Restaurant: Spago [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
Location: 176 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (310) 385-0880
Date: March 27, 2019
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Still great
This dinner is the third part of the annual White Burgundy Premox test series, hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell. This dinner covers 2011 Montrachet Grand Cru and has for the last several years been hosted at Melisse — however, with the closing of that late great establishment, with some difficult maneuvering, it moved to Spago.
2011 White Burgundy is a vintage for those who prefer elegance and purity over power and concentration. It is the size of the wine that worried some white wine producers – many whites were willowy and gentle with low alcohol and modest acidity levels. This contrasts with the past several vintages – 2010, 2009 and the 2008 – where the overall frame and size of the wine was bigger. With the 2011s now either in bottle or about to be bottled, the wines have gained stature and flesh, though they will remain slim. What the best 2011 whites offer are seductive delicate flavors, purity of expression and delightful aromatics.
Spago has been an LA institution for over 30 years!
We were setup in the more intimate (but still quite large) private room. Perfect — as long as we kept the door closed (it’s loud on the main floor).
Tonight’s special menu.
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.
2002 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses. VM 96. The flagship 2002 Brut Clos des Goisses is simply stunning in this vintage. Seamless, ripe and beguiling, the 2002 is pure harmony in the glass. Dried pears, apricots, flowers, red berries and spices are some of the many notes that inform this towering, aristocratic wine. At once vertical yet endowed with serious length, the 2002 stands out for its breathtaking balance and overall sense of harmony. Layers of fruit built to the huge, creamy finish. This is a great showing from Philipponnat. The 2002 was disgorged in June 2011.
Spicy Tuna Tartare, Sesame-Miso Tuille Cone. I’ve had it a million times but it’s still great. The counter play between the crunchy-sweet cone and the soft-spicy interior.
Carrot. This carrot shaped thing in the soil-like pot (which was black pepper!) was reconstituted out of some kind of carrot puree. A touch sweet and rather delicious.
Pork belly macaron. Pretty amazing bit of sweet-fatty in a dessert-like presentation. Great textures too.
A kind of crab tartlet, if I remember correctly.
A sit down amuse inside an eggshell.
A kind of foam soup.
Bread. I always like the crunchy cracker stuff.
From my cellar: 2011 Olivier Leflaive Montrachet. BH 92-94. This is the most complex if not the most elegant wine in the range with its broad-ranging nose of pure lemon zest, white flower, anise, dried apricot, peach, petrol and a hint of pain grillé. There is outstanding size and weight to the entirely graceful, textured and sappy imposingly-scaled flavors that are ever-so-slightly riper than those of the Bâtard, all wrapped in a powerful, moderately stony and hugely long finish. There are any number of aspects to admire but what stands out for me is the intensity as it’s breathtaking.
agavin: ranked #4 — awesome considering how reasonable it is (for Monty)
2011 Domaine Thenard Montrachet. BH 91-94. Here too there is visible but not intrusive wood that sets off a very closed nose, indeed this is almost mute. There is excellent volume and power to the big-bodied, intense and equally closed flavors that possess plenty of underlying tension on the tight, focused and beautifully long finish. This moderately concentrated effort is very much a work in progress.
2011 Louis Latour Montrachet. BH 92-94. This is aromatically quite similar to the Demoiselles though it’s presently much less expressive, indeed even brooding. The broad-scaled full-bodied flavors are markedly bigger, richer and more powerful with even more dry extract and an attractive sense of lift is provided by the solid minerality that really makes its presence felt on the saline-infused and impressively persistent finish. This is a big wine but not necessarily an especially big Montrachet though make no mistake, this is certainly no shrinking violet as patience will definitely be required.
RINGER: 2011 Château de la Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Dent de Chien. BH 93. A ripe yet cool and wonderfully complex nose offers a broad range of aromas that include citrus and ever-so-mildly exotic yellow fruit along with background nuances of anise, clove, spiced tea and menthol. The intense, dense and focused medium-bodied flavors also brim with a remarkable level of dry extract that buffers the firm acid spine on the explosive and lemon-infused finish where the almost pungent minerality adds additional lift. This is also a remarkable effort and it might catch the La Romanée in time.
2011 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Montrachet. BH 95. There is still a touch of wood remaining on the beautifully complex and wonderfully elegant aromas of spice, floral and white orchard fruit. There is stunning size, weight and sheer punch to the imposingly scaled, cool and admirably pure flavors that possessed an opulent mouth feel before culminating in an explosive and hugely long finish. This is breathtaking in its intensity and should amply reward at least a 15 years of cellar time in magnum format.
Olive Oil Poached Salmon. Turnip, radishes, bacon oil. Very delicate, soft and lovely.
2011 Coche-Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. VM 96+. Subtly complex, aristocratic aromas of lemon and pure crushed stone. Wonderfully intense and taut, with great mineral depth giving the wine a powerful impression of force. Finishes with explosive energy, an essence of crushed stone and outstanding lingering perfume. It’s virtually impossible to spit this unflagging, tactile wine: the minerality here is almost frightening. The best of these 2011s today, without question, and a wine that transcends its vintage.
agavin: an inexpensive wine
RINGER: 2011 Rhys Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard. VM 93+. A model of precision, finesse and delineation, the 2011 Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard bristles with the essence of honey, white truffle, orange peel and nectarine. The 2011 needs a few years to drop some of its baby fat, but the direction it is likely to take becomes apparent with time in the glass. Watching the wine literally become crystalline and pure with air is quite an amazing experience.
2011 Château de Puligny-Montrachet Montrachet.
agavin: ranked #6 (tied with Ramonet Monty!)
2011 Bouchard Père et Fils Montrachet. BH 96. This is aromatically quite similar at this early stage to the La Cabotte. There is an extraordinarily powerful effort with impressive mid-palate density and so much dry extract that it imparts a sappy, even seductive texture to the mouth coating flavors that terminate in a breathtakingly long finish. Moreover, as good as the La Cabotte is, and it is indeed exceptionally good, there is simply no contest between the two wines as there is just another dimension present here. In sum, this beautifully well-balanced Monty is an absolute knockout!
agavin: ranked #5
2011 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet. VM 96. Pale straw-yellow. High-toned, expressive aromas and flavors of lime, peach, iodine and spicy oak. Large-scaled, spicy and deep, as tactile as a solid without coming across as obviously phenolic. A real essence of Burgundy in its density and concentration. Wonderfully integrated acidity leavens and extends the explosive, smooth finish. No rough edges here. This is 13.6% alcohol but is neither overripe nor lacking in acid spine.
Pan-Roasted Lobster Tail. Lemon butter, morel mushrooms, pea tendrils, squid ink tuille. A really awesome hunk of lobster with butter sauce!
2011 Domaine Ramonet Montrachet. BH 97. The strikingly complex, cool and reserved nose of mostly citrus, stone, floral and white orchard fruit aromas still displays plenty of wood that has not yet been integrated but the density is certainly here to allow that to happen even though it may require 3 to 5 years to do so. In the context of the 2011 vintage this is a superbly well-concentrated wine as the imposingly scaled flavors are a breathtaking combination of size, weight, tension and borderline painful intensity. Despite all of the volume, there is absolutely no heaviness, indeed the acid support is such that this remains impeccably well-balanced on the hugely long and palate staining finish. While it is of course still in the early days for the vintage this is absolutely a strong candidate for the wine of the vintage.
agavin: ranked #6 (tied)
2011 Marc Colin et Fils Montrachet. BH 94. A deft touch of wood surrounds the strikingly complex citrus, floral, spice and essence of ripe pear scents. This is both bigger and richer than the Bâtard with absolutely superb size, weight and mid-palate density as the abundant dry extract both coats the mouth and buffers the very firm acid spine that shapes the explosively long finish. There is a trace of warmth but that is the only nit in an otherwise stunning Monty.
2011 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne. VM 97. Coche-Duryâ’s 2011 Corton-Charlemagne kicks off a flight of stellar white Burgundies. Of course, the 2011 is far too young to be at its best. Tonight, it is the translucent purity of the citrus and lemon confit flavors that stands out most. This really needs time to be at its very best.
agavin: even more affordable than the MP — not. ranked #3
2011 Louis Jadot Montrachet. BH 94-97. Here the nose is notably more reserved with aromas of citrus zest, spice, wood toast, fennel and spice hints. This is also a very imposingly-scaled wine with its big, muscular and wonderfully complex flavors that culminate in a long, focused and explosive finish of breathtaking length and intensity. This overtly powerful effort should reward at least a decade in the cellar and drink well for another. A ‘wow’ wine.
Slow Roasted Chicken Breast on the Bone. Black truffle, Emmental cheese soufflé. Excellent, for chicken.
The room in full swing.
Flight 4: dessert
1990 Château Suduiraut. 92 points. COLOR-copper; NOSE-obvious butterscotch, Pineapple Oil (mix of Pineapple & Petrol), rusty wet copper penny, ; TASTE-Mango w/ maple syrup, brown sugar & butterscotch on it, finishes w/ an Apricot Reduction sauce, I love this wine, outstanding, a bargain, seek this out.
Madagascar Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, candied almonds, tangerines, saffron syrup.
And the gelato, both scoops were made by me! Score, added Spago to my list of BYOG places!
Nocciola, Espresso e Bacio Gelato – using my new egg yolk based nut formulation with Piedmontese hazelnut to produce a stunning hazelnut base, then adding in house-made espresso caramel and chopped up bacio — 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 #Espresso #coffee #cafe #hazelnut #Nocciola #caramel #bacio
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato – the base is a Fior di Latte but I made it with brown sugar instead of white so it matched the cookies better. Inclusions are cubes of house-made gluten-free (almond flour) artisinal chocolate chip cookie dough with Valrhona chocolate chunks! — 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 #CookieDough #ChocolateChipCookie #Cookie #chocolate #valrhona #BrownSugar #GlutenFree
Again Sommlier Paul Sherman joined us to coordinate the tasting. He was joined by Spago’s Christie.
The full lineup. Much more manageable than at the other two dinners.
This was a great night and lots of fun. The smaller Montrachet night is always more fun than the 30+ wine giant night 1 and night 2. I just can’t “handle” those flights with 8-9 wines. Almost a chore to get back to them.
The food was really on point as it usually is at Spago for these private events. It wasn’t a TON of food per se — except for the fact that I ate about 6 tuna cones to start (which set me up right). But each dish was delicious and very well prepared.
Service was great and wine service, thanks to Pual and Christie, even better.
Despite being too young, the Montrachet was great as well.
Some of Don’s comments are:
As some of you predicted, the Coche MP did manage to narrowly edge the Coche Corton for the number 2 position by virtue of getting votes from everyone placing it in the top 3.
I was pretty amazed that we didn’t have a single oxidized or advanced wine last night. I believe that this is only the second time that’s happened at the Mostly Montrachet dinner with the other instance being the 2007 vintage.. This was a bizarre year, with virtually no problems on nights one and three, but lots of issues on night two.
To answer Kent’s question, yes, last night was the third time that the Jadot Montrachet has finished in the top 3 at the Mostly Montrachet dinner, all starting with the 2007 vintage. Jadot finished 3d in the 2007 dinner, 2d at the 2010 dinner, and 1st in the 2011 dinner. I thought that the success of the Jadot wines over the three nights pretty conclusively proved that DIAM works. We’ve now had 30 different bottles over the last three years (many of which came from producers with prior major premox problems – e.g. Montille, Fevre, and Jadot) with no issues.