Location: 755 North La Cienega. Los Angeles, CA 90069. 310.659.3900
Date: December 16, 2013
Rating: Gluttonous fun!
This year the Hedonists have been doing more high end themed dinners. So earlier in the fall we celebrated top end Burgundy, and now we are doing so with Bordeaux. Technically, this was a First Grown Bordeaux dinner. We also included La Mission, Lafleur, and Petrus (no one brought one, sadly). A pair of top California Cabernet’s snuck in too.
The space is chic and modern. Above is the La Cienega entrance.
NV Krug Grande Cuvee. Parker 91-95. The NV Brut Grande Cuvee emerges from the glass with freshly cut flowers, almonds, pastry and spices. This is a relatively floral, bright Grande Cuvee with fewer of the oxidative qualities that are typical of the house style. According to Krug’s ID Code, this bottle is based on the 2004 vintage, which explains the wine’s tense, taut personality. Another year or two on the cork will only help the wine gain expressiveness and depth. Today, the Grande Cuvee is quite reticent and not showing the full breadth of its personality.
These look like Glazed Pop’ems, but they’re savory. And that sauce is pretty much a under-spiced chimichurri.
1994 Laville-Haut-Brion Blanc. Parker 94. This tightly knit, medium-bodied wine exhibits an intense, sweet nose of toast, minerals, honey and spices. There is ripe fruit and intensity on the palate, but the overall impression is one of a backward, undeveloped wine.
Ron was generous to bring this treat, the rare “dry” wine from Chateau D’Yquem. This powerful and perfumed wine is by far my favorite white Bordeaux.
1978 Lur-Saluces “Y”. 97 points. Lush fruit aromas with big accompanying spice. Powerful aromas and flavors throughout. Moderate length. Worked very well with a seared scallop served over a slightly sweet puree. Showed young for a wine almost 35 years old.
1988 Mouton-Rothschild. Parker 89. The 1988 has an aroma of exotic spices, minerals, blackcurrants, and oak. In the mouth, it is a much firmer, tougher, more obviously tannic wine than the 1989. It is a beautifully made 1988 that will last 20-30 years, but the astringency of the tannins is slightly troubling. Patience will be a necessity for purchasers of this wine.
1981 Chateau Margaux. Parker 91. In weight and texture, the 1981 Margaux is closest in style to the 1979. It is an outstanding wine, even in the company of the monumental wines of 1982, 1983, and 1986, although it does not have the power and weight of these vintages. It is still very dark ruby/purple-colored. The aromatics suggest ripe cassis fruit, spicy vanillin oakiness, and violets. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, concentrated, tannic, and extremely long. It is just beginning to open and evolve.
From my cellar: 1995 Chateau Margaux. Parker 95-96. Medium garnet colour going brick at the rim. The nose is beginning to showing signs of evolution with aromas of leather, game, warm cassis, dried plums and cloves. Medium to high acidity, medium body and medium to firm, fine tannins support earthy, blackcurrant-preserve fruit. Long finish.
1990 Haut Brion. Parker 98. In terms of the brilliant complexity and nobility of the aromatics, scorched earth, black currants, plums, charcoal, cedar, and spices, the 1990 offers an aromatic explosion that is unparalleled. It is always fascinating to taste this wine next to the 1989, which is a monumental effort, but much more backward and denser, without the aromatic complexity of the 1990. The 1990 put on weight after bottling, and is currently rich, full-bodied, opulent, even flamboyant by Haut Brion’s standards. It is an incredible expression of a noble terroir in a top vintage. While it has been fully mature for a number of years, it does not reveal any bricking at the edge, and I suspect it will stay at this level for another 10-15 years … but why wait? It is irresistible now.
Personally, I thought this bottle was too funky. It had a strong bacterial contamination that gave it unpleasant bitter notes.
1994 Haut Brion. Parker 92. This is one of the surprise sleeper wines of the vintage which has more successes than many people suspect in spite of all the rain. The tremendous drainage enjoyed by the Haut Brion vineyard worked in its favor during this wet September harvest. The color is deep plum/ruby with a bit of lightening at the edge. Notes of compost, truffle, earth, spice box, dried herbs, and licorice compete with sweet black cherry and currant fruit. The wine is medium-bodied, with a relatively plump, chewy feel to it. It is certainly one of the top half dozen or so wines of the vintage. The tannins are still there, but the wine seems far more accessible than the two bigger wines that Haut Brion produced in 1995 and 1996.
1996 Haut Brion. Parker 92-96. As I indicated last year, Haut-Brion utilized only 60% of its production in the 1996 final blend (50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc). While it is undoubtedly true that the appellations of Pessac-Leognan and Graves were less successful in 1996 than the Medoc, the wines produced under the administration of Jean Delmas (i.e., Haut-Brion, La Mission-Haut-Brion, and La Tour-Haut-Brion) are brilliant in the 1996 vintage, continuing a trend that has made Haut-Brion one of the most consistent first-growths in Bordeaux (consider the superlative performances in such difficult vintages as 1993, 1992, and 1987). The 1996 Haut-Brion has put on weight, and was even sweeter and more fragrant in November than it was earlier in the year. The wine exhibits a dark ruby color with purple nuances. Haut-Brion’s signature is most frequently its glorious perfume of tobacco, black fruits, smoke, and dried herbs, combined with sweet, supple fruit, all crammed into a concentrated wine that never has the weight or tannic power of a Medoc, or the thick unctuosity of a top right bank wine. As I have frequently written, the one significant change to my palate over the last twenty years has been the fact that while I have always admired Haut-Brion, now I am addicted to its perfume and complexity. It is never the biggest of the first-growths, but it is usually among the most compelling wines of this elite group, with the most profound set of aromatics of any of its peers. That being said, the 1996 should turn out to be an exquisite wine, perhaps slightly more structured and backward than the superb 1995, but very rich, with gobs of smoky, cherry, tobacco-tinged fruit, medium body, exceptional purity and equilibrium, and a long, moderately tannic finish. The tannins taste extremely sweet.
1990 La Mission Haut Brion. Parker 99. Reminiscing over the 1989 and 1990 vintages, which I have followed from birth, there always seemed to be a dramatic difference in quality. Not that the 1990 was not a top wine, but in its infancy, I never thought it would come close to being as riveting and magnetic as its older sibling, the 1989. However, it has proven to be nearly as prodigious. One of the hottest years in Bordeaux, 1990, a vintage of enormous yields, even dwarfing yields in 1985 and 1982, produced a fabulously open-knit, seemingly fast track La Mission that, at age 22, shows no signs of fading or losing its grip. The color is slightly more mature and evolved than the 1989’s, exhibiting a lighter rim and a less dark blue/ruby/purple hue. Classic La Mission-Haut-Brion aromatics of camphor, licorice, scorched earth, hot bricks, barbecue, cassis, blueberry and kirsch are well displayed. Broad, expansive, velvety-textured and opulent with high glycerin and perhaps slightly higher alcohol (I don’t have the statistics to verify that), the 1990 is as delicious and open-knit as the 1989, with less density and possibly less potential longevity. Most 1990s have been quick to reach full maturity, and as brilliant as they can be, they need to be monitored carefully by owners. Currently in late adolescence, but close to full maturity, the 1990 should hold in a cold cellar for another 15-20 years. However, it is a fabulous wine to inspect, taste and consume, so why wait?
This bottle was a hair funky too, but blew off and became rather elegant.
From my cellar: 1982 Lafite-Rothschild. Parker 100. The 1982 Lafite possesses a dark, dense ruby/purple color with only a subtle lightening at the rim. Spectacular aromatics offer jammy cherry and black fruits intertwined with lead pencil, mineral, and smoky wood scents. Powerful for a Lafite, this wine unfolds to reveal extraordinary richness, purity, and overall symmetry in addition to stunning flavor depth and persistence. The finish lasts for nearly a minute. Plenty of tannin remains, and the wine displays a vibrancy and youthfulness that belie its 18 years of age. The modern day equivalent of Lafite-Rothschild’s immortal 1959, the 1982 will enjoy another 30-70 years of life! An amazing achievement!
Certainly WOTN. Pretty much unanimous. I was very pleased because it always sucks to open a pricey bottle one has had for a while and find it not up to snuff.
2001 Lafleur. Parker 92-96. This Merlot-dominated 2001 has added considerable weight since last year. It is opaque purple in color, with an extraordinary bouquet of kirsch liqueur intermixed with hints of cola and underbrush. Full-bodied, sweet, and explosive on the palate, with great density and chewiness, it exhibits surprisingly low acidity as well as more precociousness than most top vintages of Lafleur. It is increasingly obvious that this is a sensational effort.
Very young Merlot, but impeccably balanced.
1989 Latour. Parker 90. Neither the 1989 or 1990 wines has budged in quality or development since I first tasted them in cask. I am still disappointed by the 1989, wondering how this chateau produced an elegant, medium-weight wine that seems atypically restrained for Latour. The deep ruby color is followed by a wine with surprisingly high acidity and hard tannin, but not the depth, richness, and power expected from this great estate. This closed wine is admittedly in need of 5-6 years of cellaring, but what is so alarming is its lack of weight, ripeness, and intensity, particularly when compared to the 1990. I suspect there is more than what has been revealed in recent tastings, but this looks to be an excellent as opposed to outstanding wine. In the context of the vintage, it is a disappointment.
I loved this wine, even if Parker didn’t. I happen to be a Latour fan.
2001 Latour. Parker 95. Deep garnet colored, the nose is open and expressive even at this youthful stage, giving notes of black berry and black cherry compote, potpourri and anise with hints of sandalwood and cloves. The palate is drinking beautifully now (though with loads more to give), offering a high level of ripe, velvety tannins, enlivening acid and just enough fruit concentration, finishing long.
Jeff Leve thought differently: Most of the fruit had moved to the big ranch in the sky. Some tart red cherries were all that was left.
2000 Grace Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 90. The 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (260 cases) offers plenty of up-front sweet black currant fruit mixed with toasty new oak and mineral characteristics. It is medium-bodied, plump, and accessible, revealing good fruit in its subtle, restrained personality.
Yarom carousing with our lovely servers, Rachel and Brenda. Our service was great. They were incredibly friendly and helpful and the restaurant was quiet allowing them to focus on our labor intensive table. We used ALL the cabernet glasses! STK doesn’t have a Sommelier (which is kind of mind boggling) but Rachel was a great sport and a fast learner and she managed well with the opening and glasses, even if Yarom and I had to decant and do the pouring. I played Somm and poured many of the wines, but it’s a job. Unfortunately, things do go much better that way because you need someone to make consistent small pours so that the bottle gets all the way around 15-16 people. Self pouring, if one or two over pour, the people at the end get screwed.
1976 Rieussec. Parker 90. This is one of the most controversial vintages of Rieussec. Very dark gold in color, some observers have said it is oxidized and is falling apart. Despite the dark color, the remarkable taste seems to suggest that this wine has a way to go. The huge nose of toasted almonds, caramel, chocolate, and brown sugar does exhibit a trace of volatile acidity, so technocrats are likely to be turned off. Incredibly rich and full bodied, with a honeyed, luscious texture and extremely intense flavors, this exotic, hugely proportioned wine (15% alcohol) can only be served as a dessert. The yield at Rieussec in 1976 was 2.5 hectoliters per hectare, which is approximately one third of a glass of wine per vine. This is a bold, rather overblown style of Sauternes, but I love it.
1976 De Suduiraut. Parker 92. For me, the 1976 is the greatest Suduiraut of the seventies, and the only wine other than the 1989 that resembles the magnificent 1959 this property produced. Medium to dark amber/gold, this full-bodied, massive wine has a very intense bouquet of vanillin oak, ripe pineapples, and melted caramel. Very deep and viscous, this is a decadently opulent Suduiraut with enormous presence in the mouth.
About a third of our glasses!
The overall evening was spectacular. The place treated us really well with swift and friendly service you hardly noticed. Plus, there was the excellent company and all our amazing wines! The wines tonight were really fabulous, particularly in the second half. Some of the Bordeaux’s from the lesser vintages (88, 94 etc) were a little sour or awkward, and at least one 90 was funked (corked), but the ones that were on, like the 82 Lafite, 95 Margaux, 85 Mouton, and 89 Latour were fabulous. The 2000 Grace and 2001 Lafleur were also amazing, but very young. For me, the 82 Lafite stood out above all, it was mature, complex, and balanced on all notes.
As a steakhouse, I find STK much like Mastro’s but about 5% worse on average — although there are some different starters and sides, many of which are excellent. It’s also quite a bit cheaper than Mastro’s, and lets us skip the corkage, which is huge! We were out of here for $120 a person, including tax and tip, which is pretty amazing for such an enormous feast at a high end steakhouse.