Restaurant: Drago Centro [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 525 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071. (213) 228-8998
Date: March 14, 2019
Rating: Great high end Italian
This dinner is the second part of the annual White Burgundy Premox test series, hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell. This dinner covers 2011 Bienvenues-Bâtard, Criots-Bâtard,Bâtard-Montrachet, and Chevalier-Montrachet.
This particular dinner is at Drago Centro, which is the new home for these big dinners after the closing of Valentino. I’ve been a Drago fan (and friend) for years. Celistino Drago has even cooked at our house a bunch of times.
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 flavours, purity of expression and delightful aromatics.
Located on busy Flower in DTLA.
There was a private party outside and the place was packed.
Fortunately, this time, we were in the vault room which is separate and quiet.
Our special menu.
Flight 0: Champagne
2004 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Coeur de Cuvée. VM 95. The 2004 Coeur de Cuvée has gained considerable weight, richness and resonance over the last few years. Brioche, almonds, marzipan, anise and dried flowers are some of the notes that flesh out in a radiant, super-expressive Champagne built on texture and class. The 2004 is every bit as impressive as it has always been. At eleven years of age, the Coeur de Cuvée is just entering an early plateau of maturity that is likely to last for at least a handful of years. Disgorged May 2012.
Mini crab cakes.
Sweet breads with caviar. Not my favorite as I don’t love offal.
Hamachi cones with roe and gold. A little mild in flavor. Could use a bit of spice or something.
Don imported (former) Valentino Wine Director Paul Sherman to mastermind the wine service for who-knows-how-many-years-in-a-row.
My friend, chef Celestino Drago checks to make sure everything is in order.
Fresh baked bread (Drago has its own bakery for the restaurant group).
Flight 1: BBM & Criots
2011 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 93+. ale, bright green-yellow. Precise, high-pitched aromas of lime, white flowers and crushed stone. Then juicy and supple on the palate, with enticing sweetness to its pure, sharply delineated flavors of lime and orange. Impeccably balanced Bienvenue with nothing fat or warm about it. Really sparkles on the powerful, mounting finish.
From my cellar: 2011 Etienne Sauzet Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 95. Mint, lime, lychee, jasmine and white pear notes abound in the 2011 Batard-Montrachet. This is an especially tense, vibrant Batard that stands out for its energy, distinction and pure class. Super-finessed throughout, the 2011 impresses on the finish, where its crystalline brilliance dazzles. The style is very much built on precision, energy and minerality, rather than opulence. Today the 2011 is understandably a bit tight, but it should be superb in another few years. What a beautiful wine.
2011 Domaine Jacques Carillon Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 95+. arillon’s 2011 Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru is total silk on the palate. Subtle, layered and exceptionally polished, the 2011 is all about texture. Exotic white truffle, mint, smoke and Chamomile notes are just starting to develop in the glass, but the 2011 has a long time to go before being ready. Riesling-inflected petrol notes add nuance on the finish. This is a seriously beautiful wine from Jacques Carillon.
2011 Henri Boillot Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 92-95. Bright yellow. Vibrant nose combines smoke, honey and sexy minerality. More concentrated and sweet than the Criots but with the verve–not to mention the saline density–of Boillot’s Pucelles. Lovely creamy old-viney texture and length. The minerally finish leaves the taste buds quivering.
2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. Light color, smells young and reductive but the palate is smooth doesn’t taste as young as it smells. Interesting wine that’s in a good spot and should remain here for at least a couple of years.
2011 Hubert Lamy Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 97. There is little doubt Olivier Lamy’s 2011 Criots-Batard-Montrachet is one of the truly great wines of the vintage. Utterly vivid and constantly changing in the glass, the 2011 captivates all of the sense – both hedonistic and intellectual – with a captivating mélange of exotic white flowers, crushed rocks and pears. The bright, crystalline flavors blossom beautifully in the glass in that sweet, perfumed, ethereal style that is the signature of Criots. What an utterly moving, delicious wine this is.
2011 Louis Jadot Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 94. The 2011 Bienvenues Batard-Montrachet is huge. Rich, voluptuous and layered, the 2011 flows across the palate with stunning depth and richness. With time in the glass more subtle hints of almonds, hazelnuts, baking spices and mint emerge, albeit with great reluctance. There is plenty of energy in the glass. It will be interesting to see if the 2011 acquires more polish in bottle. Regardless, there is plenty to admire in a succulent, generous Bienvenues that is likely to offer a broad window of drinkability.
2011 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 92+. Pale yellow. Youthfully imploded nose hints at peach and smoky lees. Closed in the mouth as well, showing a slight bitter edge to the flavors of herbs, flowers and crushed stone. Best today on the juicy, echoing finish, which shows a subtle saline character.
2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 94-96. Exotic white flowers, ginger, white pepper and lychee are some of the many notes that emerge from the 2011 Criots-Batard-Montrachet, a wine that dazzles from start to finish. The 2011 is pure seduction. Captivating aromatics, beautifully layered fruit and fabulous persistence are the hallmarks. Colin-Morey thought the 2011 needed a little more time in cask, and planned to bottle the wine later in the summer.
Jumbo scallops crudo, potato cream, onion jello and truffles. Very light dish and attractive plating. I was glad the scallops were raw — as I prefer them that way.
Flight 2: Bâtard-Montrachet
2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 97. The 2011 Batard-Montrachet boasts serious richness, depth and structure. A wine of pure brawn and intensity, the 2011 impresses for its exceptional balance and harmony, but it is also very reticent and nowhere near ready to show the full breadth of its personality. The finish alone is simply sensational. Readers should give the 2011 at least a few years in bottle to settle down. The Batard is imposing, sensational and regal in every way.
2011 Domaine Bachelet-Ramonet Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet.
2011 Domaine Henri Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 95. Boillot’s 2011 Bâtard-Montrachet is striking. Pear, almond and spice notes open up in the glass, leading to bright fruit and expressive floral notes. In 2011 the Bâtard is linear, powerful and intense. This statuesque Burgundy is best left alone for at least several years.
2011 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 94+. Pale bright yellow. Sexy perfume of lemon, lime, clove and white flowers. A step up in weight and power from the Bienvenue, but still with lovely lift to the generous flavors of ripe peach and spices. Wonderfully energetic, tactile wine with terrific rising length and grip, and a late mineral character that contributes finesse. But this big, rich, backward Batard will need time to express itself.
2011 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers. VM 92. Pale, bright yellow. Subtle, pure nose offers pear and white flowers. Suave on entry, then juicy and sweet in the middle, with a minty lift contributing to the impression of inner-mouth perfume. Sappy, minerally, sharply delineated Chassagne with a positive iodiney character. This lively wine really coats the palate and lingers, without leavening any impression of undue weight.
2011 Etienne Sauzet Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 96. Gently spiced notes open into lemon oil and subtle yellow stone fruits in the 2011 Batard-Montrachet. The style is surprisingly weightless for Batard, in fact, this is one of the more refined, introspective 2011 Batards I tasted. The long, persistent finish along is striking. There is no shortage of nuance or finesse in this exceptional wine from Sauzet.
2011 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 93+. Good full medium yellow. Musky aromas of yellow peach, apricot and minerals lifted by a floral topnote. Boasts impressive volume and palate-saturating breadth but comes across as more closed than the Bienvenue in spite of its richness of texture. Finishes very long, though, with lingering notes of spices and smoke. Pernot recommends waiting three years before opening this.
2011 Pierre Morey Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 94. The 2011 Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru blossoms in the glass with light, floral-infused honey. Chamomile, tangerine and hazelnut notes. Rich and voluptuous all the way through to the finish, yet never heavy, the 2011 is a model of finesse. This is another superb showing from Pierre Morey.
Rigatoni Kamut, swordfish and eggplant ragu. An unusual pasta dish. The texture (al dente) on the pasta was incredible. Really these seemed closer to a picci (but not exactly). Very nice soft mildly rich flavor.
Flight 3: Chevalier-Montrachet part 1
2011 Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 96. A wine of pure texture the 2011 Chevalier-Montrachet captivates all the senses. Mint, lime, white flowers and Chamomile all vow for attention in a pliant, expressive wine of the highest level. The 2011 has a level of inner richness that is simply waiting in reserve. Another few years in bottle should unlock all of that potential.
2011 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot. VM 97. Honey, almonds, white flowers and nectarines all take shape in Jadot’s 2011 Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles. Exotic white truffle, orange peel and spice notes appear later, adding dimensions of complexity and nuance to this pedigreed Burgundy. The flavors continue to blossom in all directions as the wine opens up in the glass. Simply put, the 2011 Demoiselles is a stunner.
2011 Domaine de Montille Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Le Cailleret. VM 92+. Lemon, lime, crushed stone and some noble herbal high notes on the nose. Citrussy and penetrating, with a hint of youthful bitterness to the lime leaf and chalky mineral flavors. Very pure, juicy, mineral-driven wine with sneaky depth and a persistent, vibrating finish. This is 12.7% alcohol following about 0.3% of chaptalization, notes Alix de Montille.
2011 Francois Carillon Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 95+. The 2011 Chevalier-Montrachet is drop-dead gorgeous. Hints of light floral honey, almonds and lemon oil are just beginning to develop, but the Chevalier-Montrachet is mostly a wine of texture and shape. Not a huge wine, the 2011 impresses for its incredible class and nuance. With air, slightly more exotic and tropical notes emerge, providing a hint of what waits for those lucky few who will be able to source this jewel of a wine.
2011 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 93+. Good bright, pale yellow-straw. Perfumed aromas of peach pit and vanillin oak, lifted by spicy high notes. Rich and concentrated but light on its feet. Shows sweet stone fruit flavors and very good breadth on the front half, then turns firmer and more saline on the back end, finishing dry and brisk, with lingering notes of citrus peel and white peach. Boasts a lovely core of sweet fruit but this will need patience.
2011 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 95+. Subdued but pure aromas of pineapple, crushed rock and white flowers; less fruity today than the Bienvenue or Batard. Then fat and ripe but with terrific verve to the mineral and spice flavors. With a few minutes in the glass, this highly concentrated, electric wine came across as more tightly coiled, with its energy and cut becoming more apparent. Most impressive today on the extremely long, perfumed back end, which leaves the palate vibrating under a layer of mineral dust. Winemaker Remy says he wouldn’t start drinking this wine for 12 years.
Cioppino, assorted seafood, lobster broth. Fabulous seafood soup. Really a lobster bisque with various extremely fresh seafood.
Flight 4: Chevalier-Montrachet part 2
2011 Domaine Marc Morey & Fils Chevalier-Montrachet.
2011 Domaine Michel Niellon Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 95. Exotic white flowers, lychee, mint and lime blossom in the glass as the 2011 Chevalier-Montrachet shows off its compelling personality. Impeccably pure and layered throughout, the 2011 impresses for its exceptional balance and class. There is plenty of Chevalier richness and honey, but no excess weight or sense of heaviness at all.
2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 94+. Pale yellow. Slightly sullen, medicinal aromas of pineapple, menthol and crushed stone. Then taut and powerful in the mouth, with little early pliancy to the penetrating flavors of fresh pineapple and crushed rock. All in reserve today and in need of at least several years of cellaring. Classically dry on the high-pitched, echoing finish, which leaves behind piquant notes of dusty pepper, ginger, wild herbs and crushed stone. In the same bracing, mineral-driven style as Colin’s superb Meursault Perrieres and Corton-Charlemagne.
2011 Domaine Ramonet Chevalier-Montrachet.
2011 Vincent Dancer Chevalier-Montrachet.
2011 Etienne Sauzet Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 94+. Good pale yellow. Ripe, highly perfumed nose combines pineapple, flowers, mint and humid fern. Less obviously powerful than the Batard but offers insidious intensity and a more pliant texture to its yellow fruit and mineral flavors. Tightens up considerably on the back end, finishing subtle and long, with fresh minerality and a strong chalky character.
Pan roasted breast of duck, kumquat sauce. Great duck. Perfectly cooked and I loved the kumquat sauce (which was an interesting take on the orange duck thing). The forbidden rice was just there.
Appendix Flight: dessert
2002 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Eiswein. VM 93. This drinks like a pure and incredibly fragrant Normandy cider laced with lemon, vanilla and fresh strawberry. Weightless in feel, effortless gliding down, yet with incredible tenacity of grip.
Dark chocolate cremeux, cocoa almond, milk chocolate chantilly. The cake and its cream top was amazing. Really nice contrast of textures and strong chocolate flavors. The ice cream is gelato made by me (Celestino had it plated with the dessert):
After my advanced gelato class, trying a slightly new pistachio formulation — Pistachio Madeline Gelato — base uses my same awesome Pistachios from Bronte Sicily but also a small amount of egg yolk for extra body. I baked the Madelines from scratch and soaked them in hand made Grand Mariner syrup — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — oh my! — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #IceCream #NomNom #dessert #Pistachio #lemon #orange #Sicily #GrandMariner #Madeline #cookie #baking
Getting whacky — Thai Peanut Coconut Lime Chili Gelato — Salty peanuts, Thai coconut cream, lime zest, and serrano chillies — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — almost too spicy! — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #IceCream #NomNom #dessert #chili #spicy #thai #peanut #coconut #lime #SavorySweet #Serrano
Have a few glasses!
The reveal sheet.
And the full lineup.
Don’s notes on the wines:
- It was interesting to “watch the race” for the top wine as I compiled the votes. The group’s top overall wine was the Bernard Moreau Chevalier Montrachet, which won despite getting fewer first place votes than the number two finisher, the Colin-Morey Chevalier (which was my favorite wine). Both were spectacular and easily the equal of the best 2010s (and I thought the PYCM Chevalier was clearly superior to his 2010 Chevalier.) Finishing third was the Jadot Demoisselles, which was easily the best version of that wine we’ve had since at least the 1996.
- The huge difference in the number of oxidized and advanced wines between night one and night two was disconcerting. It demonstrates the risk of judging a vintage based on wines from a limited number of appellations. We had a large percentage of premox on night two, but with almost no premox on night one, at this point the cumulative statistics are right about even with 2010. (Hard to figure….)
- The flight of Criots/BBM was maybe the best overall flight of those wines ever. Carillon was again the favorite of the flight as it usually is.
- PYCM – Solid performance again, and the Chevy was spectacular, and probably the best he’s ever made. The Criots, Bienvenues and Batard, while all very good, were not as exciting.
- Jadot — Three wines out of the four included finished in the top three over the first two nights. Jadot will go back on my “buy” list for their top wines starting with 2011. DIAM will probably restore their reputation, but the Bienvenues proved that you can still make bad wine despite DIAM.
- The ringers – the Montille Puligny Caillerets (tied for No. 5 overall) was spectacular in context and nobody identified it as an obvious ringer in a flight of Chevaliers, which is what I had hoped. The Pillot Clos St. Marc (tied for 11th), which comes from 100 year old vines in the best part of Vergers, also seemed to compete with the Batards, although it didn’t quite have the weight of the top ones. Maybe matching it with Bienvenues and Criots flight would have been a fairer fight. Finding really good ringers to include is one of the fun elements of this.
- Leflaive – amazingly, all three wines were very good to excellent and not advanced or oxidized, though the style isn’t remotely the same as it used to be.
- Ramonet – Obviously the least impressive showing for Ramonet since the premox disaster vintages in 1996 and 1999. I’m hoping that the Chevalier was an off bottle, but clearly that was the worst example of a Ramonet Chevy I’ve ever tasted.
- Pernot – Both wines were again advanced. These wines seem to have notably declined since the 2007 vintage and are too often advanced.
- Dancer – An enigma. Capable at time of producing spectacular wines (e.g. 2010 MP, the overall night one winner), yet also capable of producing horribly flawed, or in the past oxidized wines. Two disasters in 2011.
- Boillot – On the second pass I concluded the Batard with the “blood orange” aroma was indeed advanced. Pretty underwhelming showing. Really hard to justify the insane pricing for the Boillot grand crus given the consistently poor premox performance.
Overall another highly education and fun evening. The wines were incredible and it is always amazing to taste so many great White Burgs side by side.
The food was a big step up from Valentino. Much better plating and more modern, sophisticated style. It’s still a touch plain by design as Don likes to keep it understated compared to the wines (while I, myself, am a bit more forgiving in the name of flavor). Service was excellent.
There is a lot to say about this tasting. The wine service was impeccable, and this is a difficult task (pouring lots of big blind flights). Overall service is absolutely first rate. It’s a large quiet room, and the staff was highly attentive. Celistino is a great host and his menu paired spectacularly.
Don has so many wines that the flights were too large. The first was 9 wines! And several were 8. Really this dinner could use 6 flights, no bigger than 5 wines each and about 6 savory dishes. But it’s a long evening as is, so I can understand why that might be pushing it. We debated going to Killer Noodle or KTown after but we were just a little too tired and full.
A great evening.