Restaurant: Del Frisco’s Grille
Location: 1551 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-7333
Date: April 1, 2015
Cuisine: Commercial Steakhouse
Rating: Food was decent, service excellent
Last year my Hedonist group started up a new concept, a sort of club within a club of high end blind tasting diners. The deal is everyone brings a bottle (and backups) blind. We eat drink and try to guess at what they are. The group is know as the “Dirty Dozen” (although we crept up to 14 tonight). Oh, and we have an official Dirty Dozen T-shirt which is required attire.
The wine rules tonight were 2005 or older, $200+, and 95+ from a serious wine reviewer. There was a little cheating on the age, but these were all great wines.
It should be noted that all the red wines tonight were served blind with the reveal at the end of the meal. The champagnes, whites, and dessert wine were not blind.
Flight 0: Champagne
NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut. VM 90. Light gold. Musky orchard fruits and dried fig on the mineral-accented nose. Fleshy and broad on the palate, offering smoky pear and nectarine flavors and a hint of honey. Finishes on a gently spicy note, with very good cling and a touch of bitter lemon pith. Things have definitely begun to turn around for this bottling, which had been lagging behind the winery’s vintage offerings for some time.
Ron brought (bonus): 2005 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 94. Bright yellow. Vibrant pear and melon aromas are complicated by suggestions of ginger, brioche and smoky minerals. Dry, smoky and precise, offering intense orchard and pit fruit flavors that gain weight with aeration. A dusty mineral quality adds focus and lift to the long, penetrating, floral finish. There’s a Burgundian thing going on here that’s quite intriguing.
agavin: bright, structured, and very nice
Flight 1: Amuses
Remember, we didn’t know the wines until the end of the dinner.
Larry brought: 1997 Guigal Cote Rotie la Turque. Parker 96. The dense purple-colored, profound 1997 Cote Rotie La Turque (5-7% Viognier added to the blend) offers creme de cassis, licorice, and espresso aromas as well as notions of melted asphalt. Compared to La Mouline, it has additional layers as well as structure, sweet tannin, and exhilarating levels of opulence and ripe fruit. Anticipated maturity: now-2018.
result: #2 favorite of the night by vote
agavin: One of my two favorite wines of the night. Great perfume and complexity. Slightly more brick color, long finish. Thought maybe a Syrah or older Bord.
LEC: light color, improving, cooler, Burg? Rhone? 92-94
Dr Dave brought: 2003 Montrose. Parker 99. A candidate for a perfect score, the 2003 Montrose has been a superstar since the first time I tasted it in barrel. Showing no signs of weakening, it is an amazing wine from this fabulous terroir. It boasts a deep blue/purple color as well as a stunning perfume of blueberries, black currants, blackberries, licorice and camphor. Dense, full-bodied and rich with an unctuous texture, well-integrated, melted tannins, and a long, heady finish, this big, brawny, super-intense, gorgeous 2003 is just beginning to enter its plateau of full maturity. It should remain there for at least two decades.
result: #3 favorite of the night by vote
agavin: med purple. young, but with fabulous poise and balance. Guessed it was a young Bordeaux.
LEC: nice, decent finish, good balance, very pretty Bord? 93
2007 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 96. The sensational 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (their 25th anniversary selection) may be the best wine Staglin has ever made. Tasting like a classic Margaux or St.-Julien, it offers up notes of new saddle leather, cedar, spice box, black currants, black cherries and hints of graphite and wood. This full-bodied, intense 2007 is still extremely young, but it is beautifully proportioned with a seamless integration of all the component parts. A brilliant effort, it admirably reflects its appellation. Moreover, it should drink beautifully over the next 20-25 years.
agavin: deep purple. so extracted and powerful it tasted like grape-coconut juice. Was sure this was new world.
LEC: warmer, sweet, 90-91 CA?
Flight 2: Flatbreads
L.E.C. brought: 1989 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche. Burghound 94. For two decades this very much seemed stuck in a time capsule as it was evolving glacially but just in the last few years full maturity has finally arrived. The hallmark spice of a great La Tâche is present in spades with outstanding aromatic complexity that includes plenty of secondary fruit development but at this point, no sous bois. There is excellent concentration to the velvety and wonderfully rich flavors that display the same wonderful depth of the nose, all wrapped in a mouth coating, delicious and hugely long finish.
agavin: our bottle was weird and funky, with lots of soy sauce and bandaid. Not very pleasant. More on that later. Totally didn’t guess this was even a Burgundy or Pinot it was so weird.
LEC: LEC?, Burg, balanced? 95 (3) maybe less than #8 & #4 after a while in the glass
Robin brought: 2007 Peter Michael Winery Les Pavots Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 97. The 2007 Les Pavots, a Bordeaux varietal blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot, is brilliant. Its opaque purple color is accompanied by gorgeously complex aromas of melted chocolate, espresso roast, blackberries, and cassis. Full-bodied with a superb texture, a subtle note of oak, and fabulous concentration, it is more reminiscent of a Right Bank Bordeaux than one expects with this much Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. A thirty-year wine, its impeccable balance and the sweetness of its tannins make it accessible already.
agavin: deep purple and coconut flavored. New world.
LEC: a bit muted, young sweet, a bit short, really improved in the glass, 93
John brought: 1997 Henschke Shiraz Hill of Grace. 94 points. Fruity nose with cherry, mulberry, blackcurrant with eucalyptus giving way to secondary and tertiary characteristics – vanilla, cloves and nutmeg as well as cedar and cigar box. In the mouth it has a muted attack but then there is a gloriously rich explosion of fruit on the mid palate with beautifully integrated tannins and a long warm finish revealing spices. Wolfed down with rib roast beef and veg. Very nice.
agavin: medium ruby, funky nose. bandaid finish, but strangely pretty decent — sorta. Had no idea if it was older new world or Bord.
LEC: warm and soft, 91
Yarom brought: 2003 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard T6. Parker 99. Virtually perfect, the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon T6 Beckstoffer To- Kalon Vineyard offers up an awesome display of fragrant creosote, white chocolate, blackberries, cassis, cedarwood and incense. Full-bodied with a multidimensional mouthfeel, excellent opulence and layers of fruit, it possesses stunning purity and richness, a phenomenally fragrant nose (the most aromatic of all these Schrader Cabs), and a long finish. The tannins suggest another 3-4 years of cellaring will be beneficial. It should keep for 20+ years.
agavin: deep purple. Long and nice new world.
LEC: sweet balanced, 92
Why is it that restaurants feel the need to call “fancy” pizza flatbread?
Flight 3: Soup & Salads
Arnie brought: 2005 Verite La Muse. Parker 98. A blend of 87% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec (3% from the Alexander Valley Mountain Estate, 49% from Chalk Hill and 48% from Knight’s Valley), exhibits a Bordeaux-like personality. Thick, viscous and rich with great elegance, tremendous purity and intensity as well as a full-bodied sweetness, it offers notes of caramel, mocha, coffee roast, black cherries and black currants. This supple, velvety-textured, opulent 2005 is accessible now and capable of lasting another 20-25 years.
agavin: deep purple. Couldn’t decide if this was young Bord or a very smooth new world.
LEC: nice fruit but mature 92
Kirk brought: 1994 Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 100! What can I say about the 1994? I have tasted the wine for three consecutive years, and each time it satisfied all of my requirements for perfection. The opaque purple color is followed by spectacular aromatics that soar from the glass, offering up celestial levels of black currants, minerals, smoked herbs, cedar wood, coffee, and pain grille. In the mouth, this seamless legend reveals full body, and exquisite layers of phenomenally pure and rich fruit, followed by a 40+ second finish. While accessible, the 1994 begs for another 5-7 years of cellaring. It should easily last for 30+ years. Every possible jagged edge – acidity, alcohol, tannin, and wood – is brilliantly intertwined in what seems like a diaphanous format. What is so extraordinary about this large-scaled wine, with its dazzling display of aromatics and prodigious flavors and depth, is that it offers no hint of heaviness or coarseness. Harlan’s 1994 comes close to immortality in the glass.
agavin: clearly, 94 Harlan is the perfect salad wine 🙂 Delicious and grapey, but a touch hot (alcoholic) on the finish.
LEC: nice, light, younger 91
Avi brought: 1989 Pichon-Longueville Baron. Parker 95-96. Both the 1989 and 1990 vintages exhibit opaque, dense purple colors that suggest massive wines of considerable extraction and richness. The dense, full-bodied 1989 is brilliantly made with huge, smoky, chocolatey, cassis aromas intermingled with scents of toasty oak. Well-layered, with a sweet inner-core of fruit, this awesomely endowed, backward, tannic, prodigious 1989 needs another 5-6 years of cellaring; it should last for three decades or more. It is unquestionably a great Pichon-Longueville-Baron.
agavin: med purple. Weird nose, a bit of soy sauce. Rich finish, but odd. No idea, sorta flawed. In retrospect (knowing what it is), a bad bottle, as I’ve had many great bottles of this.
LEC: mature complex notes, 94
Ron brought (bonus): 2007 Jean et Sébastien Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses. Burghound 91-93. This too displays a nose that frames the citrus blossom, spice and intense sea shore aromas in noticeable but not dominant wood that gives way to the delicious, serious and admirably pure medium plus bodied flavors that possess excellent punch and length on the very dry finish. This is impressively intense and palate staining and should age beautifully.
agavin: reductive, but good.
Andy brought (bonus): 2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon. Burghound 91. Here too there is very subtle wood highlighting an airy, ripe and expressive nose featuring orchard fruit and citrus blossom aromas and continues onto the detailed, punchy and admirably vibrant medium-bodied flavors that finish with moderate dryness and very good length. Again, fine quality here but not up to that of the 2005.
agavin: our bottle was advanced and tasted like apple juice
Flight 4: Meat!
Erick brought: 1982 Gruaud Larose. Parker 98. A massive wine that is clearly of first-growth quality in this vintage, the 1982 Gruaud Larose remains a youngster. A broodingly dense, thick, unctuously textured, inky/plum/garnet/purple color offers up scents of beef blood, steak tartare, cassis, herbs, tobacco, and underbrush. One of the most concentrated wines of the vintage (as well as one of the most concentrated Bordeaux’s I have ever tasted), it is a huge, full-bodied, weighty, rich wine whose tannins are getting silkier and silkier. It appears set for another 30-40 years of life. This behemoth is a singularly profound example of Gruaud Larose that continues to justify its legendary status. Anticipated maturity: now-2050.
result: WOTN! #1 So Bordeaux I declared I’d shave my butt if it wasn’t. Pencil. Rich. Classic fully mature Bordeaux.
LEC: mature, complex, balanced 97
Andy brought: 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico. Parker 98. The 1989 Unico is dark ruby-colored with a complex nose exhibiting the effects of extended aging. Plush and spicy on the palate, it has ample layered fruit and a very long finish. The 1989 Unico, a blend of 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon picked early from 30th September, has a gorgeous, minty bouquet with blackberry, a touch of blueberry, crushed violets and a little strawberry jam. It blossoms with aeration in the glass. The palate is smooth and rounded on the entry: caressing and voluminous in the mouth. The fruit is very pure with notes of strawberry, Tiptree raspberry jam, marmalade and quince. It has great weight towards the finish with orange cordial and a hint of mango.
agavin: I knew this was the Unico as it was the only wine that tasted like its blend (or Spanish). But I knew there was a Unico in here because I brought it. Fabulous interesting nose. Long complex finish. I really liked it, tied with the 97 La Turque as my favorite.
LEC: sweet mature fruit, 94
Warren brought: 2006 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer George III Vineyard. Parker 95. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer George III Vineyard offers an extraordinary bouquet of creme de cassis, scorched earth, and burning embers as well as full-bodied power, velvety tannins, and exceptional density and richness. This superb wine exhibits layered extravagance and sweet tannins, a rarity in this vintage. It is already drinking well.
agavin: purple. Oaky, grapey, huge.
LEC: big, dark 94
Ron brought: 1978 Cos d’Estournel. Parker. Very highly regarded by the chateau, I have found the 1978 to be very good, but not as graceful or as well balanced as the 1979. It is dark ruby with a moderately intense bouquet of herbs, black cherries, spice, oak, and leather. On the palate, the wine is medium to full bodied, with a dusty tannic texture.
agavin: Dark ruby. Big complex, slight funk. Guessed it was old Bord.
LEC: mature, 95
Flight 5: Dessert
Kirk brought (bonus): 1967 Climens. 92 points. Beautiful light amber color. Bright and sweet yellow pit fruits, apricot, yellow peach, a hint of red fruits, light tea, crème brulee and sweet spices. Polished palate, medium concentration, cool red tea and pit fruit driven palate impression, mineral, good acidity and lovely long clean finish. This is cleaner and purer but don’t possess the power and complexity of the 67 D’Yquem. A great aperitif for my palate rather than a great dessert wine.
agavin: Like pineapple liqueur!
1999 Domaine Ponsot Chapelle-Chambertin. Burghound 94. A ripe, fresh and highly complex nose features a mix of both primary and secondary dark berry fruit scents along with plenty of Gevrey-style earth and discreet spice nuances. There is excellent intensity to the relatively broad-shouldered flavors that possess fine volume and very solid mid-palate concentration before culminating in a firmly structured, mineral-driven, serious and overtly austere finish. This is very impressive but note that to my taste it is still at least 5 years too early to be popping any corks on this beauty.
Wine: Erick won for the second dinner in a row with his top grade 80s Bordeaux. Sick that the 82 GL cost $12 a bottle at release in 1984-85!
People really stepped up and the overall wine quality was very good tonight. They were all (mostly) big Bordeaux varietals, which suited the food (except the salad). The age range varied considerably, but the quality was very high across the board.
As usual, blind tasting is revealing because people really had no idea about many of the wines, other than it being fairly easy to spot the Bordeaux vs New World wines. A few of the older New Worlds were non obvious.
Some people clearly prefer the “sluts” (the big extracted younger wines) and some people like more maturity and finesse (I’m in the later camp). Since most of the preferred wines were technically quiet balanced, this is just a personal preference.
We asked everyone to guess which wine they brought (before revealing):
John 10 (picked harlan, but really brought #9 hill of grace — I think)
Avi 2 (correct)
Kirk 4 (picked 03 schrader, but really brought #10 harlan)
Adam 3 (guessed verite, but brought #7 07 stagland)
Warren 3 (guessed verite, brought #5 06 schrader)
David 6 (correct)
Ron 13 (82 GL, but brought #11 78 cos)
Yarom 5 (guessed 06 schrader, but brought #4 03 schrader — so actually kinda close)
Larry 14 (guessed la tache / ponsot charmes, but brought #12 97 la turque)
LEC 14 (correct)
Andy 1 (correct)
Eric 13 (correct)
Robin 6 (guessed 03 montrose but brought #8 07 pavots)
Arnie 5 (guessed 06 schrader, but brought #3 02 verite)
Food: The food was solid. I had low expectations and they exceeded them. Not amazing or anything, but we ordered well. The flatbreads were quite good. Some of the sides very good, and the desserts excellent.
Service: Was overall excellent, WAY WAY exceeding expectations. The room was fabulous and we had dedicated and very attentive staff. Things took a little while, but they handled it really well.
Del Frisco’s did a great job with the fundamentals of the wine service tonight, particularly given that this was a more elaborate and technical dinner than they are probably used to. They had PLENTY of stems ready, enough to give us new ones for every wine and they managed the timing of this well. The coordination of the blind pouring was solid too with real problems. Perhaps pour size was slightly uneven but the wines got all the way around in good form.
They opened all the bottles right before serving them. This has its plusses and minuses. It does present consistent treatment, but given the huge disparity in airing needs, didn’t maximize each wine — and on the final flight led to some delay because of cork issues.
Because everyone brings their wine blind there is a need to organize the flights. This was a bit random, but that’s mostly our fault for not designating someone to do it as very few restaurants have staff with the technical knowledge and experience to really do this.
Overall I’d call it a 9 for service and an 11 for effort.