Location: 6001 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 466-8812
Date: September 9, 2021
Marino is a favorite haunt for many of my wine groups, including the Sauvages lunch group featured in today’s report. The theme today for Sauvages was Brunello di Montalcino, plus we had intro champs and a flight of Italian whites.
The amazing chef/owner Sal Marino cooks at his original family location, venerable Marino Ristorante on Melrose and continues to whip up his unique blend of amazing modern Italian. And if anything, he’s gotten even better.
Post pandemic they’ve turned the parking lot into a cute patio.
This is the main interior, or at least some of it.
But we were set up in the private room which really is private. It’s totally separate, connected to the main dining room via the kitchen and even has its own bar and bathroom.
Our special menu.
And the wine list.
2013 Georges Laval Champagne Premier Cru Brut Nature Cumières. VM 92. The 2013 Brut Nature Cumières exudes depth and creaminess. A host of dried pear, licorice, lemon confit, orchard fruit, brioche and spices flesh out in the glass. The Cumières is a blend of equal parts Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay, but it is the weight and texture of the red grapes that gives the wine much of its signature feel. This is another stellar showing from Vincent Laval. Disgorged January, 2016. (Drink between 2017-2025)
2009 Dom Pérignon Champagne. VM 94+. The 2009 Dom Pérignon is open, seductive and radiant, as it has always been. Soft curves, mid-weight structure and tons of plain allure make the 2009 impossible to resist in its youth. This bottle, the best I have tasted so far, offers a distinc citrus and floral-driven profile that adds a good deal of brightness. Above all else, the 2009 is a gorgeous Champagne to drink now and over then next few decades. This is the first time in the house’s history that a vintage was not released sequentially. (Drink between 2018-2049)
Salmon Tartar with caviar.
2014 Marisa Cuomo Costa d’Amalfi Furore Bianco Fiorduva. JG 93. The 2014 Fiorduva from Marisa Cuomo is a beautiful wine that is drinking at its peak today, but shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The cépages is thirty percent each of Fenile and Ginestra, coupled with forty percent Ripoli. The wine is barrel-fermented and raised in stainless steel tanks. The bouquet wafts from the glass in a refined blend of pear, tangerine, green olive, salty soil tones and a topnote of orange peel. On the palate the wine is crisp, full-bodied and quite complex, with a fine core of fruit, lovely mineral drive and grip, zesty acids and a long, classy finish. This is a truly lovely wine at its apogee, but still with plenty of life in it. (Drink between 2020-2025)
2016 Grosjean Petite Arvine Valle d’Aosta. VM 92. Straw-green. Bright aromas of white orchard fruit, white flowers, mint, sage and thyme. Enters fresh with green fruit nuances (mostly apple) complicated by building notes of apricot and thyme. Finishes long and suave, hints of banana and riper fruit emerging at the back. (Drink between 2019-2024)
2017 Tiberio Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Fonte Canale. VM 94. Vivid pale straw-yellow. Penetrating, multifaceted nose of white peach, nectarine, minerals, chamomile and jasmine. Conveys an almost saline sense of extract in the mouth, offering steely, harmonious and high-acid flavors of white peach, minerals and anise. Steely and mineral notes linger on the long floral-accented finish. Once again, the magic of the Fonte Canale 80-year-old vines shines through in a year that saw almost seven months without rain in the Casauria subzone (where the Tiberio estate is located); the roots of these old vines dig deep and are always close to the underlying water table. The 2017 Fonte Canale strikes me as more perfumed and more open-knit than usual on the nose (especially compared to the 2016), but more lemony on the palate. (Drink between 2022-2029)
2018 Castello della Sala (Antinori) Umbria Cervaro della Sala. VM 92. The 2018 Cervaro della Sala is a blend of 92% Chardonnay with a splash of Grechetto, showing a rich and alluring bouquet, leading off with a hint of vanilla bean and giving way to peach, a dusting of confectioner’s spice and dried yellow flowers. On the palate, silky textures flesh out across the senses, carrying flavors of ripe apple, apricot and sweet herbs, as minerals and acids mingle toward the close. The finish is long and almost salty, buzzing with energy and making the mouth water for another sip. The balance here is impeccable, as is the use of barrel fermentation to create such textural richness. (Drink between 2020-2028)
Crudo. Tuna and avocado.
2009 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova. VM 93. Vivid red. Multidimensional nose offers captivating aromas of raspberry, sour red cherry, redcurrant, brown sugar, cinnamon and minerals, lifted by a strong note of fresh citrus fruit. Vibrant flavors of red and black fruits, pink peppercorn and sweet spices are wonderfully pure and juicy. This sneakily concentrated yet refined wine shows a rare blend of power and delicacy and finishes extremely long, with very fine-grained tannins and truly mind-blowing purity of small red fruits and violet. Impeccable balance only adds to its star qualities. One of the best young Tenuta Nuovas I have ever tried and it’s also one of the two or three best Brunellos of the vintage.
2010 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino. VM 93. Dark red cherry, smoke, plum, wild flowers and cedar are some of the notes that flesh out in the 2010 Brunello di Montalcino from Castelgiocondo. Ripe, soft and textured on the palate, the 2010 impresses for its silkiness and early approachability. Sweet floral and spiced notes reappear on the finish, adding considerable lift and perfume. This is a lovely showing from Castelgiocondo and the Frescobaldi family. (Drink between 2015-2025)
2010 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino. VM 95+. One of the stand outs of the vintage, Lisini’s 2010 Brunello di Montalcino fleshes out in all directions with gorgeous, expansive richness. The flavors are dark, bold and incisive, yet backed up by notable freshness. A crescendo of incredibly pure dark red and black stone fruits builds on the huge finish. The 2010 is dazzling, but readers will have to be patient. (Drink between 2018-2035)
2010 Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino Vecchie Vigne. VM 95. Giancarlo Pacenti’s 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Vecchie Vigne is another superb wine. The contours are more modern and the fruit leans towards the darker end of spectrum, yet all the elements are wonderfully in balance. Surprisingly open and expressive for a young Brunello, the 2010 is sure to improve with a little more time in the bottle. All of the Pacenti signatures are in place, though, and the house style is unmistakable. (Drink between 2018-2025)
Tartar di Manzo al Tartufo. Prime Filet Tartar, shaved winter truffle.
2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova. VM 93. The 2001 Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova has a dark and brooding shade of deep garnet. It bursts from the glass with a mature, sweetly-scented bouquet of crushed plums and blueberries complemented by balsamic tones, smoke and worn leather. It takes a turn toward elegance on the palate with ripe, citrus-tinged wild berry fruits and purple inner florals. It seems almost creamy in texture but well-balanced by vibrant acidity. Seamlessly smooth and harmonious, this finishes long with nuances of residual tannins under an air of warming autumnal spice and inner earth tones. The 2001 Tenuta Nuova has peaked, yet well-stored bottles should be in no fear of decline. Sampled from the winery’s cellar. (Drink between 2021-2026)
2001 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino. VM 88. Good full red. Spicy aromas of plum, red licorice, marzipan and nutty oak. Sweet and pliant, with nicely integrated acids and somewhat unforthcoming flavors of red berries and spices. Could use a bit more clarity and cut. Finishes with slightly drying tannins and a late note of leather. (Distillerie Stock U.S.A., Woodside, NY)
2001 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Ripe al Convento. VM 90. The 2001 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Ripe al Convento is a richly-flavored, full-bodied offering loaded with dark cherries, vanilla, smoke, cola and sweet toasted oak. It may not be the most complex Brunello out there, but it does offer an attractive, easygoing personality, outstanding length and sweet, silky tannins on the finish. (Drink between 2013-2017)
2001 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. VM 94. A deep dark red with orange hues, the 2001 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva makes an impactful statement from start to finish. There are depths of crushed black cherries, plums, strawberries, sweet spices and mentholated herbs which rise up effortlessly from the glass. Further coaxing adds notes of cedar, dusty rose and hints of animal musk. It’s silky in feel yet quickly firms up through a mix of tart red berries, minerals, zesty acids and an unbelievably youthful coating of tannin which mounts toward the close. The 2001 Riserva is still on a steady path to its peak, structured and primary, as it tapers off with a grippy feel under an air of inner florals. Sampled from the winery’s cellar. (Drink between 2022-2034)
Flan di Cavolfiore al Tartufo. Cauliflower flan, truffle sauce, shaved truffle. Great dish!
1999 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. VM 93. Bright, dark red. Flamboyant aromas of red cherry, dark berries, plum, chestnut and game. Sweet in the mouth, with densely packed, superripe flavors of red cherry, smoky plum, licorice and milk chocolate. A concentrated, powerful wine, boasting impressive youthful energy thanks to firm, lively acidity. Finishes very long, but can’t quite match the overall balance and grace of the 2001. Another outstanding vintage in Tuscany, 1999 was very warm but with well-timed rains, and, above all, cooler nights and less heat than the vastly overrated 1997 vintage.
2001 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. VM 96. Showing so youthful and perfumed, the 2001 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva starts out dark and inward yet gains in volume and depth the longer it sits in the glass. Dried black cherries, crushed stone, dusty rose and minty herbs create its dazzling bouquet. It is pure silk, with an amazing density to its dark red fruits, as rich balsamic spice and licorice drench the palate. This is elegant yet poised, with just a hint of sweet tannin, along with a buzz of residual acids and earthy mineral tones that mix with its inner sweetness to create a tense and contrasting feel on the slightly chewy finish. Collectors with the 2001 Riserva in their cellars will be very happy to know that it still has five to ten more years of positive evolution in store for them. Purchased from the Il Poggione cellar and held in professional storage. (Drink between 2021-2030)
2003 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli. VM 95. One of the great surprises of my tasting this year wasn’t a 2005 or 2004 Riserva but rather Il Poggione’s 2003 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli, which has developed spectacularly since I first reviewed it last year. This awesome, deep Brunello is endowed with gorgeous dark fruit that emerges from the glass with superb richness and power while retaining a traditional sense of structure. There is more than enough fruit to balance the firm tannins that are typical of this hot year. I was blown away by the combination of opulence and classicism present in the 2003 Riserva. If that sounds appealing, believe me it is. The 2003 Riserva is drinking beautifully today and should continue to offer great pleasure for several decades. The estate’s 1975, from a very hot vintage at the time, was in great shape when I last tasted it a few years ago. Readers interested in older vintages will find plenty of notes on our database. Given the soft market for fine wines and the general disdain for 2003s, I would be shocked if savvy readers aren’t able to pick this wine at a favorable price at some point in the near future. (Drink between 2013-2032)
2004 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli. VM 95. The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli has also developed impeccably. Dark, ample and broad, the 2004 is built on a core of serious power. Layers of dark stone fruits, leather, spice and tobacco build into the rich, intense finish. (Drink between 2016-2034)
Maccheroncini con coda e Guanciale. Pasta, oxtail, smoked guanciale, pecorino toscana. Superb smokey “porky” flavor to this pasta and nicely al dente.
1999 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano. VM 96. The 1999 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano is everything a great wine should be. This is an expansive, spectacularly ripe wine endowed with layers of perfumed dark fruit, sweet tobacco, new leather and spices. A brooding, structured beauty, the wine needs some serious bottle age to show at its best, but it is already pretty stunning. According to Abbruzzese 1999 represents another step up in quality as the estate’s vineyards had begun to acquire some age at this point. Certainly this seems true in the Riserva, but I don’t perceive as marked a difference from previous vintages in the regular Brunello (see below). (Drink between 2009-2021)
2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano. VM 93. The 2001 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano Riserva was tasted from a half-bottle. The 2001 is seductive, with a rich and alluring display of crushed black cherries, plums, balsamic spices, cocoa and sweet pipe tobacco. It is opulent and velvety-smooth in texture, with extremely ripe dark fruits, sweet herbs and zesty acids keeping them all in check. A subtle tug of tannin lingers, as this closes off to hints of mocha and inner earth tones. You can sense the 2001’s maturity mostly through its fruits, almost Port-like in nature, along with just a hint of dank earth. That said, larger formats may perform even better. Keep in mind that this is a large style of Brunello. Tasted from the importer’s reserve cellar. (Drink between 2021-2026)
From my cellar: 2004 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano. VM 95+. The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano is powerful, deeply colored and still carrying a considerable amount of tannic heft for a twelve year old wine. Dark cherry, plum, smoke, tobacco, scorched earth and licorice give the wine much of its distinctive virile personality. The Madonna del Piano is one of the bigger, brawnier 2004s readers will come across. As such, it needs to be served alongside similarly rich, hearty cuisines. (Drink between 2016-2026)
2007 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano. VM 96. The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano is another super- finessed wine. Subtle floral notes meld into expressive red berries in a sumptuous Brunello that captures the essence of the vintage. The style is rich and deeply textured, but the 2007, as outstanding as it is, needs at least a few more years in bottle. Once again, finesse rules the day. (Drink between 2017-2027)
2008 Luce della Vite Brunello di Montalcino. VM 91. Luce della Vite’s 2008 Brunello di Montalcino Luce is one of the most powerful wines of the vintage. Mocha, espresso, licorice, smoke, super-ripe black cherries and plums literally jump from the glass. A Brunello seemingly made for Napa Valley Cabernet drinkers, the 2008 has plenty of richness and depth. It is also impeccably made from a technical standpoint, even if it bears little resemblance to the rest of the wines of the appellation. (Drink between 2013-2020)
Agnello. Windrose farms lamb ossobuco.
Orange Old Fashioned Sorbetto — Cold Pressed Orange and Tangerine Juice, Knob Creek Bourbon and Angostura Bitters! Topped with cherries — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — Really tastes like an Old Fashioned –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #sorbetto #orange #tangerine #bourbon #KnobCreek #bitters #Angostura
Coconut Cream Pie Gelato — Coconut dairy custard base, house-made GF Graham Crackers, and house-made Coconut Caramel — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #coconut #caramel #grahamCrackers #cookies
Another awesome lunch. Food was great, I’ve had more elaborate meals from Sal, but all the dishes today were excellent. Sal’s a fabulous chef when you let him go all out and today’s lunch was very on point. I enjoyed all the dishes and there was a hefty “truffle emphasis.”
Wines were great as well. Brunello is a bit of an “unsung hero” in the world of major Italian reds. Yes it’s generally not as complex as a good Nebbiolo, but it has a combination of fruit and acidity that makes it go exceedingly well with most Italian food.