Restaurant: Laurent Quenioux at the Villamalka for Sauvages
Location: The Villamalka
Date: March 10, 2023
Cuisine: Contemporary French Californian
I’ve been wanting to host a Sauvages lunch for awhile, and finally did in Spring of 2023. For the chef, I again tapped Laurent Quenioux, one of my favorite LA private chefs.
It was pouring outside so we set the table inside. Pushing the limit of pour size, we had 17 gentleman at a single table with 8 stems each (for 5 flights).
Our special menu.
From my cellar: 2002 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas François. VM 96. The 2002 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart is outrageously beautiful. The ripeness of the Chardonnay is front and center in a Champagne that delivers the goods, big-time. An infusion of apricot, orange peel, crème brûlée, chamomile, hazelnut and honey give the 2002 its racy, exotic personality. I enjoy it most with bottle age, but the 2002 is undeniably beautiful right now. The 2002 is a stunning NFB. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, done partially in oak (20%). Dosage is 4 grams per liter. (Drink between 2020-2030)
1992 Dom Pérignon Champagne P3. 96 points. Effortlessly young, superbly balanced, elegant, lifted, creamy, pear, vanilla, baked goods, sweet with barely notable but great acidity. Classically done.
NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvee Edition 170eme. JG 95. It had been a couple of months since I first tasted the “170ème Édition” of Krug Grande Cuvée at a pre-launch tasting for the bottling back in April. It was young and very promising then and has nicely settled in and started to blossom aromatically over the summer months. The wine is from the base year of 2014 and is a blend of fifty-one percent pinot noir, thirty-eight percent chardonnay and eleven percent pinot meunier, with forty-five percent of the cuvée composed from reserve wines. The “170ème Édition” of Grande Cuvée is really starting to become expressive aromatically, offering up scents of apple, pear, passion fruit, brioche, citrus blossoms, a beautiful foundation of limestone soil tones and patissière. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, focused and sports superb mid-palate depth of fruit, with fine mineral undertow, refined mousse and simply marvelous balance and bounce on the very long, complex and still properly racy finish. (Drink between 2022-2065)
NV Duval-Leroy Champagne Femme de Champagne.
We had a lovely Champagne reception in the Drawing Room. Rich Weiss hit it out of the park with a 1992 P3.
Chef Laurent Quenioux in the house! Laurent has cooked at home for us before and is an amazing chef.
Growing up in Sologne, France, Bistro LQ Owner & Executive Chef Laurent Quenioux developed his love of game and wild strawberries with his parents: he would hunt duck, partridge, rabbit and hare with his father, and practice cooking his mother’s recipes at home in the kitchen. When he completed his education, he entered into an apprenticeship in the South of France where, according to Laurent, “everything is about fat duck, goose liver and foie gras.”
After working and honing his skills in some of the finest kitchens in France, Laurent moved to the United States with a team from L’Oasis at La Napoule to open The Regency Club in Los Angeles. In 1985, he introduced the celebrated and award-winning 7th Street Bistro in downtown Los Angeles, serving groundbreaking French Nouvelle California cuisine which became a favorite spot for the mayor and Hollywood celebrities. Subway construction led to the closing of the 7th Street Bistro after a decade, and Laurent spent the late 1990s as the Executive Chef for Dodgers Stadium.
In the early 2000s, he returned to his restaurant roots with the debut of the cozy Bistro K in Pasadena, earning accolades for his originality and precision with a revolutionary menu designed to open the senses and minds of his guests to new possibilities, tastes and textures. With the opening of Bistro LQ in July 2009, Laurent brought his edgy style and ingenuity to a larger & more central location in Los Angeles near West Hollywood.
Feeling a need to take new risks and expand his vision, Laurent closed Bistro LQ in Spring of 2011 for a culinary and creative sabbatical. Presently Laurent is working on a biographic book project while cooking at his popular experimental “Fooding” Supper Club @MaMaison and around Los Angeles, London, Paris and Amsterdam.
gougères. Always yummy, although these could have been a bit cheesier.
veal tartare parmesan cake. Lots of flavor as there were “sneaky” umami elements.
sweet herring roll. This was my favorite of the passing apps, as it had this delicious smoky fish.
merguez confit niçois polenta cake. Lots of flavor here too.
2010 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 95. While the Ramonet Bâtard is virtually never rustic this seems unusually refined and admirably pure with an orchard fruit and intensely floral nose that already offers impressive complexity. In typical Bâtard fashion this is quite powerful and dense with sleekly muscled big-bodied flavors that possess remarkable amounts of dry extract that largely if not completely buffer the firm acid spine on the almost painfully intense and stunningly long finish that is absolutely bone dry. While it’s not true everywhere, in particular chez Pernot for example, I often prefer Ramonet’s Bâtard to their Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet but in 2010 that is far from clear. What is clear however is that both are absolutely terrific and to the extent that you are fortunate enough to find them, and your pocketbook can stand the damage, I strongly recommend that you acquire both as the upside potential they exhibit is nothing short of remarkable. (Drink starting 2020)
2010 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Corton-Charlemagne. VM 95+. A statuesque, refined wine, the 2010 Corton-Charlemagne stands out for its impeccable balance and understated personality. A hint of vanillin in the bouquet leads to bright citrus, white flowers, crushed rocks and spice in a delicate, beautifully nuanced Corton-Charlemagne that emphasizes refinement over power. (Drink starting 2014)
From my cellar: 2010 Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Vireuils. VM 92+. Subtle citrussy nose. At once tactile and juicy, with excellent mineral spine to support the lemon and pineapple flavors. The very long, stony finish shows the combination of sweetness and energy of the vintage’s better examples.
2012 Louis Latour Montrachet. BH 92-94. A dense and notably ripe if not exactly typical nose features notes of petrol, menthol and spice nuances that sit atop the otherwise cool scents of apricot and floral notes. There is a citrusy character to the broad-shouldered, powerful and complex flavors that ooze plenty of dry extract that really coats the palate on the markedly dry and strikingly long finish. Not surprisingly this is very backward at present and this is going to require at least 6 to 8 years to be approachable and 12 to 15 to reach its full apogee. (Drink starting 2024)
Bordier Butter and La Creme baguette. It’s all about the butter!
smoked haddock | cauliflower cream| ostera caviar | spring onion | potato. This was a great dish. Not only was it very pretty, but it had lovely flavors and interesting textures. Smoky fish (which I love), plus the caviar / cream vibe.
Deserves a second pic.
And the ladies table.
2014 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Le Montrachet. BH 95. A background note of reduction only mildly reduces the appeal of the ripe citrus and airy white flower aromas. There is good if not massive size and weight to the rich, fleshy and mouth coating large-bodied and dense flavors that brim with a fine minerality on the almost painfully intense and sneaky long finish. This gorgeously classy effort is like a number of examples of Montrachet in 2014 in that there is more finesse than usual. Either way this powerful but silky effort is going to need a long snooze in a cool cellar to realize its full and considerable potential. (Drink starting 2026)
2017 Blain-Gagnard Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 94. A cool, pure and restrained nose that could accurately be described as elegant offers up notes of citrus zest, white flowers, green apple and pretty spice nuances. The super-sleek and intense if once again not particularly dense flavors do possess a lovely sense of delineation on the balanced, saline and gorgeously long finish. This too will need to add depth but given the structure and balance, it should progressively develop. (Drink starting 2027)
2015 Domaine Michel Niellon Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 93. A very ripe but not surmature mix of pear liqueur, spice, petrol and matchstick aromas leads to super-rich, round and palate drenching flavors that are dense to the point of possessing a borderline creamy mouth feel, indeed it is almost thick. This isn’t quite as complex as the Chevalier but as is usually the case it is more powerful and perhaps even a bit longer as well. I would make the same observation here that this isn’t a typical Niellon Bâtard but if I can find it I will buy it anyway. (Drink starting 2020)
2015 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. VM 95. The 2015 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru is a powerful, dense wine. It possesses tremendous richness and tons of intensity. Radiance and phenolic intensity are two of the signatures. That’s about all I can tell you, as the 2015 is nowhere near ready to drink. It does have tremendous potential though, that is clear. (Drink between 2025-2035)
dover sole | tortilla & cilantro veloute | young zucchini. I love these intricate stuffed dishes. Very french. The sauce had light Mexican tomatillo sauce vibes, but very mild so as to not overwelm the fish. I particularly liked the soft inside “fish pate.”
1995 Domaine Joseph Roty Charmes-Chambertin Très Vieilles Vignes. VM 95. Deep, full red; remarkably dark for its age. Knockout soil-driven nose combines red and black fruits, flowers, spices, minerals, licorice and crushed stone, plus a whiff of cherry liqueur; this one displays all of this site’s key food groups! A compellingly sappy, concentrated wine with terrific breadth and sweetness but also strong framing acidity to its energetic flavors of dark berries, bitter chocolate, violet, spices and salty minerality; considerably deeper than either the ’96 or ’98. This densely packed, seamless wine delivers an exhilarating combination of verve and sucrosité and finishes with splendid vivacity for the vintage. In fact, this particularly bottle struck me as very young, still with a lot in reserve. A second bottle tasted chez moi in January was dark red with ruby tones. It was a bit less expressive on the nose, conveying black fruits and menthol, then sappy but not particularly fleshy in the middle palate, more dominated today by its spine of acidity and tannins. While it struck me as a bit less deep than the first bottle, it nonetheless showed terrific density and thrust and came across as equally youthful. In fact, my notes say that it could go on for another 20+ years. When I first tasted this wine in bottle with Joseph Roty in 1997, he told me that the fruit was picked with potential alcohol close to 14%. And yet the pH here is the lowest of all of the wines in my vertical tasting. (14% alcohol; 3.15 pH; 31 h/h) (Drink between 2019-2040)
1996 Louis Latour Chambertin Cuvée Héritiers Latour. 92 points.
1996 Domaine Maume Charmes-Chambertin. 91 points.
sauteed foie gras printanier | baby turnips | young carrots | snap peas | english peas | smoked duck breast | “grattons” | perigord black truffles. Awesome foie prep. Perfectly seared yet very soft and scrumptious. The truffles were used perfectly and the rich reduction was great. The smoked duck breast would have fooled me into thinking it was pancetta or guanciale.
1996 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes. BH 91. In contrast to some of the Ponsot ’96s the Clos de la Roche is really quite good with lovely aromatic complexity on the fully mature yet still vibrant and fresh red berry fruit, spice, earth, game and smoke hints. The is reasonably good density in the context of a vintage that produced any number of lighter wines and the old vines clearly show as the phenolic maturity of the remaining tannins is much better than the average ’96, all wrapped in a delicious and solidly long finish that displays only a trace of acid tang. Tasted several times with mostly consistent notes. (Drink starting 2013)
1999 Michel Magnien Clos St. Denis. VM 93+. Saturated deep ruby. Roasted plum, blackberry, licorice, mocha and bitter chocolate on the nose. Creamy and very intensely flavored, with outstanding depth of fruit. Lifted by a flavor of bitter chocolate. A wine of uncanny energy and thrust, made almost entirely from tiny millerande grapes. Very long, gripping finish. These ’99 grand crus will need at least seven or eight years of additional cellaring.
From my cellar: 1999 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes. 94 points. A combination of superb floral aroma and complex taste in this relatively old wine. Perfect for 2 hours in the glass before it started to fade. Wordless for this stuff.
2000 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin. JG 96. The 2000 Rousseau Chambertin another majestic example of the vintage, and there cannot be too many 2000 reds that are in this same league. The deep and utterly classic nose soars from the glass in a blend of raspberries, cherries, clove-like spice tones, coffee, a touch of venison, cedary wood and that magically complex signature of Chambertin soil tones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very complex, with a great, great core of fruit, exquisite focus and balance, seamless tannins and exceptional length and grip on the poised, elegant and powerful finish. A great example of Chambertin. (Drink between 2013-2040)
pintade hen | veal tendons | chipotle | epazote | morels. Another interesting (and fabulous) stuffed dish. I loved the hen/veal roll, particularly as the tendons inside lent it a great jelly-like texture. Morels are always welcome too.
2002 Domaine Perrot-Minot Charmes-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes. VM 92. Bright red-ruby. Slightly reduced but highly nuanced aromas of rose petal, mocha, dark chocolate and smoke. Sweet, round, creamy and seamless, with fleshy flavors of raspberry, iron and blood orange. Broad, lush and silky but not heavy. Finishes very long, with suave, thoroughly ripe tannins. A superb showing.
2002 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares. VM 95. Ruby-red. Flamboyantly rich aromas of blackberry, minerals and chocolate. Fat, rich and powerful; compellingly sweet and dense but with terrific thrust as well. Superripe flavors of chocolate and black plum. Finishes very long and powerful, with big but thoroughly ripe tannins. Offers great potential.
2002 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart. BH 93. The generous wood this displayed from cask has begun to integrate and no longer sticks out on the expressive and extremely ripe black fruit and plum suffused nose that is nuanced by hints of torrefaction, earth and coffee. The supple, delicious, round and textured full-bodied flavors are notably robust and underpinned by very firm tannins as well as loads of buffering extract. This is a powerful yet detailed wine that does seem to carry its alcohol well with only a trace of finishing warmth. In sum, this is a borderline massive and unbelievably long wine that bathes the palate in sappy extract though note that it is so youthful that it will require ample cellar time to arrive at its apogee, especially in magnum format. (Drink starting 2027)
bleu d’auvergne (mucida) | maroilles (foetidum) | accompaniments.lat savarin (triplex crepito)
On the plate.
From my cellar: 2013 Paolo Bea Arboreus. 90 points. sound bottle. 3 hours of air. ripe apricots and oranges on the nose. palate brings mild sherry-like oxidation with grapefruit pith bitterness. good acidity. not getting any oiliness
From my cellar: 1997 Château d’Yquem. 94 points. The 1997 Yquem comes from a season that witnessed the earliest-ever flowering (5 May) and an early picking that began on 4 September, though botrytis failed to develop, necessitating seven tries through the vineyard over 32 days of picking that lasted until 4 November. One aspect to note is how deep in colour this is compared to the 2003 that Sandrine Garbay served alongside. The nose offers marmalade and quince, hints of yellow plum and honey, not quite as precise as the previous bottle that I tasted in May the previous year, though it displays less of that adhesive trait. The palate has a lovely piquancy, very tangy with driving marmalade and Seville orange notes. The 5g/L of total acidity maintains the tension of the 1997, though maybe it is a little more evolved than I might have expected. Still, it remains a magnificent Yquem that will last many decades. Tasted from ex-château bottle in London. (Drink between 2022-2045)
From my cellar: 1988 Château Climens. VM 91. Green-edged straw color. Sweet butter, marzipan and a bright, riesling-like note of petrol on the nose. Fresh, firm and sharply delineated; the least rich and the driest of these three vintages, in the style of the year. But quite concentrated. Intriguing note of white raisin. Finishes very long and firm, with a slight sensation of disjointed acidity. Fairly dry on the back end.
I went all out on the gelato:
Birch Beer Gelato — Birch Beer flavored gelato base topped with Valrhona White Chocolate Pearls — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #RootBeer #RootBeerFlaot #Sarsaparilla #whitechocolate #Varlrhona
Nocciola White Gelato — Nocciola (hazelnut) base made with Pure PGI Piedmont hazelnut paste mixed with house-made Valrhona White Chocolate Hazelnut Bark — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — one of my signature flavors –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #hazelnut #nocciola #white #Chocolate #bark
Snickerdoodle Gelato NSA — A cinnamon vanilla base, but this version is No Sugar Added and formulated with Allulose — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #snickerdoodle #cookie #cinnamon #vanilla #nsa #allulose
Salty Pistachio Gelato – Pistachio di Bronte DOGC produces an intense pistachio base to which I added just a touch of salt — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #pistachio #sicily #nuts #salt
Salty Pistachio Gelato NSA – Pistachio di Bronte DOGC produces an intense pistachio base to which I added just a touch of salt — this version was formulated No Sugar Added with Allulose — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #pistachio #sicily #nuts #salt #nsa #allulose
Sweet Milk Signature Flavor — Italian Lemon Cookie Meringue Pie — Limoncello Zabaione base with lemon cookie flavor mixed with Italian Lemon Creme Cookies and Sicilian Candied Lemon and topped with house-made toasted Meringue — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #lemon #LemonCookie #cookie #Sorento #Limoncello #Meringue #LemonMeringuePie
Strawberry Margarita Sorbetto! — like a frozen cocktail — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — Strawberries from Avignon, blended with fresh lime, Reposado Tequila and Cointreau –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #sorbetto #strawberry #Margarita #cocktail #Tequila #Cointreau
pâte de fruit.
Overall, an amazing lunch and one of the best Sauvages yet — if I do say so myself 🙂 — but this was a thought echoed by many attendees. The food was perfect and we had so many great wines. A little crew of 4 of us did the pouring using shot glasses to measure out the pours. It worked great in terms of getting a fair pour all the way around, but was a ton of work / concentration.