Di Pomodoro E Oregano. Seafood stuffed calamari in light tomato-oregano broth.
More formal than most LA Italian, these are actually very classical in style (for high end Italian).
1990 Domaine Joseph Roty Charmes-Chambertin Très Vieilles Vignes. BH 95. This has long been one of my favorite 90s with its immense fruit that soars from the glass. Red and black fruits blend seamlessly with the beginnings of secondary aromatics and combine with mouth coating extract of pinot yet despite the incredible richness, the balance is impeccable. This doesn’t quite yet offer the complexity of the Griotte but the superb depth of extract is simply glorious. In sum, this is a profound effort and one of the finest wines of the vintage and while it can certainly be enjoyed now, there is no doubt that this is still improving even though it’s approaching its peak. Multiple and consistent notes.
1990 Domaine Rossignol Trapet Chapelle-Chambertin. 96 points. Every once in a while a wine sufficiently stirs the senses to impart a lasting impression…this is such a wine. Tasted blind. Considerable bricking and somewhat opaque; knew from the outset it was at least fifteen years old. The luxurious bouquet sings with the finest elements of great Burgundy! Sous-bois, earth, rose petals, charred cork, and hints of smoke, etc. The wine features brilliantly focused acidity, all the elements on the bouquet, and a mind-bending textural mouthfeel! Lasting finish marked by tremendous acidity and unbridled deliciousness!
Duck Crespelle with Prosciutto. A delicious big ravioli notched up even further by the ham.
1990 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 96. Two great back to back vintages are the 1990 and 1989. The more developed 1990 boasts an incredible perfume of hickory wood, coffee, smoked meat, Asian spices, black cherries, and blackberries. Lush, opulent, and full-bodied, it is a fully mature, profound Beaucastel that will last another 15-20 years.
From my cellar: 1990 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee. Parker 96. A big step up, and showing that the warmer, richer years dish out the most pleasure at maturity, the 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reserve is drop-dead gorgeous, and close to my favorite of the night. Possessing a thrillingly complex, mature feel, with full-bodied richness and a layered, textured and seamless mouthfeel, this puppy was singing, with loads of lavender, peppery herbs, game and dried flower-like aromas and flavors. I don’t see it getting any better, and would drink it while it still has this voluptuous, hedonistic slant that makes it such a joy to drink.
2000 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 95. The Burgundian-styled 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape is drinking at point today. Possessing beautiful notes of forest floor, truffles, spice, garrigue and sweet cherry and kirsch like fruit, this beauty has notable freshness and purity, medium to full-bodied richness, fine tannin and a layered, integrated texture that keeps you coming back to the glass. There’s no need to delay gratification here and I’d enjoy bottles over the coming 4-5 years.
2003 Clos Saint-Jean Chateauneuf du Pape la Combe des Fous. Parker 97. A big, ripe and voluptuous effort, the 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous is thrilling stuff that’s drinking beautifully. Incense, exotic pepper, cedar and spice are all supported by a ripe core of sweet kirsch and blackberry fruit. It’s full-bodied, rich, textured and voluptuous on the palate. Showing no signs of over-ripeness or astringency, with polished tannin and excellent mid-palate depth, it pumps out loads of fruit on the finish, and should be consumed over the coming handful of years.
2000 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 94. Deep garnet colour with a faint touch of brick in the rim. Classic Beaucastel earthy/meaty/gamey nose with an undercurrent of stewed strawberries, Chinese dried plums and soy. Quite elegant on the palate with a medium to full body and a reasonably taut structure of medium to high acidity and a medium level of velvety tannins. Layer upon layer of spices and savoury flavours. Long finish. Drink now to 2024.
Classic Crispy Lasagna Bolognese. Isn’t the prettiest, but it sure tasted great!
1982 Beychevelle. Parker 94. I have noticed serious bottle variation with this wine, but recently it has been consistently scoring in the 94-96 point range. Beautifully sweet, slightly herbaceous black currant, licorice, and earthy notes emerge from this nearly opaque, dark ruby/purple-tinged 1982. Compared to the more elegant, feminine-styled wine often produced here, it is a beast. Dense, thick, rich, concentrated, and impressive, it can be drunk now and over the next two decades.
1989 Montrose. Parker 98+. This was not in the tasting at the chateau, but I opened two bottles on my return home, because this is another near-perfect wine from Montrose. It is an unusual two-grade blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. The wine emerged from another very hot, sunny, dry growing season, with early, generous flowering. Harvest in Montrose took place between September 11 and 28. The wine has never had any issues with brett, making it a somewhat safer selection than the more irregular 1990. Like a tortoise, the 1989 has finally begun to rival and possibly eclipse its long-time younger sibling, the 1990. The wine is absolutely spectacular and in auction sells for a much lower premium than the 1990. That should change. This is a magnificent Montrose, showing notes of loamy soil undertones, intermixed with forest floor, blueberry and blackberry liqueur and spring flowers. It has a full-bodied, intense, concentrated mouthfeel that is every bit as majestic as the 1990, but possibly slightly fresher and more delineated. This great wine should drink well for another 40-50 years.
1989 Pichon-Longueville Baron. Parker 96. Both the 1989 and 1990 vintages exhibit opaque, dense purple colors that suggest massive wines of considerable extraction and richness. The dense, full-bodied 1989 is brilliantly made with huge, smoky, chocolatey, cassis aromas intermingled with scents of toasty oak. Well-layered, with a sweet inner-core of fruit, this awesomely endowed, backward, tannic, prodigious 1989 needs another 5-6 years of cellaring; it should last for three decades or more. It is unquestionably a great Pichon-Longueville-Baron.
2000 Lynch Bages. Parker 97. Beginning to open magnificently, the still dense purple-colored 2000 reveals a blossoming bouquet of blackberries, cassis, graphite and pen ink. Full-bodied with velvety tannins that have resolved themselves beautifully over the last eleven years, this wine is still an adolescent, but it exhibits admirable purity, texture, mouthfeel and power combined with elegance. One of the all-time great examples of Lynch Bages, the 2000 is just beginning to drink well yet promises to last for another 20-25+ years.
2000 Figeac. Parker 91-93. Tasted at the Château Figeac vertical at the property. It is some years since I last tasted the 2000 Figeac. There is a valid argument that it is being eclipsed by the 2001, but it is still a fine Saint Emilion. The nose is clean and fresh with strong graphite aromas, very Left Bank in style with black truffle and smoky notes developing. The palate is masculine and rather austere at first, though I notice that it gains fleshiness in the glass. It is nicely weighted, but does not quite deliver the sensuality or joie-de-vivre of the 2001 (which is actually like a lot of millennial Bordeaux). Let’s see how it matures over the next few years, but my money would be on the 2001.
Pan Roasted Napa Quail on lentils with creamy pan dripping sauce and polenta crouton. More ham — and a very tasty little bird indeed.
1989 Rieussec. Parker 92. After a period of prolonged disjointedness, this wine has pulled itself together. The color is deep straw, and the wine displays an intense perfume of creme brulee custard, baked apple pie, and sweet, ripe pineapples and pears. Full-bodied, rich, alcoholic, and fat, with low acidity and considerable sweetness, this is a luxuriously rich, unctuously-textured, heavyweight Sauternes that should become more civilized with age.
Pears poached in red wine. Another Valentino classic. My gelato is better though :-).
Overall this was an awesome lunch — as almost all Sauvages lunches are. The food was quiet excellent for Valentino with both a variety and solid execution (sometimes the dishes can be a little flat), plus we had plenty of it and it paired very well. The wines were amazing with almost all of the bottles in great shape and tons of variety of goodness. As always, wine service at Valentino is about the best in the city with tons of stems, organization, and all that. Really very few places that can handle it as well.