Restaurant: Valentino Santa Monica [1, 2, 3]
Location: 3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 829-4313
Date: March 6, 2014
Last year I went to an epic three night 2005 White Burgundy Dinner series (Part 1 can be found here), hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell. This year, he’s mixing it up a bit and we did a 2004 Red Burgundy dinner and tonight’s 2006 White Burgundy tasting.
2006 was a vintage that initially was a bit heavy and overly tropical, but let’s see how it turns out tonight.
This particular dinner is at Valentino, which has been a mainstay of the LA fine dining scene for decades. I first started coming here in about 1995 and it was a mind blowing change from the usual trattoria and red-sauce style Italians. Valentino is much closer to Michelin 2 star restaurant in Italy, although not as modernist as some of those are in recent years. If food in Italy turns you on, check out my Eating Italy segment.
Our private room. Notice the large table with a lot of space. This is important when you have 29 glasses a person!
Notice the awesome array of glasses in the background. Only about a third of them are visible. Few restaurants can handle this sort of thing, as they need over 400 stems of the same type and a dedicated Sommelier with sufficient experience and skill. Ours tonight was Julian Zaragoza, wine director, who has been at Valentino for around twenty years! He handled the whole wine service himself with extreme professionalism and personality.
Usually these dinners are done single blind, but tonight every glass was individually labeled with the wine name.
Flight 0: Champagne
2000 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Coeur de Cuvée. Burghound 94. A moderately yeasty yet elegant nose that is fresh, complex and carries touches of both pain grillé and citrus blossom while leading to intense, pure and gorgeously deep flavors that possess first class breadth and genuinely excellent length. While still on the way up, after 30 to 45 minutes it began to display notably deeper and broader flavors that are at once powerful yet refined. A terrific effort that is absolutely worth your attention.
agavin: A lovely young champagne with a nice freshness to it.
Arancinette of Seafood. Basically a fried seafood risotto ball. Delicious!
Oysters with Lemon Gelato. The bright and cool lemon flavors braced the briny oysters perfectly.
Flight 1: Batard Montrachet
The first flight includes two mystery wines.
From my cellar: 2006 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 92. A light touch of unabsorbed SO2 does not really diminish the considerable attractiveness of the wonderfully dense and layered aromas featuring mostly white flower and spiced pear notes that are also picked up by the big, rich and tautly muscled flavors that are naturally sweet and strikingly intense on the mouth coating and gorgeously persistent finish. This is a relatively understated Bâtard and while it’s certainly not retiring, it will likely require a few years of bottle age before fully blossoming.
agavin: Lovely, with a little petrol (minerality or SO2?) and a nice long acid finish.
2006 Henri Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 96. This too is relatively restrained with a pretty but reluctant white flower and spice box nose that slides gracefully into fresh, super intense and tautly muscled full-bodied flavors brimming with dry extract that confers a distinctly textured quality onto the powerful and chewy finish. This is a big Bâtard yet for all its size and weight, everything is harnessed and focused as the length just goes on and on with no sense of top heaviness. One of the more impressive examples of Bâtard that I have ever seen because it rarely ascends to territory normally reserved for the likes of Montrachet and Chevalier or the occasional Charlemagne.
agavin: One of my favorites. More advanced than the others but drinking fabulously. Honey and brulee and lots of acid.
Mystery Wine #1: 2006 J. Rochioli Chardonnay Rachael’s Vineyard. IWC 92+. Bright, greenish gold. Smoky, mineral-dominated aromas of Meyer lemon, tangerine zest, anise and talc. Juicy citrus flavors are impressively vibrant, with subtle power and slow-building herbal character. Sharply focused and fresh if a bit withdrawn on the palate right now. Finishes with excellent sappy cling and an echo of licorice. This one will need some time but the material is clearly outstanding.
agavin: I knew this was a new world. Lots of white flowers, honeysuckle, and a richer more malo style.
Mystery wine #2: 2006 Ramey Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard. IWC 93. Yellow-gold. Powerful aromas of orange peel, pear, truffle and floral honey, with slow-building minerality adding verve. Deep, spicy, impressively pure orchard fruit and citrus flavors pick up a bitter quinine quality on the back end. Brighter and more vivacious than the Hudson today, with excellent finishing clarity and mineral snap.
agavin: Not as much to my taste as the first myster. There might have been a bit of cork or taint.
2006 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 94. As beautifully as the Bienvenues showed, I was surprised that the Bâtard could actually one-up its stable mate in terms of aromatic complexity and elegance but it certainly does, at least at this early stage. The expressive nose offers up notes of white flower, citrus, pain grillé, spice hints and notes of green fruit that continue onto the bold, rich, intense and impressively detailed medium-full flavors that possess real drive, focus and finishing power. This is much more classic in terms of the traditional Ramonet style than what we saw in 2004 and 2005.
agavin: Another fabulous wine. Tight but with a long vanilla finish.
2006 Etienne Sauzet Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 95. In contrast to the expressiveness of the Bienvenues, this is aromatically quite closed and tight with only glimpses of orchard fruit, citrus and floral notes discernable though the big-bodied and obviously well-muscled flavors are rich, pure and balanced if perhaps not quite as concentrated but somewhat curious, are even finer, which is not the usual result when these two wines are compared. The explosive finish is almost painfully intense and every bit as long as that of the Bienvenues. A qualitative choice though the character and personality of the two is notably different.
agavin: Honey with a nice finish, if slightly hot.
Swordfish Carpaccio with blue stone crab, pantelleria’s capers and Sicilian blood orange. A very nice seafood carpaccio with an elegant pairing of flavors.
Flight 2: Corton Charlemagne
The last wine on the far right was a mystery wine and served blind.
2006 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 94. The ’06 is more obviously riper than the ’07 with a complex, ripe and elegant mix of green apple, spice and minerality that complements perfectly the round, rich, detailed and stony flavors that possess ample mid-palate fat and superb depth of material, all wrapped in a gorgeously long and drenching finish. A study in harmony and grace that should also age well for years.
agavin: A bit of reduction, lean at first, then opening to a hot acid finish.
2006 Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 96. A reserved, indeed even reluctant nose of fresh and stony green fruit and citrus aromas that offer real depth leads to precise, minerally and exceptionally powerful full-bodied flavors that possess huge amounts of dry extract on the hugely long finish. This is still sorting itself out but the quality of the raw materials is impeccable and it possesses impressive potential, which will require at least a decade to realize. One of the finest examples from this appellation in the 2006 vintage.
agavin: More mineral, also with a huge finish.
2006 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 94. A mildly exotic nose offers up notes of spiced apple, mango, wet stone and rose petal that precedes the impressively concentrated big-bodied flavors that possess very solid acid support on the ever-so-mildly toasty and hugely long finish. Compared to the most classically styled vintages this is not really my cup of white burgundy yet from a sheer quality standpoint this is irreproachable. Moreover there is so much dry extract present that this should have no trouble eventually integrating the residual wood. If I was going to choose a vintage among the more recent examples, this is the one that I would choose even though it will continue to age and improve.
agavin: A stunner, and one of my favorites. Lots of reduction (which I like) and a soft floating finish.
2006 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 93. A green fruit nose also has detectable sulfur but again, I’m confident that it will be absorbed given how recent the mise was. The big-bodied flavors are full, intense and minerally that I particularly admire the outstanding precision on the linear, punchy and seriously powerful finish. This is blessed with ample dry extract and I particularly like the balance here.
agavin: A group favorite. Just drinking fabulously.
2006 Domaine de Montille Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 92-95. Very discreet oak notes highlight the airy green apple and spiced peach aromas that are wonderfully refined and pure before preceding impressively rich, full and powerful flavors that also possess ample amounts of dry extract that confer an almost chewy texture onto the palate staining finish that seems to go on and on. This does a slow but inexorable build from the mid-palate on back to the explosive and almost painfully intense finale. Terrific potential here and there is so much minerality that it’s like rolling liquid rocks around in your mouth.
agavin: Chalky with a bit of tropical skittles. I really liked this a lot as well but others disagreed.
Mystery wine #3: 2006 Ceritas Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard. IWC 92. Light, bright gold. Vibrant, floral-accented citrus and quince aromas are complemented by baking spices and flowers, with a gentle undertone of minerals. The minerality gains power with air and carries onto the palate, adding vibrancy to the gently chewy orchard fruit and anise flavors. The strikingly pure and persistent finish repeats the spiciness and leaves fresh pear and apple notes behind. More open-knit than the 2005 today: I’d opt for drinking this first.
agavin: Funny, with some kind of odd funk and a bit of flowers. Not to my taste.
Speck Wrapped Monkfish with Pappa al Pomodoro and Rock Shrimp Sauce. Good stuff, as this had oodles of favorites (for me). I love shrimp sauce, shrimp, speck AND monkfish.
Flight 3: Meursault
2006 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 92. This sports a mildly curious nose of soft reduction, exotic yellow orchard fruit, wood and a hint of a soap-like scent (no, not from the glass). There is outstanding richness and density to the opulent and overtly powerful flavors that possess an oily texture that strongly resembles that of the ’06 Genevrières. The amount of dry extract is most impressive and it imparts a textured, indeed almost chewy character to the explosively long finish. The acidity is quite marked so despite the outsized weight and concentration there is absolutely no trace of heaviness. This isn’t really my style but other than the slightly curious quality of the nose, this is an excellent wine all the same and one that is still very much on the way up.
agavin: Reduced and closed at first, opened up after a bit.
2006 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Rougeots. IWC 93+. Very closed nose hints at wet stone. Rich and ripe in the mouth, with palate-saturating flavors of crushed stone and orange. As lush and sweet as this is, it avoids crossing over to exotic. Very deep and very young: should age very well for a 2006.
agavin: Many people thought this was weird or partially oxidized. I happened to like it a lot. Perhaps I’m biased as a Coche fan. Lots of acid on the finish.
2006 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 93. An even more elegant nose that is ultra high-toned and every bit as pure though here the aromatic profile is more floral and citrusy while introducing gorgeously precise and cuts-like-a-knife flavors that culminates in a long, austere, dry and serious finish. The dryness is exacerbated by a noticeable touch of gas and I would suggest decanting this for 20 minutes or so first but this should one day be a very special wine.
agavin: Reduced. Slight odd notes with a big finish.
2006 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 93. There is a hint of the exotic to the otherwise elegant acacia blossom, citrus peel and softly spiced pear aromas that complement perfectly the pure, detailed, intense and gorgeously delineated medium full flavors that seem almost delicate and then the finish explodes and continues seemingly without end. In the context of the ’06 vintage, this is attractively dry and while not quite fully mature, it’s not far off. While I would advise holding this for another 2 to 3 years there certainly would be no harm in opening a bottle now, especially if you own several and are curious.
agavin: Very nice. Tons of butterscotch. More oxidized, but drinking great.
2006 Domaine Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. Burghound 92. This is at once ripe yet cool and reserved with a seductive mix of orchard fruit and brioche aromas that are strikingly elegant and refined before introducing equally elegant and pure middle weight flavors blessed with ample dry extract that confers a textured and full-bodied palate impression to the explosive and palate staining finish. As one would expect, this is finer than the Bouchères though perhaps not quite as deep. A choice.
agavin: petrol (reduction?). Rich, nice with a long finish.
2006 Domaine Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 93. A high-toned, pure, cool and ultra refined nose of green apple, wet stone and white flower aromas complements to perfection the racy, detailed and chiseled middle weight flavors that seem to be fashioned directly from liquid stone, all wrapped in a punchy, balanced and hugely long finish. This is truly Zen-like in its understated harmony of expression and perfect balance.
agavin: This may have had a little cork. It tasted more malo.
Sardinian Malloreddus with sea urchin. A lovely uni pasta. Just simple al dente “grubs” and uni. There might have also been some safron here.
Flight 4: Chablis
2006 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. Burghound 93. A reticent if wonderfully broad, airy and pure nose of primarily subtly spiced dried peach and white flowers nuanced by oyster shell and that seashore character that classic Chablis has, introduces rich, powerful and palate staining flavors that possess superb vibrancy on the linear, focused and pure finish. Somewhat surprisingly, this is perhaps not quite as stylish as the Preuses but it’s every bit as powerful and long. And like the Preuses, this did indeed surprise to the upside.
agavin: Tropical with a long finish.
2006 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. Burghound 95. An airy, expressive and ultra refined and pure nose trimmed in very subtle wood notes offer up aromas of white flower, quinine, saline, minerals and seashore nuances that give way to rich and robust, indeed huge flavors that are perhaps a bit less refined than those of the Valmur or Preuses but there is another dimension here of depth that more than compensates. A great wine with a long future that should develop slowly yet because of all the mid-palate fat, be enjoyable young.
agavin: A little heavier and more cloying, but very good.
2006 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. Burghound 95. A white flower, exotically ripe yellow peach and pear suffused nose also reveals wafts of quinine and sea breeze that transition into powerful, full and exceptionally rich flavors that are almost chewy they’re so textured and the finish really soaks the palate with dry extract. This is a big and muscular example yet it’s also elegant and refined as it carries its size effortlessly. One of the wines of the ’06 vintage and as great as it is, I don’t find that extra dimension that I usually do relative to the Valmur. Still, you won’t find two better ’06 Chablis anywhere.
agavin: Flower and exotics, but a LONG finish.
2006 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. Burghound 93. A gentle touch of wood highlights airy yet slightly riper high-toned and admirably pure aromas of white flower, pear and quinine that gives way to supple, sweet, mouth coating and impressively concentrated flavors that exude a marvelous intensity on the long, powerful and driving finish supported by a solid acid spine. Definitely worth a look if you can find it but unlike most ’06s, be prepared to have at least some patience as this is unusually firm for the vintage.
agavin: A bit of Sulfur.
2006 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. Burghound 95. This is aromatically fresher, finer and more elegant with a slightly austere and reserved nose of green fruit and oyster shell where the latter component also characterizes the delicious, serious and almost aggressively mineral flavors that culminate in a penetrating and explosive finish. A striking and austere wine with really beautiful acid/fruit/dry extract balance and huge length that doesn’t seem to end. One of the most serious ’06s of the vintage that is simply flat out great.
agavin: Muted at first, then opening up to a long finish.
The infamous (from last year) Lobster and Shrimp Risotto.Valentino has always made a great risotto and this was no exception, particularly being one of my favorite types of risotto. It was so good we had two portions!
Flight 6: Chevalier-Montrachet
The blitzkrieg of Chardonnay is drawing to a close.
2006 Henri Boillot Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 97. The most elegant wine in the entire range (which is really saying something in this case) with an ultra pure, even crystalline nose of white rose, anise, white peach, citrus and spiced pear plus subtle hints of stone that dissolve seamlessly into superbly well focused flavors that possess simply unbelievable precision on the harmonious, linear and palate staining finish that goes on and on seemingly without end. A wine of grand class and for me, the most refined wine of the entire tasting and one that is so intense that I had to ask Boillot to stop pouring for a few minutes to recover from the intensity. A genuinely great Chevalier that is more than worthy of the name.
agavin: Darker color, more oxidized with vanilla and a long finish. Quite nice right now.
From my cellar: 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.
agavin: Vanilla and a buttery rich malo finish.
2006 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 93-95. A discreet touch of wood frames extremely primary aromas that are both reticent and backward though the gorgeously detailed, classy and refined medium plus weight flavors carry borderline painfully intense punch on the palate staining and hugely long finish. This seems to be extracted directly from liquid rock and this has that ‘wow’ factor in spades.
agavin: Butter and vanilla.
2006 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 94. This is notably more elegant, refined and complex with only a trace of exoticism to the mostly white flower and peach aromas that are followed by textured, pure, detailed and delineated flavors that are quite reserved and cool at present while culminating in a focused, crystalline, dry and driving finish. This does a slow build from the mid-palate before exploding onto the knockout finish. A Zen wine. Note that while I am giving a suggested initial drinking window of 2013, this will be capable of aging for years.
agavin: Darker and more oxidized. The most oxidized of the Burgs. Pretty hot after a while too.
2006 Domaine Ramonet Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 93. As one might reasonably expect, this is more aromatically reserved than either the Bienvenues or the Bâtard with discreet nose of tropical fruit, citrus and floral hints that are followed by focused and mineral suffused flavors that possess excellent detail and fine if not truly extraordinary length. I quite like the balance and sense of harmony here though there is perhaps a touch less overall depth and breadth than I’m used to seeing. Still, this is lovely, classy and refined.
agavin: My favorite of the Chevies. Very hot and long.
Roasted Veal au jus with petite vegetables. Very petite 🙂 A nice bit of spiced veal.
Flight 7: Dessert
2001 Chateau de Fargues. Parker 94-96. Still in barrel, this Chateau d’Yquem look-alike exhibits powerful creme brulee characteristics along with some volatile acidity, huge, full-bodied, unctuously textured flavors, ample intensity as well as purity, and caramelized tropical fruits. This brawny heavyweight requires 5-6 years of bottle age, and should evolve for three decades.
Psych. We didn’t open this, instead moving up to…
1998 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Eiswein. IWC: Harvested November 22. Smells as though chili peppers and vanilla icing have been layered over the honey and red jam of the gold capsule Auslese. This exhibits such an enveloping vanilla cream character it easy to forget the acidity. Superbly concentrated if at present a tad less spectacularly expressive than the two Auslesen.
agavin: An awesome dessert wine.
Berry Macedonia with 70 year old Balsamico and fior di latte. A very interesting take on the berries and cream as the sauce (a fruit reduction) had quite a bit of the Balsamico in it, lending it a crisp acidity — which happened to pair excellently with the Donnhoff.
There is a lot to say about this tasting. First of all, Valentino did a great job as usual. The wine service was impeccable, and this is a difficult task (pouring lots of big blind flights). The food was good, better even than last week’s red tasting, and by the end I was plenty full (no need to run for ramen again). It maybe could have been a little faster.
I was expecting more of a mixed bag. Last year we had tons of oxidized or corked wines. And even the red tasting had a bunch of duds. But the 2006 whites were in fine shape. Nothing was seriously corked (1-2 had minor taint) and nothing was heavily oxidized (a few were either reduced or showed a little oxidation). Nearly everything was drinking great. This wasn’t just a LOT OF CHARDONNAY it was a LOT OF GREAT CHARDONNAY!
I think I’ll be picking up some more 2006s!
Other big tasting dinners from this group: