Restaurant: Hotel Bel-Air
Location: 701 Stone Canyon Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90077
Date: January 19, 2018
Rating: Great food, great wine
Liz Lee of Sage Society puts on some of the best Winemaker dinners in town and tonight was no exception. An all Taittinger dinner featuring Vitalie Taittinger, lots of great Champagne, and located at the unique…
We considered this place for our wedding and it’s always been gorgeous.
Almost park like.
Wolfgang Puck runs the restaurant at the hotel.
Here is the main dining room but we had a private room off to the side.
NV Taittinger Champagne Brut Réserve / La Française (magnum). BH 89. Notes of yeast, baked bread, petrol and citrus serve as a slightly muted introduction to the rounded, delicious and reasonably complex flavors where the citrus elements telegraphed by the nose reappear on the moderately dry finish. This is perfectly good but it lacks a bit of overall complexity; that said, it is certainly inviting and easy-to-like.
Blini with caviar and creme fraiche.
Truffle bone marrow puff pastries.
Vitalie Taittinger is in the shiny blue in the center.
NV Taittinger Champagne Brut Réserve / La Française. BH 89. Notes of yeast, baked bread, petrol and citrus serve as a slightly muted introduction to the rounded, delicious and reasonably complex flavors where the citrus elements telegraphed by the nose reappear on the moderately dry finish. This is perfectly good but it lacks a bit of overall complexity; that said, it is certainly inviting and easy-to-like.
NV Taittinger Prelude. VM 91. Pale gold. Vibrant, mineral-laced citrus and orchard fruit aromas are complemented by suggestions of buttered toast and honey. Toasty orange and pear flavors are braced by juicy acidity, picking up a suggestion of chamomile with air. Finishes dry and precise, with repeating mineral and toast notes.
NV Taittinger Champagne Les Folies de la Marquetterie. VM 92. Pale gold. Red berries, rose and orange peel on the fragrant, floral-accented nose and in the mouth. Sappy and broad, with very good depth and an energizing note of chalky minerals. Gains weight with air and finishes with excellent breadth, clarity and lingering mineral and honeysuckle notes.
Sashimi of Big Eye Tuna, Hamachi & Alaskan King Salmon. Very nice, if salty and a bit heavy on the yuzu-kushu.
2012 Taittinger Champagne Brut Millésimé. BH 92. The understated nose is presently quite discreet though not completely inexpressive with its array of floral, brioche, Meyer lemon and plenty of yeast influence. The clean and very crisp medium weight flavors possess excellent punch thanks to the very firm and relatively fine supporting mousse, all wrapped in a markedly dry but not really austere finale. This is a wine of refinement yet it doesn’t lack for verve and even power though it does need some bottle age to better develop the level of overall depth.
2009 Taittinger Champagne Brut Millésimé. BH 89. A ripe but fresh nose is comprised by notes of baked apple, yeast, brioche and a hint of rose petal. The round, rich, pliant and quite forward medium-bodied flavors are almost soft because while the supporting effervescence is relatively fine it’s not particularly dense and as such I found the overall effect to lack a touch of vibrancy on the otherwise reasonably dry and clean finish. This would better suit those who prefer less aggressive examples of Champagne when it comes to the mousse. In sum, this is perfectly good but I much preferred its 2008 counterpart.
Seared Main Diver Scallops “In the Shell.” Well scallop anyway. Lovely dish and a great pairing with the Champy.
Flight 3 — getting into the Comtes.
2004 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 96. I am thrilled with the way the 2004 Comtes de Champagne continues to evolve in bottle. A few years ago, the 2004 was quite focused and linear, in the style of the vintage, but more recently, the wine has begun to fill out beautifully. The 2004 remains bright, with a full range of citrus, white flower and mineral nuances that dance on the palate. A brisk, saline-infused finish rounds things out beautifully in a Comtes that impresses for its crystalline purity. I expect the 2004 will always remain a bit cool next to the more opulent 2002, but it is still drop-dead gorgeous.
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.
2006 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 97.5. The 2006 Comtes de Champagne is striking, especially in the way it brings together elements of ripeness and freshness in a hypothetical blend of the 2002 and 2004. Smooth and creamy on the palate, the 2006 is all about texture. There is a real feeling of density and weight in the 2006, qualities I expect to see grow with time in the bottle. All the elements fall into place effortlessly. The 2006 has been nothing short of magnificent both times I have tasted it. Comtes de Champagne remains the single best value (in relative terms) in tête de cuvée Champagne. I suggest buying a case and following it over the next 20-30 years, which is exactly what I intend to do. There is little doubt the 2006 Comtes de Champagne is a magical Champagne in the making.
Main Lobster & Black Truffle Garganelli Pasta. Great pasta.
1996 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 97. Taittinger’s 1996 Comtes de Champagne is another highlight. The flavors are only now beginning to show elements of complexity, a great sign for aging. Gently spiced and buttery notes suggest the 1996 is about to enter the early part of its maturity, where it is likely to stay for another decade or so.
1995 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 96. A total turn-on, the 1995 Comtes de Champagne is utterly magnificent. Orange marmalade, mint, smoke, hazelnuts, white truffles and honey blossom come to life in an exquisite, resonant Champagne that delivers the goods, big time. Opulent and exotic yet miraculously fresh for a 20 year-old wine, the 1995 Comtes is in a beautiful spot to deliver maximum drinking pleasure. With time in the glass, the 1995 becomes even more finessed. Readers who own the 1995 or can find it are in for a real treat. Let’s leave it at that.
Bonus! 1990 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 96. The 1990 Comtes de Champagne captures a stylistic middle ground between the 1988 and 1990. Slightly advancing tones of orange peel and roasted nuts are beautifully contrasted by a streak of minerality that gives the wine its freshness and verve. Bright floral and mineral notes reappear on the finish, adding focus. Rich in its texture yet effortless, the 1990 offers exceptional balance and tons of class. It should continue to drink well for another 15 years.
1990 Taittinger Champagne Artist Collection. Over the hills sadly.
1989 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 91. The 1989 Comtes de Champagne is darker in color than the 1988 and also quite a bit more forward. Candied orange peel, spices and caramel suggest it is on a fairly quick path. Today the 1989 is most impressive for its generous texture and complete, developed personality. This won’t make old bones, but it is delicious today.
1985 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. JG 95. I reviewed this wine in the last article on Champagne, but having just had a stupendous bottle that was even better than my review in Issue 3, I felt it was necessary to include this note in the current report. The bouquet on this particular bottle is stellar, as it offers up beautiful mélange of pear, wheat toast, almond skins, a touch of custard, chalky soil tones and a quite pronounced note of orange zest. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, pure and racy, with pinpoint bubbles, great acids, beautiful resolution, and a very, very long, focused and snappy finish. Much like the 1990, the 1985 Comtes de Champagne has years and years of life ahead of it, but is fully at its apogee. Glorious juice.
Whole Roasted Carpenter Ranch Squab.
NV Taittinger Champagne Brut Prestige Rosé. VM 90. Light orange-pink. Cherry, orange zest and fresh rose aromas show very good clarity and energy. Sappy red fruit flavors display a spicy quality, picking up energy and a floral nuance with air. Concentrated, vibrant and precise, finishing on a zesty mineral note, with lingering spiciness and firm grip.
2006 Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Rosé Brut. VM 95. Taittinger’s 2006 Comtes de Champagne Rosé has come along nicely over the last six months. Intensely perfumed, Pinot-inflected aromatics carry through the mid-palate and finish as the 2006 shows off its depth and pure energy. Veins of chalky minerality give the red berry and cranberry flavors an extra kick of energy. The 2006 is both powerful and delicate at the same, with crystalline precision and fabulous depth. Hints of orange peel, mint, cinnamon and cranberry add further shades of nuance on the complete, beautifully articulated finish.
2004 Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Rosé Brut. VM 94. Vivid pink. Red berries, orange peel, cinnamon and fresh flowers on the high-pitched nose. Juicy, precise and very pure, offering intense, spice-accented red fruit flavors with hints of exotic spices and candied rose. Aeration brings out notes of cherry and rhubarb, which add depth and a bitter touch to the very long, juicy, fruit-dominated finish. Looks to be built for a graceful evolution but this Champagne is delicious now.
Out comes the rack of pork!
Whole Roasted Rack of Kurabuta Pork Chop.
NV Taittinger Champagne Nocturne Rosé Sec. VM 89. Dark orange-pink. Pungent red berry and cherry pit aromas are enlivened by suggestions of white pepper and ginger. Surprisingly taut and linear given its level of residual sugar, offering juicy raspberry and tangerine flavors that pick up a toasty nuance on the back half. Finishes with repeating spiciness as well as a hint of bitterness, leaving a sweet berry note behind.
NV Taittinger Champagne Nocturne Sec. VM 90. Bright yellow. Deeply perfumed aromas of poached pear, melon, nectarine and lemon curd are complemented by suggestions of buttered toast, anise and chamomile. Plush and broad on the palate, offering ripe citrus and pit fruit flavors with a touch of chalky minerality adding cut and lift. A floral quality builds slowly with air and carries through the spicy, sappy, gently sweet finish. I like this Champagne’s balance of fruitiness and vivacity and there’s no way that I’d have guessed that its <em>dosage</em> was so high.
Brillat Savarin, Robiola Cheese, Aged Comte.
Liz Lee on the left, Vitalie Taittinger on the right.
Another stellar dinner from Liz and Sage Society! Very educational with Vitalie Taittinger there and the way in which Liz has arranged the wines. Different flights explored different aspects of the Taittinger style. We wandered across the decades as well and the older vintage wines showed particularly well.
Plus Liz does an absolutely amazing job with the food pairings. The food here reminds me a lot of that at Spago — I wonder why?