Location: Hollywood Hills
Date: November 24, 2013
Cuisine: Molecular American
Rating: Amazing night!
My friend Stewart had this idea to host a dinner featuring the wealth of 99 and 100 point 2009 Bordeaux. I have to admit, their youth made me skeptical, but he assured me they were drinking great — plus, my vocation as a priest of Dionysus wouldn’t allow me to pass up on 15-20 100 point wines!
To sweeten the pot, he promised a first rate molecular dinner from celebrity chef, Marcel Vigneron (great name!) and co-chef Haru Kishi. Marcel was the original Executive Sous Chef at The Bazaar too, and also cooked at Joel Robuchon. Haru was at Chaya Brasserie. Those pedigrees most certainly do not suck.
Stewart really knows how to organize a wine dinner — and I should know given how many I attend. This event was expertly planned from start to finish. One of the attendees generously donated her lovely Hollywood Hills home (off a narrow hill street) as the venue.
In the foreground is Max Coane, one of our two awesome somms. I can’t tell you how much more relaxed having these two professionals made the event. Most of my zany (and awesome) wine dinners are free-for-alls. That can be okay up to about twelve people, but even so, I end up doing (really half-assing) the job of somm myself: opening the bottles, doing pours, etc. It becomes hard to get all the wines and you really have to worry about it (if you’re anal like me). These guys were pro (and super nice and enthusiastic as well).
1993 Moet Chandon Dom Perignon. Parker 93. Medium lemon-straw colour. Moderately intense nose of lemon curd, kaffir lime leaf, plenty of hot buttered toast and vague hints of chalk and crushed stone. The bubbles are calming a little in the mouth and the very crisp acidity is taking centre stage, yet this wine is drinking beautifully now, providing plenty of yeast and citrus flavour with a generous sprinkling of minerality. Long finish.
To make this bottle even more exciting, it was opened with a sword!
2002 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses. Parker 96. The flagship 2002 Brut Clos des Goisses is simply stunning in this vintage. Seamless, ripe and beguiling, the 2002 is pure harmony in the glass. Dried pears, apricots, flowers, red berries and spices are some of the many notes that inform this towering, aristocratic wine. At once vertical yet endowed with serious length, the 2002 stands out for its breathtaking balance and overall sense of harmony. Layers of fruit built to the huge, creamy finish. This is a great showing from Philipponnat.
Our host, Rachel, had an amazing (and gorgeous) wood fired pizza oven. Awesome!
2009 Henri Boillot Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 96. Here too there are residual sulfur notes that are only background nuances to the otherwise very fresh and dense green fruit and stone aromas that introduce intensely mineral-driven, firm, rich and enveloping flavors that display a taut muscularity on the strikingly powerful, focused and bone dry finish that is really quite explosive. Like the Montrachet, this should reward at least a decade of long-term cellaring. A brilliant example of the appellation.
From my cellar, 1993 Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin. 93 points. this wine shows sweet cherries, sharp minerals, and forest floor on the powerful nose. Initially the palate is a bit shy, but with time it gains concentration and volume until it explodes with deep red and black fruits. This is medium bodied and elegant but the fruit is intense, the acids are lively, and there is a strong spice note on the finish. There are still some hard edges and this is probably 5 years from its peak, but it’s wonderful now. Paired beautifully with grilled chickens.
1995 Lagrange. Parker 90. The 1995 Lagrange is similar to the 1996, but the fruit is sweeter, the acidity lower, and the wine less marked by Cabernet Sauvignon. The color is a deep ruby/purple. The wine boasts a roasted herb, charcoal, black currant, mineral, and new oak-scented nose. Medium to full-bodied and ripe, with copious quantities of jammy black cherry and cassis flavors presented in a medium-bodied, low acid, moderately tannic style, this well-endowed, purely made wine requires cellaring.
Oyster spherification, finger lime and wasabi. These first two apps were the weak point of an otherwise stellar meal — not that they were bad, but they just didn’t reach the heights of the rest. The oysters were too warm, and probably could have used a nice Sancerre :-).
White truffle pizza, buffalo mozzarella, squash blossom, bacon & shallots. Now these pizzas were AWESOME. I love a good pizza, and this certainly was it. Nice chewy dough. Perfect!
From my cellar, 2009 Pape Clement Blanc. Parker 100. The 2009 Pape Clement Blanc is an absolutely remarkable wine, which is not a surprise given what this historic estate has done in both white and red over the last 20 years. Their white wine, an intriguing blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Semillon, 16% Sauvignon Gris and the rest Muscadelle, comes from 7.5 acres of pure gravelly soil. An exquisite nose of honeysuckle, tropical fruit, pineapple, green apples, and orange and apricot marmalade soar from the glass. Great acidity, a full-bodied mouthfeel and a texture more akin to great grand cru white Burgundy put this wine in a class by itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others who also think this is pure perfection in white Bordeaux. I tasted this wine four separate times and gave it a perfect score three of the four times. It is one of most exquisite dry white I have ever tasted from anywhere – period. Certainly the founder of Pape Clement, Bertrand de Goth, would be happy with his decision to plant a vineyard here in 1305. Pure genius!
2009 Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc. Parker 98. Smith-Haut-Lafitte hit a home run with their red Pessac-Leognan and came very close to perfection with their dry white Graves. Possibly the best dry white the estate has produced since the proprietors, the Cathiards, acquired the property in 1990, this wine exhibits a sensational fragrance of buttered citrus, honeyed melons and a touch of grapefruit, lemon zest and orange rind. It also displays grapefruit on the attack and mid-palate as well as real opulence, terrific acidity and length. Drink it over the next 15-20 years. Astonishing!
2006 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 96. Prost was, justifiably, extremely proud of this wine and observed that it may be the best “straight” Chevalier that he’s ever made. Not surprisingly, this is a good deal more elegant than the Bâtard with gorgeously pure floral and white fruit, stone and subtle spice aromas that seamlessly merge into the almost painfully intense and vibrant flavors that, like the Perrières, possess crystalline purity and huge length. This is a knockout Chevy and if you can find it, don’t miss it.
Truffled egg. Like at Melisse. Good stuff.
From my cellar, 2009 Clinet. Parker 100. Clinet has been on a hot streak lately and the 2009 appears to be the greatest wine ever made at the estate, surpassing even the late Jean-Michel Arcaute’s monumental 1989. A blend of 85% Merlot and tiny amounts of Cabernet Franc (12%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (3%), this big Pomerol boasts an opaque, moonless night inky/blue/purple color in addition to a gorgeous perfume of blueberry pie, incense, truffles, black raspberries, licorice and wood smoke. Viscous and multi-dimensional with silky, sweet tannin, massive fruit concentration and full-bodied power, there are nearly 4,000 cases of this thick, juicy, perfect Clinet.
2009 Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Parker 100. The finest wine ever made by proprietors Daniel and Florence Cathiard, the 2009 Smith-Haut-Lafitte exhibits an opaque blue/purple color in addition to a glorious nose of acacia flowers, licorice, charcoal, blueberries, black raspberries, lead pencil shavings and incense. This massive, extraordinarily rich, unctuously textured wine may be the most concentrated effort produced to date, although the 2000, 2005 and 2010 are nearly as prodigious. A gorgeous expression of Pessac-Leognan with sweet tannin, emerging charm and delicacy, and considerable power, depth, richness and authority, it should age effortlessly for 30-40+ years. Bravo!
2009 La Fleur Petrus. Parker 96-98+. Even with considerable youthful characteristics, this stunning, open-knit 2009 is quite approachable. This fabled terroir sandwiched between Petrus and Lafleur (hence the name) generally produces one of the more elegantly-styled Pomerols, but in 2009 it offers an extra dimension of flavor intensity as well as more texture and concentration. It reveals a super-seductive perfume of mocha, loamy soil, herbs, black cherries and black currants, truffles and licorice, full body and velvety tannins. The overall impression is one of intensity, power, glycerin and richness as well as undeniable elegance and laser-like focus.
Despite its (slightly) inferior rating, this wine stood out at the current moment.
Langoustine ravioli, kale, foie gras veloute, black burgundy truffle. Wow, this was great. The filling was solid dense langoustine and really tasted like it. The sauce was a decadent langoustine bisque made from the bodies and saturated with foie gras. Plus the truffle. Only the kale was healthy.
2009 Montrose. Parker 100. A colossal effort, the 2009 Montrose represents a hypothetical blend of the monumental duo of 1989 and 1990 combined with the phenomenal 2003. With 13.7% alcohol (an all-time high at Montrose), it is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and the rest tiny quantities of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Some structure and minerality can be detected in the background, but the overall impression is one of massive blackberry, black currant and mulberry fruit intermixed with forest floor, damp earth, crushed rocks and a hint of spring flowers. Full-bodied with sweet but abundant tannin, Jean-Bernard Delmas believes this is the greatest wine he has made during his short tenure at Montrose since retiring from Haut-Brion. This wine will undoubtedly shut down for a decade, then unleash its power, glory and potential perfection.
2009 Pavie. Parker 100. Bottled the week before I arrived, the 2009 Pavie appears to have barely budged since I tasted it two years ago. Many experts consider this phenomenal terroir to be nearly as great as that of Ausone. Made from a classic blend of 60-70% Merlot, 20-25% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon, this inky/blue/purple-colored blockbuster reveals wonderful notes of blackberries, crushed rocks, roasted meats, spring flowers, cedar, blueberries, graphite and a hint of vanillin. With extravagant fruit and high extract as well as a hint of minerality, this structured, massively intense effort is typical of all the luxurious, perfect or nearly perfect Pavies produced under the Perse regime (which began in 1998). While built for 40-50 years of cellaring, the softness of the vintage and its flamboyant style is slightly less apparent in the 2009 Pavie than in some of the other Perse wines.
2009 Leoville-Poyferre. Parker 100. One of the more flamboyant and sumptuous wines of the vintage, this inky/purple-colored St.-Julien reveals thrilling levels of opulence, richness and aromatic pleasures. A soaring bouquet of creme de cassis, charcoal, graphite and spring flowers is followed by a super-concentrated wine with silky tannins, stunning amounts of glycerin, a voluptuous, multilayered mouthfeel and nearly 14% natural alcohol. Displaying fabulous definition for such a big, plump, massive, concentrated effort, I suspect the tannin levels are high even though they are largely concealed by lavish amounts of fruit, glycerin and extract.
White truffle risotto, Japanese rice, Parmigiano reggiano. Another great dish. The Japanese rice had a nice texture, but I’d give this 8/10 on my risotto scale as it needed slightly more cheesy creamy punch to hit the highest highs (I’ve had a lot of great risotto). Still great though.
2009 De Suduiraut. Parker 98. The 2009 is one of the greatest wines ever produced from the estate. It has a riveting bouquet of quince, honey, pear and a touch of clarified butter that is beautifully defined, offering scents of yellow flowers with continued aeration. It is a little heavier and more intense than its peers at this stage. The palate is beautifully balanced with perfectly judged acidity and immense purity. The finish offers crisp honey, quince and clementine notes laden with botrytis that is counterpoised by wonderful acidity. It possesses an unerring sense of completeness and composure that is irresistible. Bravo!
2009 Pontet-Canet. Parker 100. An amazing wine in every sense, this classic, full-bodied Pauillac is the quintessential Pontet Canet from proprietor Alfred Tesseron, who continues to reduce yields and farms his vineyards biodynamically – a rarity in Bordeaux. Black as a moonless night, the 2009 Pontet Canet offers up notes of incense, graphite, smoke, licorice, creme de cassis and blackberries. A wine of irrefutable purity, laser-like precision, colossal weight and richness, and sensational freshness, this is a tour de force in winemaking that is capable of lasting 50 or more years. The tannins are elevated, but they are sweet and beautifully integrated as are the acidity, wood and alcohol (which must be in excess of 14%). This vineyard, which is situated on the high plateau of Pauillac adjacent to Mouton Rothschild, appears to have done everything perfectly in 2009. This cuvee should shut down in the cellar and re-open in a decade or more.
2009 Chateau Margaux. Parker 99-100. A brilliant offering from the Mentzelopoulos family, once again their gifted manager, Paul Pontallier, has produced an uncommonly concentrated, powerful 2009 Chateau Margaux made from 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest primarily Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. As with most Medocs, the alcohol here is actually lower (a modest 13.3%) than most of its siblings-. Abundant blueberry, cassis and acacia flower as well as hints of charcoal and forest floor aromas that are almost Burgundian in their complexity are followed by a wine displaying sweet, well-integrated tannins as well as a certain ethereal lightness despite the wine’s overall size. Rich, round, generous and unusually approachable for such a young Margaux, this 2009 should drink well for 30-35+ years.
2009 Cheval Blanc. Parker 99-100. It will be fascinating to follow the evolution of the 2009 Cheval Blanc versus the 2010 as well as the awesome 2005, 2000, 1998 and 1990. This famous estate’s vineyard is situated at the juncture of Pomerol and the sandy, gravelly soils of St.-Emilion, facing the two noble estates of l’Evangile and La Conseillante. A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc, the 2009 Cheval Blanc tips the scales at just under 14% natural alcohol. Its dense blue/purple color is accompanied by an extraordinary nose of incense, raspberries, cassis, sweet forest floor and a subtle hint of menthol. Opulent and full-bodied with low acidity but no sense of heaviness, this dense, unctuously textured, super-smooth, velvety, pure, profound Cheval Blanc is impossible to resist despite its youthfulness.
Roasted squab, lollipop leg, faux truffle, real truffle, celery root puree, squid ink dyed baby artichoke hearts, persimmon, parsnip chips, jus. This was a 10/10 game fowl dish. Everything was amazing, from the lovely bird meat, to the truffles, to the awesome jus (I love a good jus) to the delicate puree. Really delightful.
2009 Mouton-Rothschild. Parker 99+. The 2009 Mouton Rothschild has a striking label from Anish Kapoor. The wine is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot that begs comparison as a young wine with what the 1982 tasted like in 1985 or, I suspect, what the 1959 may have tasted like in 1962. Representing 50% of their production, the wine has an inky purple color to the rim and not terribly high alcohol for a 2009 (13.2%), but that is reflected by the high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a remarkable nose of lead pencil shavings, violets, creme de cassis and subtle barrique smells. It is stunningly opulent, fat, and super-concentrated, but the luxurious fruit tends to conceal some rather formidable tannins in the finish. This is an amazing wine that will be slightly more drinkable at an earlier age than I thought from barrel, but capable of lasting 50 or more years. Kudos to the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and the entire Mouton team, lead by Monsieur Dalhuin.
2009 Lafite-Rothschild. Parker 99+. The main reason the 2009 Lafite Rothschild did not receive a perfect score is because the wine has closed down slightly, but it is unquestionably another profound Lafite, their greatest wine since the amazing 2003. Among the most powerful Lafites ever made (it came in at 13.59% alcohol), the final blend was 82.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot. The selection was incredibly severe with only 45% of the crop being utilized. A tight, but potentially gorgeous nose of graphite, black currants, licorice and camphor is followed by a full-bodied wine revealing the classic elegance, purity and delineated style of Lafite. It is phenomenally concentrated with softer tannins than the 2005, the 2003’s voluptuous, broad, juicy personality, and low acidity. There are several vintages that I thought were a replay of their colossal 1959, most notably 1982 and 2003, but 2009 is also one to keep an eye on. It is still extremely youthful and seems slightly more backward than I would have guessed based on the barrel tastings, but it needs 10-15 years of bottle age, and should last for 50+.
2009 Latour. Parker 100. A blend of 91.3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8.7% Merlot with just under 14% natural alcohol, the 2009 Latour is basically a clone of the super 2003, only more structured and potentially more massive and long lived. An elixir of momentous proportions, it boasts a dense purple color as well as an extraordinarily flamboyant bouquet of black fruits, graphite, crushed rocks, subtle oak and a notion of wet steel. It hits the palate with a thundering concoction of thick, juicy blue and black fruits, lead pencil shavings and a chalky minerality. Full-bodied, but very fresh with a finish that lasts over a minute, this is one of the most remarkable young wines I have ever tasted. Will it last one-hundred years? No doubt about it. Can it be drunk in a decade? For sure.
My wine of the night. Really pretty awesome.
Nitro dragon’s breath popcorn. Always fun. They do this at Saam.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Overall, this was an impeccable event. Not only were the wines and food incredible, but the atmosphere, company, and overall congeniality (helped by having talented sommeliers) really made it a delightful evening.