Restaurant: Valentino Santa Monica [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]
Location: 3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 829-4313
Date: May 29, 2018
Rating: Fun and educational!
Valentino is one of my most reviewed restaurants, particularly because Don Cornwell always uses it as a site for his Burgundy dinners. And when Ron suggested we do our Rayas dinner here I was skeptical, because it’s a bit staid, and when he suggested we order off the menu, I was even more skeptical — but this time Valentino proved me wrong.
The menu, which a certainly haven’t seen in a while.
Ron brought: 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.
Tomato Bruschetta. Classic.
Various bread sticks.
The have very good single source olive oil.
Pougs brought: 2015 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly. VM 91. Pale, bright yellow. Precise but subdued scents of lemon and wet stone. Very pure but closed, conveying lovely energy and juicy, citrussy cut to its concentrated lemon zest, mandarin orange and stone flavors. Colin’s Chatenière may be richer than this wine but it doesn’t not have the same degree of energy. Finishes very smooth, seamless and long. Last year, Colin told me that this wine has only 12.3% alcohol.
From my cellar: 1993 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 92. A fully mature and expressive nose of elegant secondary fruit and floral aromas introduces intensely mineral-driven, pure and beautifully well-detailed middle weight flavors that possess excellent depth and fine length. This is drinking perfectly now and should continue to do so without effort for at least another decade. Tasted only once recently.
Scallops with asparagus puree, asparagus, and mashed potatoes.
Tartara di Tonno e Burrata. Tuna tartare with orange flavor burrata sauce. Possibly a slightly waste of burrata (which I discovered here at Valentino 23 years ago), but really nice combo.
Polpo alla Brace e Fregula. Grilled octopus with squid ink infused Sardinian cous cous. A touch ugly but delicious.
Smoked Quail, rolle on potato and asparagus salad with blueberry sauce. Not what I expected, but delicious.
Larry brought: 1986 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. RP 86. This wine has been fully mature since its release and continues to drink well, although owners are advised to consume it before the turn of the century. Not one of the most successful 1986s (a difficult as well as irregular vintage in Chateauneuf du Pape), it displays a medium ruby color with no signs of amber or orange. A peppery, herbaceous, celery-scented note competes with ripe cherry/kirsch aromas. Although medium- to full-bodied, with good glycerin and a velvety texture, the wine lacks the sweet mid-palate and inner core of extraction and depth found in the greatest Rayas vintages.
Ron brought: 1989 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. RP 98. The 1989 Rayas is finally beginning to live up to its immense potential. The color is a dense ruby/purple. The aromatics, which have consistently been tight and reserved, are beginning to reveal some of the framboise and black cherry liqueur-like scents for which this hallowed estate is known. Extremely full-bodied, powerful, and rich, with lots of tannin, muscle, and extract, the colossal-sized, tightly-knit 1989 is bursting at its seams. It requires another 3-5 years of cellaring. This is a prodigious Rayas that is just beginning to strut its stuff. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2025.
Jeff brought: 1997 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. RP 90. It appears I may have seriously underestimated the quality of the 1997 Rayas when tasted from barrel. Tasted twice from bottle, it unquestionably merits a 90-point score. It is rich, deep, and intense. It is an elegant, ripe, evolved, forward, medium-weight Rayas with copious raspberry and cherry fruit. It should drink well young and last for 10-15 years.
agavin: a touch corked? or too much bret?
From my cellar: 2000 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. RP 93. The 2000 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape, which Emmanuel Reynaud believes is better than 1998, came in at a whopping 15.2% alcohol. It is reminiscent of a hypothetical blend of the 1998 and 1999, with a medium to light ruby color, and a sumptuous bouquet of kirsch liqueur, spice box, and licorice. Full-bodied and fleshy, with low acidity, it is a sweet (from high glycerin and alcohol), seductive, intoxicating offering with no hard edges and a rich, fleshy mouthfeel. While it will be hard to resist, I feel the 1998 still has more structure. Anticipated maturity for the 2000: 2005-2016.
agavin: drinking amazingly, young even
Erick brought: 2001 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. RP 92. The 2001 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape is more structured and slightly deeper ruby-colored than the light-colored 2000. It also possesses more acidity as well as depth. This terroir-driven effort reveals aromas of raspberries and sweet kirsch as well as a medium-bodied, vigorously fresh, lively style. There is also good flavor authority. Give it 3-4 years of cellaring and consume it over the following 15. Like most Chateauneuf du Pape domaines, I did not see anything while tasting through the 2002 reds that would suggest they could be recommended in this publication.
Pougs brought: 2003 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. RP 95. The 2003 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape has gone from strength to strength and now looks to be the finest vintage since the monumental 1995. Deep ruby to the rim with that classic Rayas nose of flowers, kirsch liqueur, black raspberries, crushed rocks, and minerals, the wine is dense and concentrated, with a broad, savory mouthfeel, sweet yet silky tannin, fabulous persistence, and a blockbuster finish that just goes on and on. This is a reassuringly profound Rayas that seems to suggest that Emmanuel Reynaud has finally figured out this cold-climate terroir in a warm climate appellation. This wine should be given 3-4 years of bottle age, and drunk over the following 20+ years.
Gnocchi Patate e Rapini. Potoato and rapini dumpling sateed with cherry tomatoes and jalapeno and creamy ricotta.
Risotto with fresh porcini.
Lasagnetta con ragu d’anatra e porcini. Lasagna with bechamel, duck ragu, and porcini.
All four pastas were great. They might not look the most modern, but they tasted amazing.
Sea bass in Sicilian sauce.
Costolette d’agnello. Grilled lamb chops over fava beans with roasted tomato and olive tapenade.
l‘Ossobuco with risotto al parmigiano. Old school but awesome.
Larry brought this sticky.
A mixed plate of desserts. Their gelato isn’t the greatest, but the cannoli was very good.
The wines were amazing (as they should be). The whites were great and the Rayas was stellar, particularly the 1989 and 2000. All were great though (the 01 and 03 just being young) except for maybe the 97 with its light corking.
Service was great as always, as Valentino really takes care of us — we are, after all friends of the owner, some for many many years. They moved us from a smallish table into our our dining room. Not a private room per se but they built a large table for us in the middle of one of the other rooms and put no one else in there — perfecto!
I was pleasantly surprised how good the food was off the menu, particularly as compared to my many boring sets of food at Don’s dinners. I guess they do it much better off the menu. And it’s always easier to handle a 6 person dinner, which really is a great number.