Restaurant: Valentino Santa Monica [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]
Location: 3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 829-4313
Date: March 1, 2017
Rating: Fun and educational!
This dinner is the first part of the annual White Burgundy Premox test series, hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell. Tonight’s particular dinner covers 2009 Chablis, Meursault, and Corton Charlemagne. Other dinners in the series are listed at the bottom of the post.
As usual, the dinner was 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. The relatively low acidities in 2009, especially low malic-acid levels which accelerated the malolactic fermentations, mean that many white 2009s are relatively soft and rich. Ripe grapes meant no added sugar to boost alcohol levels but yields were relatively high. This suggests they will make satisfying early drinking but should probably be consumed long before the more structured and long-term 2008s. This applies particularly in Chablis to the north of the Côte d’Or.
Our private room. Notice the large table with a lot of space. This is important when you have 30+ 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.
Tonight’s special menu.
Flight 0: Champagne
2004 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee. 94 points. Light gold color; citrus, biscuit and lemon zest aromas; bright citrusy flavors with a lightly toasty element which adds complexity; a very long citrus and minerals finish. Very nice champagne.
Grilled flat bed pizza.
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.
The tasting notes below are cribbed from Don C who organized the dinner.
Flight 1: Chablis
2009 Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnerre. 90 points. Light gold color; sweet lemon (Meyer lemon) aromas; very light lemon flavors, and a mid-palate which is mostly some glyceryl effect and some modest minerals; this is a fairly thin wine. Group Rank: Tied for 17th, 1 points (0/0/0/0/1)
2009 Dauvissat Chablis Preuses. 91 points. Color between light and medium gold; distinct honeysuckle aromas that remind me much more of BBM than Chablis; light green apple and citrus flavors; this has better acidity than #1, but less minerality; a light mineral finish. Four tasters thought this was advanced. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Fevre Chablis Preuses. 90 points. Light yellow gold color; very light green apple and lime aromas; on the palate this is thin with a little green apple but not much other discernable character on the palate My score in retrospect is probably generous. This got one vote for best in flight. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Raveneau Chablis Valmur. 91 points. Medium gold color; light green apple and some very faint anise aromas; very light bodied wine with mostly minerals and glyceryl elements; the finish is very light but minerally and fairly long (best feature). This got five votes for best in flight and our Somm. Paul Sherman had it in his top 5 for the night. Group Rank: Tied for 17th, 1 points (0/0/0/0/1)
2009 Dauvissat Chablis Clos. 87 advanced. Medium gold color; Lychee fruit and faintly oaky aromas – but as this sat the aromas started to get more like apricot; this has some odd, sour apple juice flavors; there is notable acidity, but the acidity reminds me more of “end acidity” when the wine is oxidizing rather than natural malic or lactic acid. This is definitely advanced. That is also the group consensus. Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Faiveley Chablis Clos. 86 advanced. Medium gold color; light green apple aromas; modestly rich green apple flavors and seemed to be more like a Cote de Beaune wine than a Chablis to me; not all that much to be excited about in the finish though. After some air there were some pineapple notes in the aromas on the second pass. Hard to see this as Chablis and I’m almost suspicious of what’s in the bottle. Three votes for best in flight. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Fevre Chablis Clos. 86 advanced. This between medium and full gold color – definitely the darkest of the first flight; forward apple cider aromas with slightly oaky/toasty note – definitely advanced; advanced red apple fruit flavors. This was definitely advanced and the group all agreed. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Raveneau Chablis Clos. 90 points. Medium gold color; aromas of oyster shell and light lime – finally a Chablis aroma set; on the palate, this had richer fruit than the other wines in the flight, but it was still in a lighter and softer style. Some fairly light minerality and a short finish. While the aromas were definitely Chablis, the palate wasn’t and this wine didn’t seem to have anywhere left to go. Five votes for best in flight. Group Rank: Tied for 17th, 1 points (0/0/0/0/1)
Crab cake with white wine caper sauce.
Flight 2: Meursault part 1
2009 Roulot Meursault Charmes. 91 points. Medium gold color; overly sweet lemon/lime aromas – I immediately said “7-Up” with agreement from several in the room; on the palate, it had similar, overly sweet, almost syrupy lemon-lime flavors, but it had very good acidity and a decent finish. This wine strongly reminded me of what I didn’t like when I first tasted the 2009 vintage on release. [NB Retasting this after the reveal, it was impossible to identify this wine as either Roulot or Meursault Charmes] Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Henri Boillot Meursault Charmes. 90 points. Medium gold color; white flowers and pear aromas; lightly sweet citrus fruit on the palate but with some grilled nut background character; this reminds me more of a Meursault than #9; but this one is a bit harsh and almost phenolic on the finish. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Colin-Morey Meursault Charmes. 93+ points. Medikum plus gold color; light white flowers and some lemon – lime fruit aromas; very bright, medium bodied and charming lemon citrus and light pain grille flavors; a very long subtle fruit finish with a minor degree of acidity in the finish. Real Meursault with just a hint of upside. Four votes for best in flight. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
Andre Jobard Meursault Charmes. 89 advanced. Between medium gold and full gold color; aromas of cheerios with sweetness (an aroma Ron Movich has traditionally flagged as outright oxidiation); on the palate, the wine is very fat, buttery, and has a sweet caramel flavor. This is exceedingly advanced and the group unanimously concurs. In hindsight my score seems too generous. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Latour-Giraud Meursault Genevrieres. 94 points. Very light gold color; aromas of green fruit (like Midiori liquer) and oysters; on the palate, intense, bright citrus flavors with excellent acidity and a good dollop of minerality; this also had a very long minerals and citrus finish that just kept improviing as the night went on. A genuinely impressive Meursault. One vote for best in flight. Group Rank: Tied for 15th, 3 points (0/0/0/1/1)
2009 Latour-Giraud Meursault Genevrieres Cuvee des Pierre. 94+ points. Light gold color; bright lemon citrus aromas with a hint of grilled nuts; very bright lemon-lime flavors with lots of minerality and noticeable acidity; some powerful citrus fruit and abundant minerality on the finish – excellent; this has a bit more fat on the finish than #13. Five votes for wine of the flight. My number four wine of the night. Group Rank: Fifth , 13 points (1/0/1/2/1)
2009 Roulot Meursault Porusots. 93 points. Light gold color; aromas of lemon citrus and hints of green midori liquer; very bright wine with good acidity, moderate intensity lemony fruit and intensely minerally mid-palate; nice components but there seem to be mismatches in intensity levels here; fairly long sweet finish. This got two votes for favorite of the flight, but five people thought it was advanced. On my second pass through it definitely seemed to have lost something. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
Risotto al frutti di mare. Some years we have had seconds of this — could have used it tonight.
Flight 3: Meursault part 2
2009 Lafon Meursault Charmes. 92 points. Between light and medium yellow gold color; light lemon citrus and minerals aromas; not much fruit here, but some intense minerality on the mid-palate and finsih; this is classic but dry; nice minerality on the finish. Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Roulot Meursault Perrieres. 94 points. Between light and medium gold color; fresh peach and hazelnut aromas; some lemon citrus, with stony, ground rock mid-palate and great acidity; a very long, mostly mineral and light lemon finish. I love this wine for the stoniness and mineral intensity, though some could find it too austere in the fruit department. Group Rank: Fourteenth , 6 points (1/0/0//1)
2009 H. Boillot Meursault Perrieres. 94 points. Between light and medium gold color; again peach and hazelnut aromas; unlike #17, this has some fat and richness on the mid-palate, the biggest wine of the flight; a nice minerally finish too. One vote for best in flight. Group Rank: Tied for 12th, 8 points (0/1/1/0/1)
2009 Bouchard Meursault Perrieres DIAM. 94+ points. Light yellow gold color; light green apple aromas; clean and bright citrusy flavors; very good acidity here; a very long minerals and fruit finish. There is some upside here. Four votes for best in flight. My No. 6 ranked wine of the night. Group Rank: Tenth, 10 points (1/1/0/0/1)
2009 Coiin-Morey Meursault Perrieres. 94+ points. Light plus gold color; very subtle white flowers and lemon pastry aromas; on the palate this had some more dense lemon fruit character and minerality; decent acidity; very long minerals and citrus finish. Impressive with some upside. Three votes for best in flight. My No. 3 ranked wine of the night. Group Rank: Tied for sixth, 12 points (0/1/2/1/0)
2009 Drouhin Meursault Perrieres. 94+ points. Between light and medium gold color; light green apple aromas that don’t really seem open or developed yet; on the palate this was backward, with very good acidity and had intense mineral-saline character over some light citrus fruit. This one needs time to open, but seems very impressive. Four votes for best in flight. My No. 2 ranked wine of the night. Group Rank: Tied for sixth, 12 points (0/1/1/2/1)
2009 Lafon Meursault Perrieres. 94+ points. Between light and medium gold color; very light white flowers aromas; this wine has very bright acidity, light citrus and intense minerality; a long minerally finish too. Two votes for best in flight. This was my No. 5 ranked wine of the night. Group Rank: Tied for 8th, 11 points (0/0/2/2/1)
Pan roasted Napa quail stuffed with wild mushrooms on soft polenta. Not a bad quail.
Flight 4: Corton Charlemagne
2009 Faiveley Corton Charlemagne. 92 points. Light plus gold color; aromas of pears and white flowers; nice medium density pear flavors, nice depth; it didn’t seem to follow through on the finish though. Group Rank: Tied for 8th, 11 points (0/2/0/1/1)
2009 Javillier Corton Charlemagne DIAM. 93 points. Just short of medium gold color; this had pear and green apple aromas; also similar flavors; this has an elegant and long finish which distinguishes it from #23. Group Rank: Tied for 15th, 3 points (0/0/1/0/0)
2009 Montille Corton Charlemagne DIAM. 93 points. Between light and medium gold color; white flowers and pear aromas; this has some greater richness and depth on the mid-palate with good acidity; minerality isn’t obvious here; fruity finish with some acidity. Group Rank: Tied for 20th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0)
2009 Vougeraie Corton Charlemagne. 94 points. Between light and medium gold color; sweet white flowers aromas; intense pear flavors; this has more power and depth and more minerality than the preceding wines in this flight; it also has brilliant acidity, and very nice minerality; a very long minerally finish.. Two votes for best in flight. Group Rank: 11th, 9 points (1/0/0/2/0)
2009 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne. 93+ points. Between light and medium gold color; light white flowers and sweet citrus aromas; less depth of fruit than the others, and more citrus here, good acidity, but I found this somewhat dry, almost phenolic on the back of the palate; nice minerals on the finish. May round out with more time. Two votes for best in flight. Group Rank: Third, 22 points (2/2/1/0/1)
2009 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne. 93+ points. Between light and medium gold color; aromas of white flowers and lemon blossoms; on the palate this had some sweet citrus and a long dry minerally finish. Needs more time. This got five votes for best in flight. Group Rank: Fourth, 15 points (/3/0/0/0/0)
2009 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne DIAM. 93 points. Light yellow gold color, the lightest of the flight; light white flowers and green apple aromas; this had relatively simple green apple flavors but an incredibly long structured minerally finish. At first I thought this wine had good development potential, but by the end of the night, I just wasn’t sure. Group Rank: Twelfth, 9 points (0/1/1/0/1)
Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne. 94 points. Just short of medium gold color; light white flowers and green apple aromas; the most complex mix of fruit flavors of the flight – lemon, lime and green apple, with very nice depth and length; a very pretty wine though not as much minerality as some of the others. I liked this even a little more on my second pass. Five votes for best in flight. Group Rank: Second, 30 points (3/2/2/0/1)
Colin-Morey Corton Charlemagne. 95 points. Light gold color; very light white flowers aromas with some green apple undertones; very bright green apple flavors which are intense and snappy; this wine is extremely long on the palate and has amazingly good minerality on the finish. A wow wine. Three votes for best in flight (including mine). My number one wine of the night. Group Rank: First, 34 points (2/3/2/3/0)
Sicilian boneless rabbit with prosciutto, caciocavallo, a hint of chocolate. Not sure we needed TWO meat in brown sauce dishes.
Flight 5: dessert
1976 Schloss Eltz Auslese. Deep brown color; some burnt sugar and apricot aromas; from a personal perspective I had a real problem getting past the strong burned toast and earthy character on this wine that made the sweetness unreachable for me. Not my cup of tea, but I’ve never been a fan of the 1976 German vintage.
Cassatina di rocotta with pistachio gelato. My gelato is much better but the cassata tasted about 80% like a real Sicilian Cassata, which in my books makes it awesome as that dessert is almost impossible to find properly done outside of Sicily.
No glasses to be found anywhere (else).
Have a few white burgs!
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.
There wasn’t quite enough food and the flights were WAY 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.
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:
The group’s top five ranked wines of the evening were:
1. 2009 Colin-Morey Corton Charlemagne.
2. 2009 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne
3. 2009 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne
4. 2009 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne
5. 2009 Latour-Giraud Meursault Genevrieres Cuvee Pierre
The details are all in the attached spreadsheet along with my ratings on the wines.
Of 31 wines, we had 0 corked, 0 oxidized but 3 were advanced (9.7%). In the four months leading up to this dinner I opened 11 different 2009 whites and didn’t experience a single bottle that was either advanced or oxidized. We had four bottles with DIAM cork closures at the dinner and none of them were advanced or oxidized.
Some general comments –
This was the fourth consecutive dinner where a Colin-Morey wine finished either the number one or number two ranked wine by the group (and all of the voting has been totally blind.) BDM Corton made the top five for the first time ever. Vougeraie made a very impressive first time appearance.
Except for the Chablis, the wines from 2009 far exceeded my initial expectations. When the Cote de Beaune wines were released, I thought most of them were excessively sweet (I frequently used the descriptor of “7-Up”). As a result, I cellared very few 2009s. But the Cote de Beaune wines today, for the most part, far exceed my initial expectation. The level of improvement was even more profound than what we experienced with the 2006 vintage.
The bad news for 2009 is that, in my judgment, 2009 is the least impressive vintage of Chablis that I’ve ever tasted – far worse than the 2007s or the 2005s. The Chablis were extremely thin and mostly lacking in Chablis character. The three best wines of the flight, all from Raveneau, were very light bodied wines with some minerality but very little else to commend them. In my opinion, it’s a vintage of Chablis to avoid.
But in contrast to the disappointing Chablis, the flight of Meursault Perrieres was, when considered as a whole, the most consistent flight of Meursault Perrieres, from one wine to the next, that we’ve ever had. Excluding the Lafon Charmes, (which I usually include with the MPs because of those vines’ immediate proximity to Perrieres and the fact that the Lafon Charmes usually tastes more like MP than Charmes), the wines were uniformly very impressive. They were fairly light in color and had varying pleasant fruit esters (mostly citrus, but in two cases green apple and two with some peach) along with grilled hazelnut in a couple of them. They also all had surprisingly good acidity and strong minerality. After writing my notes and provisionally scoring the wines I was astonished to realize that I’d rated every MP at 94 points and it was very hard to pick a favorite in this flight. Four of the wines are likely to improve a little more with additional bottle age (which to me was unexpected for the 2009 vintage.)
The Corton flight, while it had a greater range of variation, was also quite good. The aromas were mostly white flowers and green apple or pear (though a couple had some light citrus elements). The wines were bigger bodied and richer than the MPs, as you would expect. They were surprisingly classic in style compared to how sweet and 7-Up like many of the wines tasted like at the time of release.
Other big tasting dinners from this dinner series: