Location: 107 E Valley blvd, San Gabriel, Ca, 91776. (626) 307-8868
Date: December 29, 2013
My Hedonist club hit up Phong Dinh earlier in the year, but they moved to a new location — albeit in a nearby San Gabriel Valley spot. This authentic Vietnamese continues to serve up interesting stuff — plus they’re happy to take some of Yarom’s “do it yourself” meats, like both boar and deer he shot recently.
NV Taittinger Champagne Brut. 88 points. It is exactly as it is advertised and as I expected; nice, average champagne at this price range. Nothing special, but more so, nothing harsh like cheaper champagne.
2011 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese. IWC 90. Elegant aromas of Bing cherry, apple blossom and roasted pine nuts. Sweet and delicate but nonetheless creamy on the palate, with sweet herbs and a touch of vanilla. Lemon curd and slate animate a compelling finish.
You put all this together with the fish as you like and do your best to roll into a pancake. It’s scrumptious, absolutely delicious, but messy.
1998 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Heimbourg. IWC 91-93. Reticent but perfumed aromas of cured meat and grapefruit. Pure, bright and very intensely flavored, with vibrant acidity giving the wine great snap. A hint of lichee in the mouth. Very firm and long on the finish. Very elegant, rich gewürztraminer.
This time, the sauce was a little thiner than last time (and although it tasted about the same, the thicker was a little better). The snails themselves were pretty awesome.
From my cellar: 1972 Domaine Drouhin-Laroze Bonnes Mares. 88 points. It’s actually surprising that this is drinkable at all, but I’ve had 4 bottles like this one. The nose is barnyard, but it tastes pretty decent, with a good amount of remaining fruit and lots of acid. Actually quite pleasant.
2007 Alysian Wines (Gary Farrell) Pinot Noir Floodgate Vineyard West Block. 92 points. Still a medium ruby color. I last tasted this wine about 15 months ago. Each time I get something additional in the aroma. This time I got flowers (mostly roses), raspberry, black cherry, some blackberry, RRV cola, violets, leather and more noticeable vanillin (but not overbearing). As the wine opened, it seemed as if there was something anise-like in the background. Similar flavors, along with touches of chocolate. Rich, intense and full bodied fruit. Excellent balance and structure. A long and extended finish.
From my cellar: 1990 Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin. 91 points. A bit of brett/funk on the nose and palate. Immediately, quite open and giving, even lush, for a Faiveley! Plenty of depth to the black fruit.
2010 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. 86 points. Dark cherry red color; appealing, tart black cherry, violets, light blueberry, tar nose; tasty, complex, tight, tart black cherry, black raspberry, cranberry palate with integrating oak and medium acidity.
1998 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. IWC 89 points. Ruby-red. Redcurrant, lead pencil, nuts and fresh herbs on the nose. Supple, ripe and sweet, with lovely texture and suave tannins for the vintage. Still, the licorice and herbal flavors are not as expressive as usual for this cuvee.
Crab in fermented sauce. This was a controversial dish. It was pretty fishy, as this very fermented (bean?) sauce had a lot of fish sauce in it. I happened to love it, as did many others. Those with more Americanized tastes, not as much.
2003 Romano Dal Forno Valpolicella Superiore. Parker 92. The 2003 Valpolicella Superiore comes across as shockingly primary for a five-year old wine. Masses of jammy dark fruit flow onto the palate in a concentrated, generous style. The firm tannins are those of the torrid 2003 vintage, yet this broad-shouldered, expansive wine has more than enough fruit to provide balance. Notes of chocolate, leather, coffee and sweet spices gradually emerge with air, yet this remains a backward, unyielding wine at the moment. As with the 2004, this wine needs serious bottle age, or eight to ten hours of air for those adventurous enough to take it for a test drive now.
2000 Bond Matriarch. Parker 89. Those lots deemed not quite up to the standards of the Melbury, Vecina, and St. Eden labels are blended together to form Bond’s second wine, The Matriarch. This is a second wine in name only. The 2000 The Matriarch exhibits notes of dried Provencal herbs, roasted espresso, truffles, tar, meat, berries, and black currants. While attractive, it has less flavor dimension and volume than its younger sibling.
2006 Hermann Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Auslese. Parker 99. Donnhoff’s 2006 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Auslese introduces a caramelization of fruit and a roasted richness that represent a more obvious expression of botrytis, yet the springs of acidity are incredibly tightly-wound as well and there is absolutely no sense of heaviness. One can taste the effect of botrytis that was being constantly ventilated in the best portions of this great site, concentrating all components, including acidity, while juicy berries also still abounded. The fruitcake metaphor is overused and fails to capture the appropriate sense of levity, fluidity, and elegance. Suffice it to say that dried fruits, toasted nuts, citrus rind, honey, white raisin, baking spices, spiritous fruit essences, and singed, caramelized notes all abound, and that the less prosaic layers of this masterpiece – for lack of better words, the meat and mineral dimensions – are only revealed for now to the limited degree that time in the glass permits. The finish finds me licking my lips clean of mysteriously savory, salty residues. Voluminous and dense yet refined and elegant; baroque yet constructed like one of the great pyramids; viscously rich yet dynamic, this will stand – perhaps for half a century – as a monument to its vintner, site and vintage.
Overall, another epic Hedonist Asian adventure. Good food, great prices, fun wines, and a whole lot of us. What more could you ask for?