Restaurant: Valentino Santa Monica [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]
Location: 3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 829-4313
Date: February 9, 2016
Rating: Fun and educational!
This dinner is the first part of the annual White Burgundy Premox test series, hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell. This dinner covers 2008 Chablis, Meursault, and Corton Charlemagne. 2005 White Burgundy Dinner series Part 1 can be found here. You can also read about previous year’s 2004 Red Burgundy dinner and 2006 White Burgundy tasting.
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.
And with regard to the wines. In Burgundy, in 2008, up to the middle of June, when the moon was full on the 18th., the season had been cool, wet and miserable. The flowering was late and drawn out, promising a late and uneven harvest. The next six weeks happily saw a marked inprovement: plenty of sun, not too much rain – and what there was was sporadic and localised – though it was warm rather than hot. Temperatures rarely exceeded 30°C. Then the weather deteriorated. There was more rain and less sun right through to mid-September. A bleak summer indeed! Overall there was less precipitation on the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune, and less still in the Côte Chalonnaise. Chablis seems to have enjoyed the mildest weather of all. But inevitably, the incidence of mildew, oidium and botrytis became ever more serious as the weeks progressed. At various times from the beginning of May onwards, hail damaged the vineyards of Marsannay, Volnay and Meursault, Chassagne and parts of the southern Màconnais and northern Beaujolais.
At the last minute, however, more benign conditions returned and continued well into October. The harvest kicked off in the Beaujolais, as I have said, on September 15th. A week or more later the growers began to attack the Mâconnais and to some extent the Côte de Beaune. But many in the Côte d’Or held off until Monday 29th or even, in the Côte de Nuits, into October, and were able to profit from natural sugar levels of 13° and higher. It was the latest harvest for some years, requiring 110 or more, not 100, days from flowering to fruition.
A couple of us got here early and decided to get the party rolling with a great value off the Valentino wine list:
1969 Maison Leroy Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. 94 points. This is just ridiculously young. Even the color doesn’t indicate its age. There’s a fair amount of sulfur, which could explain its vibrancy. Gently oaked, light nuttiness with plenty of lemon with a hint of minerality. Good acidity, round and rich, very Charmes. A treat to drink.
agavin: WOTN actually, as the upcoming 2008s just don’t have the age to compete with this kind of complexity.
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 half 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 handled the whole wine service with extreme professionalism and personality.
Flight 0: Champagne
2005 Pierre Péters Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Speciale Blanc de Blancs Les Chetillons. VM 93. The 2005 Brut Cuvée Speciale Blanc de Blancs Les Chetillons from Pierre Peters is beautifully open and expressive, which is quite unusual in young Chetillons. That is good news for those who want to catch a glimpse of one of Champagne’s most exciting wines. This is about as good as it gets in what turned out to be a very challenging vintage in Champagne.
Bruschetta with wild arugula and parmiggiano schegge.
A word about tonight’s format. Every bottle was served blind, except we were aware of what flight it was and what was in the flight, just not of which wine was which. The reveal was held until the end of the entire evening so that we could vote on favorite wines without bias.
Personally, I’d prefer a reveal halfway through each flight for a number of reasons. True, this would compromise the voting a bit, but that’s not super important to me. I’d prefer to be able to taste the wines both not knowing which was which and knowing, so that I can continue to build up my subjective memory for each house style. I also find it very difficult to remember back across multiple flights for “best” comparisons. I took notes and marked my favorites of each flight and compared those, but I’m not even really sure it’s fare to compare a Chablis to a Corton.
Flight 1: Chablis
2008 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses. BH 95. A highly complex if discreet nose of noticeably cool aromas features notes of limestone, lemon, oyster shell, iodine and dried white flowers that marry into beautifully precise flavors blessed with an abundance of dry extract on the tightly wound, seriously long and intense finish. This is flat out gorgeous and perfectly balanced with that Zen-like character this wine always seems to evidence.
agavin: lots of Chablis acidity
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. BH 95. The reflections are the classic light gold-green hues of a fine Chablis. The barest touch of oak highlights the green fruit, menthol, saline and iodine aromas that precede the extremely stony, concentrated and driving flavors that are also blessed with ample amounts of dry extract that provides a much needed balancing element to the ripe acid backbone on the chalky and sappy finish. When Valmur is really good, it rivals Les Clos for the best grand cru in Chablis and this 2008 is really good.
agavin: slightly darker than most, a bit of oxidized advanced notes on the nose.
From my cellar: 2008 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. BH 97. A background touch of wood frames green fruit, white flower and salt water aromas that introduce ultra pure, refined, elegant and cool flavors that possess terrific vibrancy and focused power before culminating in a driving, understated, firm and altogether serious finish. I very much like this as it’s classic Valmur and should age beautifully as the balance is perfect. Perhaps the best way to capture the spectacular potential of this wine is to call it brilliant. Don’t miss it but note that patience is required.
agavin: reductive nose, and really singing. Clearly the best of the flight.
2008 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. BH 96. A ripe, pure and airy nose of classic Chablis aromas is trimmed in the barest hint of pain grillé while complementing perfectly the rich, mineral-driven and beautifully intense palate staining and mouth coating flavors brimming with oyster shell nuances on the penetrating, delineated, focused and bone dry finish. I love the underlying sense of tension here and like the Preuses, this has so much dry extract that it will require at least a decade to fully mature. Brilliant.
agavin: much darker, with strong oxidative notes on the nose. Tasted of apple, and at the moment, fairly decent, but probably significantly advanced.
2008 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. BH 96. Here too the elegance of the nose is simply stunning with a layered and perfumed aromatic profile trimmed in an almost invisible touch of oak that allows it to ooze Chablis character and in particular, a fine minerality that continues onto the impressively concentrated and palate staining flavors that possess striking precision on the explosively long and bone dry finish. This is a great Les Clos that will make old bones.
agavin: my glass smelled soapy, which was distracting.
2008 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. BH 96. This too is impressively pure and cool with an airy but reserved mix of floral, spice, mineral reduction and iodine notes merging seamlessly into gorgeously intense and almost aggressively stony medium-bodied flavors that exude a subtle sense of harmony, indeed this is Zen-like on the explosive, balanced and lingering finish that positively screams Chablis. This is simply fantastic and while I have a very slight preference for the Valmur, this is certainly an inspired effort as well. If you can find it, don’t miss this either but also like the Valmur, be prepared to be patient.
agavin: very nice, with a lot of Chablis acidity and apple notes.
2008 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot. BH 95. A restrained, even discreet nose of toast, white flower, stone and quinine notes can also be found on the silky, pure and sophisticated medium-bodied flavors blessed with ample amounts of dry extract that completely buffer the firm acid spine on the detailed, minerally and lingering finish that is almost painfully intense. A classic Blanchots of both style and grace.
2008 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre. BH 94. A more elegant as well as more refined but also much more reserved nose of white flower and salt water aromas is very much in keeping with the equally refined, pure and silky middle weight flavors that possess excellent detail and precision on the textured and seductive finish that displays grand cru level persistence. This is not quite as rich as the Butteaux but it’s finer as the chiseled flavors are flat out gorgeous. In a word, stunning.
agavin: nice, probably second best in the flight — showing that Rav MDT is a serious value.
Pan seared scallops with wild mushrooms and a crustacean reduction. A lovely seafood salad with good solid hunks of lobster.
Flight 2: Meursault
This flight included all the Meursaults that were not Perrieres.
2008 Domaine Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Bouchères. BH 92. A classic Meursault nose of roasted hazelnut, fresh white flower, pear and white peach aromas trimmed in a touch of citrus marries into vibrant and impressively detailed flavors that also deliver ample power and punch on the intense and lively finish. This has real personality and in contrast to many examples of the appellation, this is really quite fine. Worth considering.
From my cellar: 2008 Domaine Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Les Poruzots. BH 92. An extremely fresh green fruit and herbal nose cut with hints of underbrush and citrus where the latter element can also be found on the rich, powerful and serious but not rustic medium weight plus flavors that culminate in a mouth coating and impressively long finish. This is robust but actually slightly finer than it usually is.
2008 Henri Boillot Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. BH 92. As one would reasonably expect, this is much more elegant with an ultra pure nose of apricot, peach, lemon and toasted nuts that slides seamlessly into supple and very seductively textured medium-bodied flavors brimming with dry extract that really coats the mouth on the almost painfully intense finish. This is exceptionally well-balanced and will age though the extract is such that it will be enjoyable young.
agavin: one of the best wines of the flight
2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. BH 90-92. A slightly more elegant nose features ripe white peach, pear and lemon aromas that introduce the rich, full-bodied, intense and mouth coating flavors that, not surprisingly, possess more depth as well as more underlying material, all wrapped in an impressively long finish. This is very Charmes as it’s generous but classy.
agavin: at first seemed like a hint of premox, but a very rich wine
2008 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. BH 93. A discreet but not invisible touch of oak frames the ripe orchard fruit aromas, particularly peach and apricot, as well as pretty floral notes. The fresh, intense and notably sweet flavors possess excellent intensity and vibrancy before culminating in a generous and mouth coating finish that displays real verve. I really like the sense of underlying tension and the abundant amount of dry extract confers an almost chewy quality on the gorgeously long finish. In a word, terrific.
agavin: slightly darker, possibly advanced
2008 Domaine Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Charmes. BH 93. An impressively pure if somewhat reserved high-toned nose features wonderfully stylish aromas of white flower, hazelnut, wet stone and ripe lemon-lime nuances where the minerality also adds punch and lift to the mineral-infused, racy and punchy medium-bodied flavors that possess real finishing verve and seriously impressive persistence. The old vine sap is very much in evidence as it confers a seductive texture onto the mid-palate yet does not compromise the precise and chiseled quality of the backend. In a word, marvelous.
agavin: some people thought this might be off
Pan seared scallops with wild mushrooms and a crustacean reduction.
Flight 3: Meursault Perrieres
2008 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Rougeots. VM 92+. Classic aromas of lemon, lime, minerals, hazelnut and grilled almond; smells rich in dry extract. Then dense and superconcentrated, with terrific inner-mouth energy to the flavors of peach, orange blossom, lemon and crushed stone. Time-capsule Meursault, finishing with superb length. This too should age very well.
agavin: nice, very focused and linear
2008 Hospices de Beaune Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières Cuvée Baudot Pierre Yves Colin Morey. 96 points. WOW….there’s that pycm lime! SO friggin good…..piercing lime acidity, crushed slate, chalky limestone….the age has creamed it up well…actually quite rich…dried honey, florals galore…chiseled and drinking perfect! A true pleasure.
agavin: very reductive and lovely. We all swore this was the Coche. It tasted so like Coche. I guess we were wrong. Best wine of the flight.
2008 Comtesse Bernard de Cherisey Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru La Genelotte. 89 points. Showing just a hint of the wax and lanolin I associate with age (and I do not like). Showing more gunflint and power. The many fruit tones are lessened. Very complex. Very well made. We shall see where it ages too but I do enjoy it. But is it better young or old?
agavin: rich and strong with some soy sauce notes
2008 Henri Boillot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 93. This is the most elegant wine to this point with a strikingly perfumed nose of spiced pear, wet stone and rose petals that gives way to minerally and focused middle weight flavors that are crystalline in their purity, all wrapped in a seriously deep and long finish. Like several wines in the range, a classic example of the appellation.
2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 91-93. Here the nose offers yet another step up in refinement with an almost delicate nose of acacia blossom, citrus and wet stone that leads to linear and precise flavors of crystalline purity, all wrapped in a long, dry, serious and explosive finish that displays a penetrating minerality. A classic Perrières.
agavin: flat nose, but good taste
2008 Domaine François Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 91-93. A striking nose of exceptionally fresh and layered aromas of fennel, green apple and spiced pear complement the round, intense and gorgeously detailed flavors that possess outstanding depth and length on the finish that is like rolling small pebbles around in your mouth. As with a few other wines in the Mikulski range, there is a saline character on the almost painfully intense finish that reminds me vaguely of Chablis.
agavin: cork flake nose? a touch darker? apple on the pallete
2008 Domaine Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 92. There is still a trace of mild reduction that only marginally detracts from the appeal of the otherwise pretty aromas of acacia blossom, spiced pear and wet stone aromas. The delicious, gorgeously elegant and pure flavors possess a silky palate impression on the concentrated, explosive and stunningly long finish that seems to be composed of liquid rock. This classy example doesn’t quite have the precision of the Charmes though the length is certainly most impressive. We’ll see how this develops but for now, I would rank this just below the Charmes in terms of overall quality.
Seafood Risotto. Always a favorite. A very nice risotto, although not cheesy. Last year we had two portions, we could have used that this time!
Flight 4: Corton Charlemagne
2008 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne. VH 92-94. An upper register and highly complex nose of green apples, white pear and citrus notes introduces almost painfully intense, pure and impressively powerful big-bodied and overtly muscular flavors that possess an almost aggressive minerality on the palate staining, tension-filled and driving finish. This is really a striking wine that is built to age as there is an abundance of dry extract. Gorgeous.
agavin: nice, with green apple. Quite good for the flight.
2008 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. VH 95. There is a hint of exoticism to the citrus, pear and white peach suffused nose that is presently trimmed in a noticeable, if very slight, touch of sulfur. The rich and extremely fresh middle weight plus flavors possess an impressive amount of dry extract as well as ample mineral influence on the austere and ultra-pure finish that seems to go on and on. This powerful and impeccably well balanced but presently closed effort should live for many years though it will probably come to its peak 10 to 12 years from now. In a word, fabulous.
From my cellar: 2008 Joseph Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne. BH 91-94. Discreet if not invisible wood highlights a ripe white flower and green fruit nose nuanced by spice and wet stone hints where the latter elements are also reflected by the intensely soil-driven flavors brimming with both salinity and minerality on the explosive and strikingly long, palate staining and overtly austere finish. This is a sublimely classic Corton-Charlemagne that offers formidable cellar potential.
agavin: Vanilla, big, a well liked Corton
2008 Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. BH 96. This is a classic example of Corton-Charlemagne with its impressively layered floral, green fruit, lime and stone-infused nose that precedes citrusy, precise and powerful mineral-driven flavors that possess real muscle on the almost painfully intense and steely finish that delivers striking length. While it’s not quite as great as the Montrachet, it easily holds its own. A wine to own but note that only the patient will ever see it at its best as this is likely to evolve glacially.
2008 Louis Jadot Corton-Charlemagne Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot. BH 94. A highly complex nose of pain grillé, cool green fruit laced with floral and anise hints leads to rich, powerful, naturally sweet and impressively intense full-bodied flavors that possess an overt muscularity as well as buckets of dry extract that really coats the mouth on the long and distinctly dry finish.
agavin: slightly darker with maybe some advanced notes
2008 Faiveley Corton-Clos des Cortons Faiveley. BH 91-94. Almost invisible wood allows the lightly spiced and earthy red berry fruit aromas that are admirably pure to merge into relatively supple yet well-detailed broad-shouldered flavors that culminate in a lingering and solidly firm finish. This is unusually approachable but I expect that it will tighten up considerably after it is bottled. If so, this will definitely be a wine for the patient.
2008 Henri Boillot Corton-Charlemagne. BH 96. Hints of oak toast add nuance to the green apple, lime and classic dried white flower aromas that precede the well-muscled, firm and impressively broad-shouldered flavors that are clean, dry and ultra intense with real drive on the penetrating and intensely mineral-suffused finish that delivers stunning length. This beautifully chiseled effort does not deliver quite the same length as the Montrachet but it’s perhaps even more complex. In sum, part of why I like this so much is its sense of completeness.
agavin: a bit weird. caramel notes?
2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Corton-Charlemagne. VH 93-95. A reticent nose of lightly spiced green apple, white peach and white rose petal aromas leads to exceptional pure, detailed, tautly muscular and stony medium weight plus flavors that possess superb intensity and huge length on the mouth coating cuts-like-a-knife finish. This is presently an understated yet powerful wine possessing huge amounts of dry extract and stunning verve. A serious effort that will undoubtedly be long-lived though arrive at its apogee before its 10th birthday.
agavin: nice and fruity, probably my favorite of the flight
Pan roasted Napa quail rapped in pancetta. The bacon added a lot of salty goodness. The meat had a nice gaminess too, although was perhaps a touch over cooked.
A side of ravioli in butter sage sauce. A simple classic prep, and great as always.
Flight 5: Dessert
2004 Turley Roussanne LPR Alban Estate Vineyard. VM 93. Deep orange-gold. Apricot liqueur, golden raisin, maple syrup, vanilla, honey and clove on the nose. Thick, fat and supersweet, with the wine’s ten grams per liter of acidity lost in its sugar. An extremely glyceral wine that winemaker Jordan says is lower in sugar and acidity than the 2005 (which came from grapes harvested two months earlier!), and less “electric.” Notes of honey and nuts on the extremely long and sweet back end.
agavin: very sweet and fruity, with a pink almost cloudy tone. Tasty, but not amazing or anything.
Above is the revealed flight list.
And the full array of revealed bottles.
The crew is getting young as a new generation of Chardonnay fiends gets in on the action.
There is a lot to say about this tasting. First of all, Valentino did a good job as usual. The wine service was impeccable, and this is a difficult task (pouring lots of big blind flights). Overall service is absolutely first rate. It’s a large quiet room, and the staff was highly attentive. The food was solid, although not as bright or modern as some places. The decor and food are a tad dated now, very very 90s — and not even as good as I remember back in the 90s. But memory is a funny thing. All the dishes tonight were tasty. Pairing with the Burgundy was spot on (thanks to Don and Ron who worked hard on this aspect).
Wine service was impeccable.
There wasn’t quite enough food and the flights were too large. Really this dinner could use 6 flights, no bigger than 5 wines each and about 6 savory dishes. This was more a planning/budget issue than anything under the restaurant’s control. I wanted to go for awesome porky ramen after, but Tsjuita was closing so we couldn’t quite get mobilized.
2008 as a vintage was quite good. We had no corked bottles and 3-4 advanced bottles. No totally premoxed bottles like with 2005. The vintage character is broad and ripe, with a good amount of acid, but not the unrelenting sourness of 2007. Chablis remains tight. The richer wines, particularly Meursault Perrieres and Corton Charlie were very impressive. Some really nice wines there. The Chablis were good, but very Chablis with that acidic linearity. The MPs were the roundest, but I always like MP.
I also think we should vote on each wine in the flight and then reveal that flight. Keeping them blind until the end seriously reduces the learning aspect of the evening, as you can’t really remember or effectively revisit. Plus, my “voting” is pretty random, consisting of picking my favorites from each flight anyway. I just don’t have it in me to go back and retaste 30 wines or to compare Chablis and Corton Charlie against each other. Just my opinion.
Thanks to Don C again as always for organizing a super fun and education event! It’s an enormous amount of organization and we all really appreciate it.
Speaking of Don, his compiled results and comments from this dinner are as follows. The top five ranked wines of the evening were:
1. 2008 Colin-Morey Meursault Genevrieres Hospice de Beaune, which got nine of fourteen possible first place votes and a pretty astounding 55 total points.
2. 2008 Drouhin Corton Charlemagne
3. 2008 Raveneau Chablis Blanchots
4. 2008 Raveneau Valmur
5. 2008 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne
The Ringer for the evening – De Cherisey Meursault Blagny Genelottes (located above Meursault Perrieres) fit right in with the Meursault Perrieres flight as expected and did quite well finishing tied for 7th overall.
Of 29 wines, we had 0 corked, 0 oxidized but 5 advanced (17.2%). The latter group included only one surprise (Dauvissat Clos) and four of the usual suspects. The pleasant surprises were that Bonneau du Martray was not on the POX list and neither were any of the Henri Boillot wines.
It was a great performance by the Chablis overall – the best vintage of Chablis we’ve had since 2002 and infinitely superior to the disappointing 2007s.
A couple of generalizations – the colors on the wines were all in the gold range, mostly between light and medium gold – generally deeper-colored than the 2007s at the same point. All of the wines showed good acidity. So far, the vintage seems very successful though we ran into a couple of wines where there seemed to have been an underlying rot problem that wasn’t dealt with well.
Other big tasting dinners from this dinner series: