Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]
Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881
Date: March 7, 2018
Cuisine: California French
Rating: Really on point
And so we arrive at Part 3 of the epic three night 2010 White Burgundy Dinner series (Part 1 can be found 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 2010.
Tonight features “Mostly Montrachet” that is, the wines of the great “Le Montrachet” Grand Cru, often considered the best white wine in the world.
And with regard to the wines. 2010 was a classic year for white Burgundy. The relatively cool growing season maintained crisp acidity, and the reduced crop delivered great intensity of flavour. Moreover, the wines have structure, and although the simpler wines are accessible now, most premiers and grands crus from top estates have a long life ahead of them.
Chardonnay did not suffer quite as badly as Pinot from the difficulties at flowering, but nonetheless crops were reduced. The cool, rather damp summer was not a particular challenge for the grapes, though growers had to keep a close eye on their vineyards for outbreaks of disease. Moreover the hailstorms of mid-September did damage white vineyards in the Côte de Beaune, especially in Meursault, and there was some rot.
Normally one would expect the white grapes to be picked before the red, but in 2010 the harvest was muddled thanks to the uneven ripening. But well organized estates managed the harvest well, and of course in all-white appellations such as Puligny and Chablis, this was not an issue. The wines are similar to the racy 2008s, but with a touch more weight, and white Burgundy aficionados could hardly ask for more.
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.
Our testing was setup in the elegant private room just to the right of the entrance. Because it was the private room I could use my flash on the food – yay!
Flight 0: Amuses
1996 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses. BH 97. One of the greatest examples of the ’96 vintage, this wine has it all with elegance, intensity, subtlety and grace, not to mention buckets of unrealized potential that will enable this beauty to improve for at least another decade and perhaps longer. I can only imagine just how good this would be from magnum format! The nose is discreet, reserved and pure with lemon, green apple and layers upon layers of fruit framed by just the right amount of yeast influence that continues onto the exceptionally dry and tight flavors that are crisp and refined as well as superbly intense yet through it all there is this underlying sense of harmony, as though all of the elements are working in concert. The greatest wines, at least those cut from classical cloth, persuade through the subtlest means and so it is with the ’96 Goisses, which is indeed a great wine by any measure. While it is drinkable now, for my taste preferences a lot of potential would be left in the glass and I wouldn’t start in earnest on this for another 5+ years.
Tuna Tartare, Avocado Mousseline, Citrus Tuile. Very Wolfgang Puck, but delicious regardless.
Smoked Salmon, Quail Egg and Brioche. Classic.
Veal Tartare, Capers, Olive, Puntarelle. The weakest of the 3, but not bad.
The awesome Melisse bread, but again missing the bacon one. Still, the brioche rocks.
An amuse of chestnut soup with whipped black truffle! As usual it starts with the middle.
Then in goes the soup. Delicious! And pretty rich which was good as there aren’t enough courses tonight (particularly compared to our epic Carte Blanche).
2010 Domaine Thenard Montrachet.
2010 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet. BH 94-97. Interestingly, here the nose is quite similar to that of the Chevalier though without the note of mineral reduction. The massively rich, broad and powerful big-bodied flavors brim with an abundance of mouth coating dry extract that helps to buffer the very firm acid spine that shapes the almost chewy and tannic finish that very much resembles a vinous bomb exploding on the palate. There is a natural sweetness to the mid-palate that is not allowed to become cloying as the hugely long finale is bone dry. This is just flat out brilliant and packed with potential.
2010 Domaine Jacques Prieur Montrachet. BH 94-96. This is ever-so-slightly riper than the Chevalier and a bit more aromatically complex as well if not more elegant. There is outstanding richness, volume, muscle and unconcealed power to the large-scaled heavy-weight flavors that somehow manage to avoid any sense of undue ponderousness before culminating in a massively long finish that is almost chewy and tannic. This will require plenty of bottle age but it should be great in time.
Ringer! 2010 Bruno Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Blanchots Dessus. BH 93. Mild reduction does not materially affect the otherwise pure white orchard fruit and citrus aromas that introduce concentrated, powerful and intense large-scaled flavors that evidence a taut muscularity before concluding in an attractively dry and hugely persistent finish. This is a really impressive effort and its immediate proximity to Montrachet is very much in evidence in 2010.
2010 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Montrachet. BH 96. The super-elegant nose displays an exceptionally subtle hint of the exotic along with remarkably complex aromas of spices, white flower, apple, citrus and essence of pear. There is serious size and weight to the big-bodied yet seductively textured, even silky flavors that possess an abundance of mouth coating dry extract. There is a fine minerality to the energetic and quite firmly structured finish that displays genuinely striking persistence. This will require ample cellar time to reach its full apogee.
Black Bass “En Ecailles”. Fennel, White Mushrooms, Green garlic. 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.
2010 Louis Jadot Montrachet. BH 94-97. This is completely different and trades elegance for notably more aromatic complexity as here the nose is impressively broad-ranging with its panoply of ripe orchard fruit, rose, lavender and white flower nuances coupled with notes of citrus peel, stone and spices. There is a discreet touch of wood on the exceptionally rich, powerful and strikingly well-concentrated broad-shouldered flavors that brim with mouth coating dry extract before culminating in a massively long finish where, once again, the balance is flawless.
Ringer! 2010 Ceritas Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard. VM 94. I am thrilled that the 2010 Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard captures all of the promise I sensed last year. The inherent richness and depth typical of this site comes through loud and clear. Nectarines, dried flowers and pears all flesh out beautifully in the glass. Soft, open and totally beautiful – yet backed with plenty of bracing minerality – the 2010 is superb.
2010 Maison Roche de Bellene Montrachet. BH 93-96. Noticeable but not aggressive oak does not dominate the perfumed and intensely floral nose of acacia blossom, lemon peel and yellow-fleshed fruit aromas. There is excellent power and drive to the intense and tension-filled flavors that are still on the linear side and this will need time to flesh out, particularly on the sneaky long finish that just seems to go on and on. This packed effort will need a lot of time to arrive at its peak.
2010 Bouchard Père et Fils Montrachet. BH 98. As with the La Cabotte, there is a lot of unabsorbed sulfur present that renders reading the nose tricky but the aromas are clearly ripe, broad and dense. By contrast, the massive and superbly well-concentrated flavors are a genuinely marvelous combination of size, weight, tension and again, almost painful intensity. Despite all of the muscle and concentration, there is absolutely no heaviness, indeed the acid support is such that this comes across as impeccably well-balanced on the palate staining finish. This is a magnificent wine, in fact this is one of the best wines of the entire vintage and that is obviously saying something as 2010 is very special. A “wow” wine par excellence. Note that like the Chevalier, should you elect to try one of these gems young, which I would strongly advise against, do be sure to decant it.
2010 Louis Latour Montrachet. BH 92-94. It seems that each of these grands crus holds some distinction vis-à-vis its stable mates and if the Criots is the ripest and the Chevalier the most elegant then the Montrachet is the most complex. The superb range of spice, floral, citrus and primarily white-fleshed fruit aromas are given added breadth by the presence of peach, apricot and discreet stone hints. The large-scaled, concentrated and intense flavors possess plenty of mouth coating dry extract as well as excellent if not truly stunning persistence. This is at present exceptionally backward and it’s entirely possible that this will develop even better length and if so, my predicted range will likely be too conservative.
2010 Maison Albert Bichot Montrachet. Tasting, brief note. This had been open approx an hour before I tasted it. Very ripe with lots of floral notes. Combination of ripeness and slight hints of botrytis make this seem fat and forward, but energy emerging at the finish that keeps this nicely balanced. Still, this is advanced for a Montrachet and so I’d err on the side of drinking it younger rather than cellaring longer term.
Maine Lobster, aged Acquerello Rice, Cauliflower and Parmesan. This dish was fabulous. Great lobster and with that strong lobster reduction sauce plus the really nice risotto texture.
Flight 3: Almost all Monty
2010 Domaine Ramonet Montrachet. BH 97. A blast of pungently toasty aromas and gorgeously complex aromas of resin, petrol, spice, pear, white peach, apricot, honeysuckle and acacia blossom. There is excellent size, weight and punch to the imposingly scaled broad-shouldered flavors that drench the palate in dry extract yet the precision and detail are nothing short of remarkable. There is flat out superb depth of material, all wrapped in a tightly wound yet massively long finish that is borderline painful in its intensity. This is clearly a vinous infant yet one that is already stunningly harmonious. In sum, this is a classic in the making.
2010 Olivier Leflaive Montrachet. BH 94-97. This is expressive to the point of being almost mute though it seems clear that the mostly yellow orchard fruit aromas are ripe as they combine with honeysuckle, spice and floral nuances. The equally ripe and distinctly powerful broad-shouldered flavors brim with dry extract that helps to buffer what is presently a very firm acid spine on the explosively long finish that is moderately austere though not hard. This is easily the best wine in the range though note that plenty of patience will be required as this is still very, very backward.
2010 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne. VM 97+. Bright pale yellow. Lime, crushed stone and steely minerality on the nose. Totally unevolved in the mouth, showing powerful mineral austerity and great cut to the flavors of liquid stone, white flowers and white truffle. This outstanding expression of calcaire is all corners today, but it’s still an infant. Finishes with explosive length. Forget about this wine for at least 10 or 12 years. This and the Perrieres will be fascinating to taste side by side in 2025: don’t forget to invite me over.
2010 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Montrachet. BH 94-97. A discreet application of wood frames notably ripe, indeed ever-so-mildly exotic yellow fruit aromas that exhibit highly complex nuances of spice, stone, lemon, lime and mango. This depth continues onto the pure, detailed and generous broad-shouldered flavors that possess exceptionally good density but also excellent verve on the precise, mouth coating and citrus-infused finish that delivers positively spectacular length. Like the Corton-Charlemagne, this is one very serious effort that should mature quite slowly over the next 15 to perhaps 20 years.
2010 Remoissenet Père et Fils Montrachet Le Montrachet. BH 93-96. If the Chevalier is, in a sense, vertical in its presentation, then this is entirely horizontal with a restrained but incredibly broad-ranging nose of lemon zest, fennel, clove, sandalwood, wet stone, floral and ripe white and yellow orchard fruit aromas. The expansive and wonderfully rich, full and equally ripe broad-shouldered flavors possess plenty of taut muscularity and underlying tension, all wrapped in a powerful, palate staining and stunningly long finish that really fans out as it lingers. In sum, this is an explosive wine of obvious class and grace that should mature slowly over the next 12 to 15 years as this is going nowhere fast.
Nasturtium Crusted Turbot. Fava Beans, Porcini Mushrooms, Brown Butter. Evenone is using Nasturtium these days — but this was an amazing piece of fish.
Flight 4: Dessert
1967 Château Rieussec. JK 94. From a bottle with good provenance, this medium rust-colored, limpid elixer teems with aromas and flavors of crème brûlée, tangerine, honey, peach and vanilla. Medium-to-full-bodied, dense and amazingly vibrant, it balances its sweetness beautifully with fresh acidity. Luscious throughout the middle and lengthy on the back end, this 50-year-old Rieussec has a lot of tread left in its tires. Drink now-2035.
Josiah told me that I’m the first person ever to BYOG to Melisse!
From the Sweet Milk Gelato “lab” (made by me): Fior Di Philly Gelato – Philadelphia Cream Cheese base, with Graham Cracker and Italian Wild Strawberry Topping! The room consensus was that it was so good it was better than the house dessert :-).
Cara Cara Orange Soufflé. Heilala Vanilla Ice Cream.
And another. I liked the orange goo with the ice cream.
One of the chef’s tries some Monty behind Don.
A rare sighting of the endangered Michael Z in the wild!
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 a couple years at this dinner we had more variety, but I do have have to say that Melisse NAILED the execution on all the savory dishes we had, from the soup on through to the turbot all were really polished and delicious.
service: Excellent as always. Matt knocked it out of the park as the Somm.
agavin on the wines: I love the 2010 White Burgundies and Montrachet is no exception. This isn’t the best age to taste this giant grand cru at either, as the big wines are a bit closed and/or reductive. But still there were some stunners in the batch and the overall quality level was fabulous. Very little advancement.
Voting results of the night (from Don) were:
- The top ranked wine was the Remoissenet, which was the big winner on night two a year ago. (As mentioned, this comes from the same source as the Thenard and Sauzet.)Thirteen of the sixteen wines got Top 5 votes, and every wine in the last flight got at least 4 top five votes, which tells you a lot about how good the wines were as a group.
Group Ranking Total Points 1 Remoissenet Montrachet 35 2 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne 26 3 Jadot Montrachet 23 4 Ramonet Montrachet 16 5 Bouchard Montrachet 9 6 tie Colin-Morey Montrachet 8 6 tie Maison Olivier Leflaive Montrachet 8
A pretty amazing showing for Jadot.— matching the third place finish in the 2007 Mostly Montrachet dinner.
Other big tasting dinners from this dinner series:
2010 White Burgundy part 1