Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881
Date: March 8, 2016
Cuisine: California French
Rating: Awesome again
And so we arrive at Part 3 of the epic three night 2008 White Burgundy Dinner series (Part 1 can be found here and part 2 here). This series of dinners, hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell, explores in great detail the best wines of a particular vintage, in this case 2008.
Tonight features “Mostly Montrachet” that is, the wines of the great “Le Montrachet” Grand Cru, often considered the best white wine in the world.
This particular dinner is at Melisse, one of LA’s few 2 star Michelin restaurants and also one of my favorites (you can find links to three epic Carte Blanche meals at Melisse in the brackets at the top of the post). Let’s just say that Melisse generally has every area of fine dining covered: great food, great wine service, great everything service, etc.
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.
Our testing was setup in the elegant private room just to the right of the entrance.
Flight 0: Amuses
2002 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. VM 98. Honey, almonds, butter, tropical fruit and brioche are some of the notes that emerge in the 2002 Dom Pérignon. Here the flavors are bold, rich and exotic, as they have always been, while the textural feel is one of pure exuberance. The 2002 remains dense, honeyed and totally voluptuous on the palate, with more than enough density to drink well for decades The style will always remain opulent to the core.
The first amuse is a Melisse staple. On the spoon are sphereized grapes dusted with pistachio. An explosion of grapeness.
Black Truffle Cheese Tart. Like a mini cheesy quiche.
Wagyu Beef Tartare. On a puffed rice. Soft and crunchy. All yummy.
Beef Béarnaise. Taking a card from the Jose Andres deck, the sauce was actually inside the little hush puppy-like thing.
The bread. I’m particularly partial to the green basil bread and the bacon bread (far left).
The starter for an amuse soup.
Spring pea soup. I like the combo of the warm soup and cool butter.
2008 Bouchard Père et Fils Montrachet. Burghound 98. At the risk of waxing poetic, the nose is genuinely like a spring day in a garden with utterly beguiling and multifaceted aromas of an implausibly broad variety of flowers, spices, discreet pain grillé, roasted nuts and a hint of garrigue that complements the dense, brooding and very serious flavors that are borderline massive yet, like the Cabotte, betray absolutely no sense of undue weight or blowsyness. The explosive finish stains the palate and coats the mouth with dry extract and this is one of the greatest examples of this wine that I have ever seen from Bouchard but be prepared to be patient. A true ‘wow’ wine.
agavin: one of my favorite wines of the night, certainly of the flight. Long finish.
2008 Remoissenet Père et Fils Montrachet Le Montrachet. VM 92. The 2008 Le Montrachet is a bit reserved at this stage. It shows good depth and energy in its fruit, yet remains heavily marked by the oak, which dominates the flavor profile and also dries out the finish a bit. I much prefer the approach the Maison took with the 2009.
From my cellar: 2008 Louis Latour Montrachet. Burghound 95. This is clearly the most backward and reserved wine in the range as the restrained nose reveals only hints of white flower, citrus and green fruit aromas that are trimmed in a noticeable touch of pain grillé. By contrast, the muscular and big-bodied flavors explode on the palate as there is a chewy texture to them yet the ample minerality present adds lift to the powerful and hugely long finish. This is not a Montrachet of finesse in 2008 but the abundant amount of dry extract should insure that it matures, and then drinks, over a very long period.
agavin: nice, but a little hot.
2008 Lucien Le Moine Montrachet. Burghound 93-95. Somewhat curiously, this is actually more elegant and refined aromatically as well as more powerful and more concentrated yet despite the jaw dropping size and weight, it remains focused, balanced and harmonious. We’ll see in time but at present, I give the Chassagne cuvée a slight edge.
agavin: more cloudy in the glass, a bit flat and flawed. Worst wine of the flight for sure.
2008 Louis Jadot Montrachet. Burghound 93. A moderately toasty nose of peach, apricot and citrus aromas that verge on the exotic and this character continues onto the delicious, generous and sappy medium-full flavors that offer real volume and mid-palate fat if not much finesse and the finish, while impressively scaled and persistent, seems to lack the focus that I expect from great examples of the vineyard. To be sure, this remains a very fine wine but at the moment, it’s not a genuinely great one. We’ll see in time whether it finds its center; if so, it will certainly merit a higher rating as the underlying material is clearly present.
agavin: very rich
Stonington Maine Diver Scallop. Salsify, Polenta, Sauce Perigourdine. A very nice rich dish with a variety of mushroomy flavors.
2008 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet. Burghound 96. The fresh and incredibly dense nose is inexpressive to the point of being almost mute and only aggressive swirling manages to coax glimpses of the floral, white and yellow orchard fruit, oak, spice and citrus suffused nose. By contrast, the gorgeously rich and massively-scaled flavors explode on the palate and in a distinct divergence from the Chevalier’s finesse, this is a bulldozer of a wine. No, this is not especially elegant at present but it has enormous potential though note that ample patience will be required.
2008 Blain-Gagnard Montrachet. Burghound 95. A stunningly broad yet restrained nose displays breathtaking purity of expression, offering up incredibly complex and ripe white flower and green fruit aromas that complement beautifully balanced, harmonious and impressively scaled flavors that possess huge length and knockout depth. This is class in a glass with terrific vibrancy and the palate staining finish is almost painfully intense as there is so much extract that the palate impression is borderline chewy. This should age for several decades.
2008 Marc Colin et Fils Montrachet. Burghound 95. What was a grudging nose has become notably more expressive now that it has been in bottle for almost two years with pretty and highly complex notes of white peach, pear, spice hints and ample pain grillé in evidence. There is nothing subtle about the huge, indeed even imposing flavors that brim with dry extract that completely coats and stains the palate yet there is ample acid support that keeps everything in perfect balance and harmony. In fact, the balance is so impeccable that I would call this a Zen wine that is somewhat less forbidding than I originally thought and thus I have reduced my suggested drinking window by two years. Indeed, there is sufficient mid-palate fat present that this could even be drunk now though there is so much upside that it would be a shame to leave so much of it on the table at this early juncture.
agavin: maybe a touch advanced, lots of botrytis.
2008 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Montrachet. Burghound 93-96. A perfumed and simply knock-out nose features highly perfumed notes of honeysuckle, acacia blossom, sandalwood and yellow orchard fruit aromas that give way to powerful, rich and dense full-bodied flavors that possess obvious muscle and simply huge length on the overtly austere, deep and palate staining finish. This is a dazzling effort that will only add to the already immense reputation this wine enjoys but note that patience will be required.
agavin: darker and quite rich.
Black Bass “En Ecailles”. Hope Ranch Black Mussels, Fava Beans, Shellfish Emulsion. Nice soft fish, traditional butter derived foamy sauce, and then that treatment of the scales, all crunchy/crispy. Now to the taste the skin/scales was awesome. But something about its spiky regular texture seriously triggered the latent Trypophobia in me. Just thinking about it is creeping me out 48 hours later! CLICK HERE IF YOU DARE.
Flight 3: Not all Monty
2008 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 95. A trace of reduction is not enough to mask the amazingly pure, cool and airy citrus peel, rose petal and essence of stone aromas that precede the energetic, intense and gorgeously well-detailed flavors that brim with plenty of palate staining dry extract. The explosive and mildly austere finish is shaped by firm but ripe acidity that is impeccably well-integrated and this should age effortlessly for years. This is textbook Perrières.
agavin: probably my favorite wine of the night! Just awesome. Reductive. Massive. Long. Textbook.
2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Montrachet. Burghound 94-97. A riper if less elegant nose presents a broad range of yellow and white orchard fruits with ample floral, spice and citrus nuances that also are reflected by the massively endowed big-bodied, powerful and muscular flavors of imposing size and weight, all wrapped in a palate staining, chewy and hugely long finish. One expects Montrachet to be great and the ’08 from Pierre-Yves Colin does not disappoint.
agavin: another fabulous wine with a long finish
2008 Domaine Ramonet Montrachet. Burghound 97. A highly expressive and radiant nose offers the purest fruit in the range as it offers up a mélange of upper register acacia blossom and freshly cut lemon-lime aromas trimmed in a discreet amount of wood. The nose is followed by strikingly detailed, stony and powerful broad-scaled flavors that culminate in a palate-etching finish of spectacular length. This is breath-taking stuff as balance is perfect and this should age well for years.
agavin: This bottle or at this moment wasn’t my favorite. Just too rich and hot (alcoholic).
2008 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 98. A fantastically complex and beguilingly fresh nose of extract of liquid stone, green fruit, citrus zest and elegant floral notes dissolves seamlessly into rich, intense and beautifully mineral-driven broad-shouldered flavors that culminate in a superbly long and bone dry finish of positively Cistercian-like austerity. This is a wine that is absolutely packed with potential and I wouldn’t dream of opening a bottle before it had at least 10 years of bottle age and probably 12 to 15. I should note that this is anything but seductive yet I find the incredible delineation and purity of expression to be nothing short of brilliant.
agavin: another great wine. Lots of reduction and acid. Long finish. Not as great as the MP right now (I think it needs more time), but still very good.
Dover Sole Filet. Potato Gnocchi, French Horn Mushrooms, White Wine-Brown Butter Jus. Another great fish, although I miss the chicken from year.
Have a few glasses.
Flight 4: Dessert
1994 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese. MFW 100. Dark orange yellow color; petrol and baked lemon nose; tasty, sweet, baked lemon and lime palate with depth, minerality and uplifting acidity; long finish
Rustic Caramel Apple Tart. Heilala Vanilla Ice Cream. Pretty much a perfect version of this traditional dessert. Great crunchy pastry texture.
Petite fours. pate de fruits, cannelles, macarons, cookies, chocolates.
The chef de cuisine.KEN TAKAYAMA. Chef Ken was born in Saitama, Japan and, from early childhood, was raised in Monterey Park, Ca. Straight out of high school, Chef Ken got his start at Kayo , a neighborhood restaurant in Monterey Park, learning traditional techniques for preparing robata, sushi, and tempura. Chef Ken’s previous experience in the kitchen also includes working under Christophe Moreau for Patina Pastry of the Patina Group in Burbank.
Chef Ken cites his grandmother as a huge influence on his family. She was a remarkable artist who drew and sculpted in leather. “Both of my siblings, Eriko and George, and I all followed creative career paths due to her powerful artistic sensibilities that she shared with us.”
food: As usual the food at Melisse is great. I generally prefer a more mega tasting menu with more flavors and the requirements of matching White Burgundy limited the options, and last year at this dinner we had more variety, but still there were some nice dishes here.
agavin on the wines: Like the other two 2008 nights, all these wines showed a strong vintage character, namely that rounded, ripe, lots of botrytis. But the Montrachets were in general drinking fabulously. Almost any of these wines would be fabulous additions to more normal lineups. There were no premoxed wines in my opinion, with only 2-3 showing very slight touches of advanced notes on the nose. Nothing was obviously corked, although the Le Moine was flawed somehow. The Monty character were often strong and present.
Overall quality was quite high, but there was some serious doubt in the group as to how long to hold this vintage.
Voting results of the night were:
- 1 Coche MP
- 2(tie) Coche Corton
- 2(tie) Colin-Morey Monty
- 4(tie) Bouchard Monty
- 4(tie) Sauzet Monty
- 6 Ramonet Monty
- 7 Remoissenet Monty
- 8 Blain-Gagnard Monty
Don’s detailed notes can be found here.
Other big tasting dinners from this dinner series: