Restaurant: Charcoal Venice
Location: 425 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292. (310) 751-6794
Date: March 3, 2019
Cuisine: New American Grill
Rating: Some great meats
Josiah Citrin’s (owner/chef of Melisse) newish more casual eatery has been open for a while — and although I bike past it weekly and went once for brunch, this is my first official dinner visit — and it’s a doozy having been invited by one of the owners for a blow out wine fest.
It’s located on Washington Blvd about 2 blocks in from the ocean.
Inside at night. By the middle of dinner service it was hopping.
2007 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 96. Taittinger’s 2007 Comtes de Champagne will be nearly impossible to resist upon release. Soaring aromatics, mid-weight structure and soft contours give the 2007 its alluring personality. Lemon oil, white flowers, mint, chamomile and green pear add brightness and freshness throughout, with a persistent, clean finish that makes it impossible to resist a second taste. Today, the 2007 comes across as a slightly more open version of the 2004, with freshness that makes that wine so appealing, and a touch of textural richness that recalls the 2002. Although the 2007 does not have the explosive energy or verticality of the profound 2006, it will drink better earlier. The 2007 has been positively brilliant on the three occasions I have tasted it so far.
From my cellar: 1985 Nicolas Potel Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. BH 91. A very fresh yet mature nose of citrus, white flower and lightly toasted nut aromas combines with round and vibrant middle weight flavors that possess a seductive and rich mouth feel, all wrapped in a sappy and mouth coating finish. This is really a lovely effort with complexity and ample finishing punch and is a wine that will continue to hold well if not improve.
2014 Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Clos de la Chateniere. JG 91. The 2014 Clos de la Chatenière from Domaine Lamy is another really lovely bottle in the making, wafting from the glass in a blend of apple, a touch of grapefruit, pastry cream, chalky soil tones and a topnote of orange blossoms. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and nicely complex, with a good core, fine focus and grip and a long, nicely reserved finish that closes with a youthful note of citrus peel. Olivier Lamy noted “that we picked this on the earlier side to maintain freshness, as the exposition is plain sud.” A lovely wine.
Sandy, who was with us, is a very “narrow” eater so she added this item, which we otherwise wouldn’t have. Chopped Salad. Tomato, Havarti, Bacon, Grilled Onion, Kalamata Olives, and Jo-Jo’s Vinaigrette. It was fine, but I’m not a chopped salad fan — at least there were no beans.
Oysters on the Half Shell garnished Traditionally and Creatively. I’m not sure what the creative was — or maybe we didn’t have it — but they were good oysters.
Big Eye Tuna Tartare, Avocado, Yuzu vinaigrette.
This is a classic with 25 years of omnipresence on menus in some form or another. Maybe a little too much avocado for my taste (hiding the tuna).
It came with sweet potato chips.
1994 Joseph Phelps Insignia. Parker 98. The 1994 boasts an inky/purple color along with a glorious nose of black raspberries, blackberries and black currants that is still somewhat primary despite nearly 18 years in bottle. The Phelps team kept this cuvee in 100% new French oak for 28 months. Its magnificent structure, intensity and purity of fruit, ripeness, balance combined with authoritative power and the magnetic appeal of this full-bodied, Bordeaux-styled wine are extraordinary. This amazing effort is just coming into its best years, and should drink well for at least another 15-20 years.
VM 93. Healthy bright, dark red. Captivating aromas of raspberry, tobacco, truffle and smoke are distinctly darker than those of the 1990. Wonderfully suave, fine-grained wine with superb intensity and retention of dark fruit flavors. Harmonious acidity and a firm tannic spine give this wine noteworthy thrust and extend the finish. The wine’s 10% Merlot component was partly from the cooler Hudson and Hyde vineyards in Carneros. This impeccably balanced wine remains remarkably fresh.
Yarom brought: 1995 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb. VM 97. The 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb is a bit juicier and more overt than the 1997 tasted alongside it in this flight. Forward, juicy and supple, but not at all over the top, the 1995 is a gorgeous wine from this late-ripening site on Howell Mountain. At twenty years of age, the 1995 Herb Lamb is fabulous. Its only real fault is following the 1997 in this tasting.
Smoky Grilled Chicken Wings. Oregano, Chili, and Vinegar. Nice wings. Lots of good meaty flavor.
Smoked Lamb Ribs. These were AWESOME. I don’t have lamb ribs that often but these were some of the best ribs period I’ve had. Tons of savory flavor.
Ron brought: 1995 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne. Parker 99+. One of the treats when tasting through the profound Côte Rôties made by Marcel Guigal was the opportunity to taste all of the bottled 1995’s. Reviewed in previous issues, they are even better from bottle than they were during their upbringing (a characteristic of many Guigal wines). The 1995 Côte Rôtie la Landonne is the stuff of legends and is every bit as compelling as readers might expect. This single vineyard wine will have at least 2 decades of longevity.
M 97+. Deep ruby-red. More sauvage aromas of black raspberry, blueberry, tar, mocha, minerals, mace and roasted game. Superconcentrated and powerful, with a near-solid texture. One of those rare wines that seems almost too big for the mouth. Finishes with huge, toothfurring-but-ripe tannins and great persistence.
From my cellar: 2003 E. Guigal Ermitage Ex-Voto. Parker 100! Another perfect wine is the 2003 Hermitage Ex Voto and it’s the most over-the-top, decadent and hedonistic Ex Voto ever produced. From Les Bessards, l’Hermite, Greffieux and les Murets and aged 4 years in 100% new French oak, it offers off-the-charts concentration and texture as well as layers of creme de cassis, smoke meats, licorice, spice-box and spring flowers. Voluptuous, sweetly fruited and yet, like all great wines, still lively, fresh and graceful. It will have half a century or more of life.
VM 96-97. Bright, full, saturated ruby. Explosive aromas of black raspberry, blackberry and licorice, with a suggestion of medicinal austerity. Then raw and primary but incredibly thick, with a richness verging on port-like. Almost too big for the mouth. Actually more of a fruit bomb on the nose today and altogether more serious on the palate. If the 2003 La Landonne is an essence of syrah, this is an essence of Hermitage. Truly a black hole of a wine: there’s virtually no sign of the new oak, and the wine has a sappiness that belies its pH of close to 4. 0. Philippe says the Guigals were the first to harvest Hermitage in 2003, and yet this wine is a whopping 15. 5% alcohol!
2003 M. Chapoutier Ermitage l’Ermite. Parker 100! More youthful and backwards, the 2003 Ermitage L’Ermite has additional minerality, as well as the focus and purity that’s always imparted by this tiny lieu-dit. Inky purple in color, it offers up spectacular creme de cassis, blackberry, charred meats, graphite and toast as well as a full-bodied, massively concentrated profile on the palate. It’s a prodigious, insanely good wine that should be given another 2-3 years in the cellar, and enjoyed over the following two to three decades.
VM 97. Medium ruby. Dense, powerful, imploded aromas of blackberry, creme de cassis, coffee liqueur, pipe tobacco and smoked meat. The texture of this wine is impossibly lush and velvety, and the superconcentrated, sweet essence-of-dark-berry flavors are also incredibly lively. Wonderfully sweet, lush and endless on the finish. You’d need a squeegee to remove this from your palate.
Special Quail. I don’t think this was on a menu. Everything was in this incredible (and rich) reduction sauce. There were potatoes and root vegetables too. Delicious!
Coal Roasted Carrots. Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, Herbs, Honey and Black Pepper. Very nice carrots and I liked the cheese too.
2002 Abreu Cabernet Sauvignon Madrona Ranch. Parker 96. The 2003 Madrona Ranch, which is largely Cabernet Sauvignon, possesses a freshness that almost belies the vintage character. Its dense purple color is just beginning to reveal some garnet. The nose exhibits abundant floral notes intermixed with notions of blueberries, black raspberries and licorice-infused cassis. Graceful, elegant, and close to full maturity, it is drinking beautifully, displaying secondary nuances, a supple, full-bodied texture and a lush, layered mouthfeel. There is not a bit of aggressiveness, and the tannins, wood and alcohol (14.5%) are all beautifully integrated. As one might expect, this is one of the vintage’s superstars. Drink it over the next 10-15 years.
96 points. Deep ruby, dark fruit, med. tannins, long finish; delicious, but out shone by the 05 Spottswoode, possibly related to a longer decant. I suspect this wine is still evolving & it needs more time or a longer decant; delicious!
2002 Hundred Acre Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Kayli Morgan Vineyard. Parker 100! The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Kayli Morgan Vineyard is medium to deep garnet colored with Black Forest cake, plums preserves and crème de cassis bursting forth from the glass with hints of blueberry compote, hoisin, espresso and star anise with wafts of potpourri and oolong tea. The palate is full-bodied, rich and beautifully plush, with tons of spicy fireworks lifting the sexy black fruit, finishing with amazing length and depth.
VM 94. Bright red-ruby. Very ripe aromas of chocolate, saddle leather, cigar tobacco, earth, truffle and tomato. Fat and warm but with a solid mineral underpinning to the flavors of plum, mocha and spices. Large-scaled, plush and seamless but not heavy, this deep wine finishes with substantial dusty tannins. For all its ripeness, there’s sound acidity here. Still, this huge wine would be best paired with winter fare. The brooding finish features lingering notes of cherry and cooked meat and building tannins.
2002 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard. Parker 100! One of the greatest young Cabernet Sauvignons I have ever tasted is the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard (which I also rated 100 when it was first bottled). This wine has hardly changed since its release. Still incredibly youthful, it reveals a blue/black color along with notes of black currants, camphor, graphite, high quality unsmoked cigar tobacco, blackberries and a touch of oak. Full-bodied and multilayered with terrific texture and richness as well as a 60-second finish, this young, exuberant, slightly flamboyant classic offers an interesting contrast in style with other top producers (such as Schrader Cellars) that also farm parcels of the Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard. Like most young Cabernets, this wine can be drunk now because of the sweetness of its tannins, but it is a good decade away from full maturity. It should last until 2040-2050. Bravo!
VM 93. Good saturated ruby. Superripe aromas of cassis, black raspberry, bitter chocolate and licorice; less herbal than this producer’s other cabernets from this vintage. A fine-grained fruit bomb, with a captivating sweetness. This really expands on the back half yet dances on the palate. The lush tannins reach the incisors.
21 Day Aged Half Liberty Duck. This was insanely good. Probably the best non-Chinese duck I’ve had. Crispy skin, but a tangy/sweet flavor too.
Cabbage Baked in the Embers. Yogurt, Sumac, and Lemon Zest. Great cabbage. Nice char flavor and interesting texture. Paired perfectly with the yogurt.
This giant (very young) Salt also doesn’t get a write up because it again lamely omits the year.
2015 Sine Qua Non Syrah Trouver l’Arene. VM 97. A real head-turner, the 2015 Syrah Trouver l’Arène is every bit as compelling from bottle as it was from barrel. Rich, sumptuous and exquisitely layered, the 2015 possesses magnificent concentration as it builds in the glass. Inky dark blue/purplish berry fruit, graphite, smoke, licorice and spice are some of the many nuances that develop in an arrestingly beautiful, vivid Syrah that will thrill those fortunate enough to find it. The blend is 80.5% Syrah, 7% Petite Sirah, 7% Mourvedre, 2% Grenache and 3.5% Viognier, done with 34% whole clusters and aged for 22 months in 48% new oak.
I have learned to photo the back of SQN — even though, again, it’s totally lame of them not to put the vintage on the front.
Giant bone in rib eye. This was good, but not as good as most of the other meat dishes.
Steak Fries with Ketchup, Mustard.
Charred Brussels Sprouts. Wheat Berries, Portobello, Calabrian Chili, Duck Egg. Nice sprouts, particularly for not having bacon.
Roasted Wild Mushrooms. Parsley Bread Crumbs, Fermented Garlic Dressing.
The dessert menu.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake. McConnell’s Double Peanut Butter Chip Ice Cream. The cake was awesome. Really nice moist cake. I’m just so spoiled with ice cream (it’s not gelato) that this would have been incredible with a straight up “salty peanut gelato” from Sweet Milk.
Lemon Meringue Tart. Awesome. I love LMT and this one was great.
Apple Crumble, McConnell’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Don’t love oats.
Apple Turnovers. Like Strudel.
The wines tonight were big, but incredible. For what it’s worth, we had five Parker 100s!
Our host on the left with Sandy.
I was impressed by our meal here. Not everything was perfect, but some of the dishes: duck, cabbage, lamb ribs, and quail were exceptional and most of the rest really good. A couple were a bit flat (like the chopped salad or tuna, but how exciting is a chopped salad anyway?). The name, Charcoal, implies wood cooked, and they deliver on that promise with an experience that has a bit of a non-Spanish Asador feel.