Location: 22757 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364. (818) 225-9114
Date: May 8, 2017
Cuisine: French American
Rating: Best old school in town!
My second visit to the amazing Brandywine (first one is here).
Located on Ventura in the far valley, this French American has been open and popular for roughly 30 years. 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.
The decor is cute and romantic, and it has been run by a husband and wife team. She cooks and he runs the front room. They have recently sold the restaurant and we are making some visits during the transition to make sure we get it properly cemented in our minds.
2004 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 96. I am thrilled with the way the 2004 Comtes de Champagne continues to evolve in bottle. A few years ago, the 2004 was quite focused and linear, in the style of the vintage, but more recently, the wine has begun to fill out beautifully. The 2004 remains bright, with a full range of citrus, white flower and mineral nuances that dance on the palate. A brisk, saline-infused finish rounds things out beautifully in a Comtes that impresses for its crystalline purity. I expect the 2004 will always remain a bit cool next to the more opulent 2002, but it is still drop-dead gorgeous.
For the foie:
1990 Château de Rayne-Vigneau. 90 points. High-toned, expressive aromas of lime leaf and licorice. Silky and harmonious in the mouth, with impressive intensity of flavor and terrific underlying extract. Just a hint of acid and alcohol to be integrated. Finishes very subtle and long.
From my cellar: 2005 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. BH 94. This is a mild step up in overall class and elegance with a gorgeously perfumed white flower fruit nose introducing linear, precise, intense and powerful medium full flavors that remain splendidly focused on the stunningly long finish that drenches the palate in dry extract. This is a striking 1er and one to buy as it easily delivers grand cru quality.
2001 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne. BH 89. This is a good deal bigger and certainly more powerful than the Truffières though it does not offer quite the same level of finesse and detail but it is every bit as intense with even more minerality, plenty of sappy extract and dense, mouth coating flavors and fine length. This is also noticeably oaky with good if not exceptional Corton-Charlemagne character and bracing acidity. In contrast to the Referts though, there is at least a reasonable possibility that the oak will ultimately be absorbed as there is good density and the oak, while certainly prominent, does not dominate the flavors as it does in the Puligny.
2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru La Garenne. BH 91-93. A discreet application of wood allows the fresh, pure and expressive nose that features notes of acacia blossom, white peach and wet stone hints to shine. The attractively textured, dense and mouth coating medium-bodied flavors possess fine balance and impressive persistence on the notably dry finish where notes of lemon zest appear. This is a really lovely effort where the natural class of a fine Puligny is in evidence.
2014 E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane. VM 93. Light, bright yellow-gold. Broad, mineral-tinged orchard and pit fruit aromas show excellent clarity, and a sexy floral element emerges slowly. Sappy, palate-coating pear nectar and tangerine flavors are complicated by notes of violet, honey and candied ginger, while a minerally element adds vibrant lift. Becomes spicier on the finish, which hangs on with superb tenacity and a lingering floral quality.
2006 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Clos de La Bussière. BH 90. Earthy dark berry fruit and slightly herbal aromas introduce solidly rich, punchy and vibrant medium-bodied flavors that possess excellent length and more sophisticated tannins than usual. This should be lovely in 6 to 8 years.
2000 Domaine Dujac Morey St. Denis. VM 86-89. Full red. Aromas of strawberry, raspberry, spiced plum, mocha and smoky oak. Lush and pliant in the mouth, with mineral, chocolate, smoke and menthol flavors complicated by a vegetal complexity. Finishes with ripe tannins and good length.
Ron has been raving for years about the Lobster Bouillabaisse here, so I had to order it. This HUGE portion of shellfish in broth was amazingly fresh and the broth was to die for garlicky. So good. So massive.
1998 Domaine Robert Groffier Bonnes Mares. VM 93+. Deep ruby-red. Sauvage, highly nuanced aromas of blackberry, black plum, raspberry, gunflint, leather and pepper. Great penetrating sweetness leavened by powerful spice and firm backbone. Very powerful wine but not at all hard today. Finishes with building tannins and outstanding power and persistence. This should reach its peak during the second decade of its life.
2010 Aubert Pinot Noir UV-SL Vineyard Sonoma Coast. VM 95. The 2010 Pinot Noir UV-SL Vineyard is the richest and most expressive of these 2010 Pinots. It also shoes the best balance of aromatics, fruit, acidity and tannin. Soy, mocha, the blackest of cherries and white flowers are some of the notes that flesh out in the glass. Delicately woven layers of flavor distinguish the UV-SL. This is a striking wine in every way.
2005 Marcassin Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard. BH 76. Strong mercaptans (think garlic or burnt rubber) with burnt vinyl undertones lead to suave, round and impressively scaled flavors that possess no detail and the finish is hot, bitter and unpleasant. Commercially unacceptable in my view.
NV Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único Reserva Especial 1994, 1996, 2000 (2015 Release). 95 points. Mesmerizing wine. Dark fruit on the nose, subtle balsamic character, coffee, tobacco, leather, vanilla. Smooth tannins, elegant overall feel. Not as wild as the ’09 Valbuena. More majestic than raw and charming.
1996 Penfolds Grange. VM 92. Ruby-red. Complex, high-toned, oak-driven aromas of mocha, flowers, spices, bourbon, peat, licorice, vanilla, cigar tobacco and earth. Juicy and penetrating, with strong mineral, lead pencil, espresso and tobacco flavors. Has a solid backbone and noteworthy grip, but shows no hard edges. Finishes with big, ripe tannins and excellent length.
Lamb chops. Not only is it massive, but it was incredible.
2004 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 93. Bright, saturated ruby. Brooding blackberry and blueberry aromas, with notes of mocha, cola and minerals complemented by a sexy meaty nuance; slightly high-toned in a positive way. Fat, sweet and seamless; very plush wine but not over the top. Rather oaky flavors of black raspberry, mocha, oak spices, toffee and minerals. Not hugely complex but wonderfully rich and layered wine, and evolving slowly. Hedonistic and utterly satisfying. Finishes with serious but well-buffered tannins.
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.