Location: 502 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401. 310.917.6671
Date: September 9, 2013
Cuisine: French American
Rating: Santa Monica Classic
My Hedonist group has been mixing up our format a bit, and tonight we aren’t just checking out a restaurant (the excellent New-French Jiraffe) but putting together an exclusive “high end” Burgundy night. Each guest was required to bring at least one great bottle of red Burgundy, the bar being set at DRC, Leroy, Jayer, Roumier, Vogue and the like. Everyone really stepped up and brought a phenomenal array of wine. Also, what started at a mere 10 people rapidly expanded to 20 people at two tables. As such, we were crammed into a fairly narrow zone upstairs and given the dynamic and back and forth nature of these events it was a real zoo.
This was hands down the most chaotic of our dinners yet, besting out even the insane Totoraku event last spring.
We begin with a few openers:
NV Billecart-Salmon Rose. Parker 90. The NV Brut Rose is a pretty, gracious wine. Freshly cut roses, red berries and spices take shape nicely in the glass as the wine shows off its understated, timeless personality. Billecart-Salmon’s NV Brut Rose is a reliably tasty wine.
1990 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame. IWC 96. Rich, multidimensional, highly aromatic nose of pear, red berries, apple, honey, toast and spice. Extremely rich and concentrated, with its medium to full body leavened by bright citrus notes and compelling minerality. Great inner-mouth aromas. Conveys an impression of powerful yet remarkably fine raw materials. The spicy finish offers exceptional persistence and richness.
2009 Domaine Michel Niellon Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 94. Here mild reduction doesn’t materially diminish the appeal of the more elegant if ever-so-slightly less complex aromas that feature notes of stone, lemon zest, acacia blossom and spiced pear. There is superb intensity and simply gorgeous detail to the mineral-driven and impeccably well-balanced flavors and explosive finale. Still, as good as this is and it is indeed exceptional, the superior complexity of the Bâtard gives it the barest of edges in 2009.
A bonus bottle from my cellar: 2002 Louis Jadot Corton-Charlemagne Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot. Burghound 93. It’s interesting but this is much more feminine and rounder in style than the Le Charlemagne with its distinctly masculine character. This is not as powerful but it’s more elegant with precise, delineated and pure flavors that also enjoy ample amounts of dry extract and awe-inspiring length.
Then the first round of food:
Hugo’s Caramelized French Onion Soup. grilled filet of beef, gruyere, crispy ciabatta.
Dungeness Crab Cake. confit yellow squash, vadouvan vinaigrette, mango emulsion, triple blanched garlic pistachio cream.
“Roasted Organic Beet Salad, organic beets, carmelized walnuts, dried cherries, goat cheese cream, banyuls-ginger vinaigrette.” This dish has become ubiquitous, but I suspect JiRaffe was one of the earliest to offer it on their menu (it might have been an 80s Wolfgang Puck invention, but I’m not sure). This particularly implementation has always been one of the best I’ve ever had. The sweet of the beets pairing beautifully with the sharpness of the goat cheese, and the chewy crunch of the walnut/cherry combo adding to the effect.
Sautéed Wild Pacific shrimp salad “Scampi Style”. Maggie’s Farms baby arugula, white beans, shaved fennel,
golden beets, olive lemon vinaigrette.
Sweet corn ravioli with Mascarpone. Ricotta and Reggiano parmesan cheese, rock shrimp, sugar snap peas, truffle corn emulsion.
Because of the enormous number of wines, I’m not “pairing” them with the food pictures like normal but listing all the red Burgundy in bulk . This was a very chaotic event and the drinking order was willy nilly. Sheer pandemonium really.
1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echezeaux. Burghound 91. Intense, ripe and slightly roasted black fruit nose with developing complexity that leads to rich, full-bodied, rounded, sweet flavors underpinned by big tannins and the wine finishes with grand cru quality length. This is quite big and certainly dramatic but for all its richness and power, it’s not an elegant wine per se. All of that said, it’s still a relatively youthful wine and could be drunk now with pleasure or held for a few more years to fully round out the finish.
2007 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echezeaux. Burghound 90. A spicy, expressive and expansive nose of red berry fruit, distinct vegetal nuances, freshly sliced fennel and obvious earth notes that transfer over to the detailed, balanced and energetic flavors that possess excellent transparency on the vibrant and mouth coating finish. There is a lingering inner mouth perfume here that makes this quite seductive. Not surprisingly, this changed rather dramatically in the hour that I had to evaluate the ’07s and the seemingly lighter weight flavors put on noticeable flesh though the nose slowly closed in on itself.
1986 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands-Echezeaux. Burghound 87. There is still some fresh fruit here though the nose is now largely given over to secondary aromas though only hints of sous bois followed by flavors that offer good if not excellent richness and the finish still has enough structure to suggest that another 5 years is in order for this to completely smooth out. This is really quite good though hardly great and it’s especially good in the context of the vintage.
I have to say, by my taste this was by far the best “Ech” of the evening.
1969 Charles Vienot Richebourg. Burghound 93. Beautifully complex with a classic aged burg nose of earth¡ damp leaves and traces of sous bois (but no barnyard aromas) followed by classy¡ full¡ precise¡ remarkably fresh flavors offering excellent richness, complexity and length. A beautiful ’69 that is still drinking well. An impressive showing.
1995 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg. Burghound 93. This too is reserved and restrained with an almost completely closed nose that reveals only glimpses of fresh black fruit even after extended aeration. The flavors however are rich and offer excellent detail and are underpinned by dense yet ripe tannins and good extract. I very much like the style of this though it is clearly for the patient and I suspect this will always have a rather strict personality. This has put on a bit of weight and a bit of richness since the big Richebourg tasting in ’01 and appears to be better balanced than the prior bottle but otherwise, it is quite similar.
2004 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg. Burghound 93. This is in the same stylistic camp as the GrandsEchézeaux 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.
From my cellar: 1988 Domaine Leroy Clos Vougeot. Burghound 93. This has changed substantially since my last review and has become a well-aged though not tired ’88. The nose now displays ample amounts of sous bois with good spiced earth and leather that leads to excellent power and richness on the solidly well-focused¡ intense and well-balanced finish that displays just a hint of astringency on the otherwise superbly long finish. This is drinking perfectly well now and should continue to do so for years to come even though I would not expect any further upside development.
To my taste one of the best wines of the night. It tasted like strawberry jam!
1996 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Bonnes Mares. Burghound 91. Dense and intense black fruit with plenty of character is followed by rich, big, tannic flavors that are robust, indeed almost rustic. This displays lots of backbone if not much finesse with a nice note of finishing complexity. In short, the ’96 Bonnes Mares delivers solid if not truly exceptional quality in a package that will age for many years to come.
1988 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares. Burghound 91. Mild bricking. A deep, rich and earthy mix of some primary but now mostly secondary fruit that leads to big, dense and intense flavors blessed with plenty of complexity all the while displaying solid balance as the tannins are relatively integrated on the long finish. To be sure, there remains substantial structure to be resolved but there is solid buffering extract and this fine sense of balance continues into the powerful finish. While certainly a very fine effort, it’s not quite at the level of the Vieilles Vignes. For my preferences, this is now beginning to drink well and as it is unlikely to improve further, I would be drinking up over the next decade.
2003 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares. Burghound 88. Ample wood sets off very ripe aromas of spiced plum, mocha and subtle coffee that lead to big, rich and powerful flavors that display a muscular, taut and extremely intense profile culminating in a ripe and long finish where another touch of wood resurfaces. This is not particularly elegant though it is lush, generous and mouth coating. The ’03 Bonnes Mares will undoubtedly age even though it remains very ’03 in style and character. In short, this is perfectly good if particular.
2008 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares. Burghound 93. A background touch of wood spice surrounds red berry fruit, plum and floral notes that include violet and rose, animale and soil tones that continue on the earth-inflected, rich, sappy and moderately concentrated but gorgeously balanced flavors that possess real character and excellent power on the impressively long and youthfully austere finish. This has both style and personality but what really distinguishes it is how complete it is.
2002 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart. Burghound 93. The generous wood this displayed from cask has begun to integrate and no longer sticks out on the expressive and extremely ripe black fruit and plum suffused nose that is nuanced by hints of torrefaction¡ earth and coffee. The supple¡ delicious¡ round and textured full-bodied flavors are notably robust and underpinned by very firm tannins as well as loads of buffering extract. This is a powerful yet detailed wine that does seem to carry its alcohol well with only a trace of finishing warmth. In sum¡ this is a borderline massive and unbelievably long wine that bathes the palate in sappy extract though note that it is so youthful that it will require ample cellar time to arrive at its apogee especially in magnum format.
1996 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru. Burghound 91. Initially, this was extremely tight and reserved with subtle pinot fruit and raspberry hints that are incredibly youthful and primary for what is now an 8 year old wine. With air however, the aromas and flavors expand and deepen, eventually revealing elegant, pure and rich flavors of lovely detail and complexity if not necessarily great density or concentration. This is clearly very classy juice with prominent acidity and a slightly edgy, almost punchy finish though it is by no means harsh. I would be inclined to wait until at least until 2008 to open the next bottle and more likely until 2010.
1998 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes. Burghound 94. This is just now beginning to display hints of secondary development though the essential thrust of the nose remains ripe aromas of red and black pinot fruit that is nuanced with hints of violets and anise plus a fascinating array of spices. This remains mildly austere on the palate though much less so than it was in its true youth with plenty of soil and mineral-inflected nuances to the impressively dense and powerful yet classy flavors that deliver simply huge length. As classic Musigny always is¡ this delivers an incredible combination of power and grace. While this can certainly be approached now with pleasure¡ for my taste I would still be inclined to cellar this for another 5 to 8 years first.
1996 Domaine Leroy Chambertin. Burghound 94. An elegant, pure and intoxicatingly complex nose offers up a fantastic array of spices and earth/crushed herb undertones that evidence the barest hint of secondary notes that lead to still completely primary and impressively concentrated, indeed even thick flavors that are powerful, focused and astonishingly long. This is quite simply stunning with terrific amounts of dry extract that completely drenches the palate, which is a good thing because this is a firmly structured effort that is still some years away from being ready to go. A Chambertin of finesse.
1990 Domaine Jean Tardy et Fils Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots. Burghound 87. This offers the classic Boudots profile of Vosne spice and Nuits character and is already drinking well. This too has a definite wood element to it but the wine has the body and extract to better handle it. Still, this is best drunk sooner than later.
1990 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux. Burghound 88. Still deeply colored. An expressive, dense, indeed huge nose of roasted, ever-so-slightly stewed fruit that is already showing a great deal of secondary and even tertiary development while the muscular, rich, extracted and solidly complex flavors are underpinned by a tough, firm and very prominent tannic backbone. This is a dramatic bruiser of a wine but it’s not clear that it’s ever going to harmonize as the finish is completely dominated by the structure and given that the fruit is presently much more advanced than the evolution of the tannins, it’s a tough call to say whether the fruit will be able to stand the test of time and this most recent bottle gave no cause for optimism in this regard, indeed it seemed to confirm that this is probably a lost cause. Optimists will continue to hold the ’90 Epeneaux in the cellar as it will certainly be around 30 years from now though whether it will be any more balanced than it is now is the essential question.
And the entrees:
“New Zealand Lamb Rack, yellowfin potato samosas, vegetable moussaka, thyme-scented lamb jus.” The lamb itself was delicious, exactly what you’d want. The jus perfect as well. My only complaint was the samosas which were very bland, tasting only of potato. I’m not such a plain starch fan. They were okay soaked in the jus, but I would have preferred a strong curry flavor or something.
Now a cheese course, inserted just to give us some more drinking time:
2010 Domaine Guy Roulot Meursault Les Vireuils. Burghound 89-91. This is aromatically similar if a bit more elegant and with a touch more floral character as well. There is excellent energy to the detailed and ultra-precise flavors that seemed to be extracted directly from liquid stone. This doesn’t quite have the breadth and complexity of the Narvaux but this is finer.
Then on to the sweets:
Overall, this night had arguably the best wine of any Hedonist event I’ve been too yet. Certainly to my taste. So much Burgundy it was overwhelming, and not just that, so much fabulous Burgundy! Wow. Wow. Wow.
And the food was great too. Jiraffe has a very good kitchen. We could have used to have more (smaller) courses. There was plenty of food, but it wasn’t on the table long enough for the wines, but this was a function of how we ordered. The service was also very friendly and attentive.
But our Hedonist free-for-all style is nearly unmanageable with this many people (20) and this many wines (25). While we had more than enough grape juice, it was a chaotic whirlwind and you had to remain very attentive to try all the things you wanted. For much of the evening I had 9 glasses in front of me!
Still, so much fun!