Restaurant: Saddle Peak Lodge [1, 2, 3]
Location: 419 Cold Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302 (818) 222-3888
Date: July 12, 2012
Cuisine: Modern American
Rating: Great ambiance and terrific game oriented food.
Recently I joined an online club dedicated to hedonistic food and wine dinners. Officially the group is called Yarom & Hedonists and this event at Saddle Peak Lodge was the first I went too — and boy am I glad I did — as it was one incredible evening of debauchery. Each person brings a bottle, and the host okays them in advance. I used this successful formula myself for a series of high powered wine parties in the late 90s. The bar for this event is very high, including numerous 100 point wines, cult cabernets, old Bordeauxs, Grand Cru Burgundies and the like.
Saddle Peak Ranch used to be a game lodge back in the early part of the 20th century. The rich and famous used to come up and hunt Malibu’s finest, such as this poor fellow. Now the deer are just served up on the menu.
The gamey interior has a lot of charm.
Just some of the incredible wines.
I forgot to photo the entree page of the menu, but it’s all online anyway.
The group eats here regularly and the service was first rate, treating us like royalty.
First off, but unphotographed, was a Billecarte Salmon Rose-NV and then a lovely 2004 Bouchard Corton-Charlemagne. White Burgundy is so much better than all that mere Chardonnay.
The first red was this venerable Bordeaux. Parker 87. “The fully mature 1970 is a fine example of Lascombes–darkly colored, ripe, full bodied, richly fruity, and fleshy, but it has the concentration of fruit and structure to hold for 4-6 more years. It is a spicy, fragrant, and altogether satisfying mouthful of amply endowed wine.”
A vegetable and cream “cappuccino” as the first amuse.
Then this smoked salmon, caviar, and creme fraiche on a blini.
In the foreground is the wine I brought, the 1982 Certan de May. Parker 98! “Consistently one of the most remarkable wines of this great vintage, the 1982 Certan de May has tightened up. It gets my nod as the most backward wine among the 1982 Pomerols, as it is even more tannic than Petrus. The impressive saturated dark purple/garnet color suggests super flavor extraction. The nose offers scents of Asian spices, cedar, black fruits, truffles, and new oak. It is full-bodied and massive, with exceptional concentration to accompany the boatload of tannins. The wine’s thick viscosity and huge, unctuous texture are mouthfilling. It remains broodingly backward and little evolved since its early days in the barrel. Even half-bottles are youthful.
The 1982 Certan de May should easily turn out to be one of the great wines of the vintage. It will come close to perfection. Do not drink it until the end of this century; it will keep easily through the first two decades of the next millennium.”
We were outside and strangely enough for July in Southern California, it began to rain! Several of us resorted to putting our bread plates over our wines to prevent dilution.
“Rabbit roulade wrapped in bacon with huckleberry, shimeji mushroom stuffing, sautéed Fuji apples, and sage.”
Grand Cru Burgundy, always a favorite of mine. “Displaying a medium-to-dark ruby color and a lovely nose of spicy red berries, cracked black pepper, Asian spices, and distinctive notes of cedar, this is a medium-to-full-bodied, velvety-textured, and complex wine. Its enthralling flavor profile offers layers of rich black pepper-laced blueberries and blackberries that are intensely spiced with cinnamon, juniper berries, and hints of eucalyptus.”
“Peeky toe crab salad. Cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, on a bed of arugala.”
This was probably my favorite red of the evening, and is one of the signature wines of the Northern Rhone Valley. Although not as good as the 1988 I had a couple of weeks ago, it still rocked. “The 1996 Cote Rotie La Mouline possesses the highest percentage of Viognier (17-18%) Guigal has ever included in this offering. The deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by a superb bouquet of spice box, cedar, leather, honeysuckle, and jammy black fruits. It is remarkably tender and soft for a vintage that produced high acid wines. Medium-bodied, elegant, and complex, it is one of the more forward and evolved La Moulines.”
“Fried soft shell crab with cheddar jalapeno biscuit, gribiche, rock shrimp, frisée, and lobster Americana sauce.”
One evening, two pomerols! Parker 96+ “The finest Trotanoy since the 1961, this structured, formidably-endowed, deep ruby/purple-colored, full-bodied, super-rich wine exhibits notes of toffee, truffles, and abundant blackberry, cherry, and currant fruit. It cuts a large swath across the palate, and possesses copious but sweet tannin as well as a chewy, muscular mid-palate and finish. This is a compelling effort from one of the great vineyards of Pomerol.”
“Pan seared squab breast basted in thyme and garlic with chanterelles, artichoke puree, pea greens and truffle bird sauce.”
After the appetizers, we not only moved inside to escape the rain, but pulled out the big muscled Cabernets.
“The dark ruby/purple-colored 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa is brilliant. Small quantities (7% of each) of Cabernet Franc and Merlot have been added to the blend, giving the wine more aromatic breadth and flavor dimension. Dense and rich, with high extraction, sweet fruit, full body, outstanding purity, and mineral/spicy aromas.”
And then its big brother. Parker 100! “One of the world’s greatest wines year in and year out is Shafer’s Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. The 2002 was a candidate for perfection the first time I tasted it. The estate keeps this cuvee 32 months in 100% new French oak, so I had a number of chances to see it from barrel. Moreover, I purchased the wine for my own cellar and have had it at least a half dozen times since bottling, and it just gets more profound with each sip. This wine is beyond belief for how it balances its extraordinary richness, purity of personality, and the elegance and finesse of the Stags Leap District with massive cassis fruit, spring flowers, toasty oak and earth. The wine is fabulously concentrated, multidimensional and built like a skyscraper, yet nothing is out of place. The wood, alcohol, acidity and tannin are all in perfect balance. This offering is a tribute to the greatness of Napa Valley, which was recognized by men and women hundreds of years ago, and to the modern day genius of the Shafer family. This 2002 has 50 years of life ahead of it – but why wait!”
But my favorite of the trio was the Thorevilos, also Parker 100 points! “The classic 2002 Thorevilos, which comes from the white tufa volcanic ash soils of this site, exhibits notes of barbecue smoke, bouquet garni, incense, Christmas fruitcake and gobs of blue and black fruits. It is voluptuously textured and full-bodied, with sweet tannin as well as a flawless integration of acidity, tannin, wood and alcohol. Both of these wines are tour de force performances from David Abreu and Brad Grimes. They appear set for 25 to perhaps 50 or more years of cellaring. If you can find them – buy them!
Northern California’s superstar viticulturist, David Abreu, makes between 400 and 600+ cases of a number of wines from various vineyards he owns throughout the valley. Since the mid-1990’s, the Abreu wines have ranked in the top half dozen or so of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. To his original Madrona Ranch holdings in St. Helena, Abreu has added an adjacent vineyard called Capella. He also co-owns with Ric Forman the Thorevilos Vineyard situated behind the Meadowood Resort. There are 500 cases of the 2002 Madrona Ranch. While the blend is never specified, it is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon blended with a large percentage of Cabernet Franc, a varietal that both David Abreu and his winemaker/manager Brad Grimes adore. They achieve a level of aromatic intensity and complexity in their wines that few in the world can match. If you have access to these world class wines, don’t hesitate to purchase them if you can afford them – they are that special.”
“Trio of game: elk tenderloin, game hen, and bison short rib.” All excellent with wines of this power.
The elk tenderloin with a sweet onion puree.
The game hen with a cous-cous.
The buffalo shortrib and mashed potatoes.
This 1996 Barolo in magnum had barely begun to open up. This is about the right age to start drinking Barolo — in a normal bottle. This was a fine wine, but the tannins were out in force.
“Grilled Texas Nilgai antelope with brown butter cauliflower, red wine poached pear and truffled cauliflower puree.”
Another fine cab. Parker 96. “Joseph Phelps’ flagship wine is their fabulous Insignia, a wine with a tremendous track record back to the debut vintage of 1974. It is produced in significant quantities (18,000-20,000 cases) for a wine of such quality.
The prodigious 1997 Insignia (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, and 3% Petit-Verdot) lives up to its pre-bottling promise. Tasted on three separate occasions, every bottle has hit the bull’s eye. The color is a saturated thick-looking blue/purple. The nose offers up explosive aromas of jammy black fruits, licorice, Asian spices, vanillin, and cedar. Full-bodied as well as exceptionally pure and impressively endowed, this blockbuster yet surprisingly elegant wine cuts a brilliant swath across the palate. A seamless effort with beautifully integrated acidity, sweet tannin, and alcohol, it is still an infant, but can be drunk with considerable pleasure.”
“Wild Pacific King Salmon crusted in pistachio with basil oil, glazed salsify, lemongrass foam, roasted pearl onions, Pernod braised baby fennel and poisson velouté.”
“Grilled Kurobuta pork porterhouse with rosemary gnocchi, grilled radicchio, poached apples and pomegranate sauce.”
“Rack of New Zealand lamb with Swiss chard, Nueske bacon, golden raisins, piquillo pepper and pommes aligot.”
This 1937 rose muscat was unusual, sweet, and very very good.
It comes from the town of Massandra in the Crimea which was an ancient Greek settlement. The Tzar had a palace here and for centuries they made special wine for the royal family. Raisin in a glass, this particular vintage must have been served up to Stalin!
“Pierre Robert – triple crème brie France, pasteurized cow’s milk Saba, blackberry. Brigante – semi-soft Italy, pasteurized sheep’s milk Honey foam & pickled green apple. St. Agur – blue cheese France, pasteurized cow’s milk Poached pear & hazelnut crumble.”
1994 was one of the greatest port vintages of recent memory and this Warre’s is just coming into it’s own. A very fine port indeed, and perfect with the cheese and desserts to follow.
“Farmer’s market peach beignets with bourbon caramel sauce.”
“Banana and huckleberry bread pudding served with peanut butter ice cream.”
“Chocolate molten whiskey cake with Guinness ice cream and Bailey’s whipped cream.”
On the left one of our hosts, on the right the young and talented Christopher Kufek, Saddle Peak’s executive chef.
This hedonism dinner certainly lived up to the word. I hung out for a good hour at the end chatting with the chef and drinking water to balance out my humors. But it was a tremendous time. The food was great, the wine amazing, and the company excellent. My liver and heart aren’t necessarily in agreement, but my brain hopes to be back at the next event.
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