Restaurant: The Aster
Location: 1717 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028. (323) 962-1717
Date: February 25, 2023
Cuisine: Modern French
Rating: Great food, amazing wines
Sage Society always do some of the most incredible wine dinners. Tonight’s was a rare treat: Chateau Lafleur!
It was located at the Aster, a hotel and private club in Hollywood. Above is the bar.
The club’s view of the city.
Getting a short tour before the dinner, I check out the club caberet.
A sky bridge between the buildings.
Another of its 5 bars.
The pool courtyard — soggy night!
Finally, back to the bar, we retire into our private room.
The intimate table for this Lafleur winemaker dinner, hosted by Sage Society.
The big wines have been decanted.
More wines getting ready.
The menu for the night. The club chef is Marcel Vigneron who cooked at my house in 2015.
2005 Gonet-Médeville Cuvée Theophile Extra Brut.
Hamachi Sashimi. A lovely bite of yellowtail with cucumber and a rice chip. There was a nice textural interplay between the soft cool fish, the crunchy chip, and the firm cucumber. The flavor was unique for this kind of bite and reminded me a bit of sunomono, so presumably there was rice wine, sugar, and vinegar.
Squash Blossom Fritter. The texture was great, very crispy and fried. The ricotta inside was nice and soft but perhaps this could have used some counter balance (to the fry) like a romesco.
Kumiai Oyster. With foam. Marcel is famous for foam!
Sage Society president Liz Lee introduces the guests.
A rather ill-cropped and out-of-focus photo of Omri Ram, the winemaker for Lafleur.
Center left is owner of Martine’s Wines, Gregory Castells. I met him previously at this amazing Otium dinner years ago
Chef Marcel Vigneron on the left.
All Sauvignon Blanc (cuttings from the Loire) with lovely acidity.
A rich depth.
Striped Bass. Crunchy skin. Clams with “Tom Yum” foam. Very nice complement and I particularly enjoyed the clams and their tasty foam.
2019 Les Perrières de Lafleur. VM 90+. The 2019 Les Perrières de Lafleur is too oaky on the nose and this masks the terroir expression. The palate is medium-bodied with firm tannins, graphite infused black fruit with a strict and structured finish redeemed by satisfying freshness. A bit “serious” for a Pomerol at this level, but it may surprise with bottle age. Tasted blind at the Southwold annual tasting. (Drink between 2026-2043)
2017 Guinaudeau “G” Acte 9. VM 92. The 2017 Acte 9 is fabulous. Rich, dense and expansive, Acte 9 possesses terrific textural resonance and volume. Ripe red cherry/plum fruit, mint, tobacco and a whole range of mineral inflections race out of the glass in a vibrant, racy wine loaded with personality. I won’t be surprised if the 2017 turns out even better than this note suggests. The 2017 Acte 9 emerges from a brutal year that took with it 90% of the production during the late April frost. All of the Cabernet Franc was lost, which means that Acte 9 is 100% Merlot. The 2017 is the last vintage of this wine under the Acte moniker. (Drink between 2020-2032)
Crispy Pork Belly. A big cube of pig with a delightfully crunchy skin atop a bed of cabbage and some kind of slightly tangy emulsion sauce. Great dish as I’m a cabbage fan and especially a porky cabbage fan.
2019 Château Lafleur Les Pensées. VM 94. The 2019 Pensées de Lafleur is composed and focused on the nose. An old school Pomerol in the positive sense, with truffle and ash scents emerging over time. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy black fruit, fine acidity, pencil lead and black pepper towards its cohesive and persistent finish. This is a class act. Tasted blind at the Southwold annual tasting. (Drink between 2026-2050)
2017 Pensées de Lafleur. VM 94. The 2017 Pensées de Lafleur is simply stunning. Tasting it today, I can only conclude that Pensées is obviously more complete and enthralling than many Grand Vins in this vintage. Explosive, deep and beautifully resonant, the Pensées shows tremendous depth and energy, not to mention so much character. What else can I say, except that I absolutely loved it. (Drink between 2022-2037)
Duck Confit. With crispy skin atop a bed of lentils. Classic French pairing and quite delicious.
2014 Château Lafleur. VM 95. The 2014 Lafleur has a tightly wound bouquet with earthy, truffle tinged black fruit, hints of dried blood and black truffle developing with time in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin encasing a sweet core of candied red fruit. The Merlot is very expressive here and offers more brightness than many of its Pomerol peers, which is unusual for a Pomerol so saturnine in its youth. Just beautiful. Tasted blind at the annual Southwold tasting. (Drink between 2024-2050)
2013 Château Lafleur. VM 90. The 2013 Lafleur, from the infamously maligned growing season, was picked entirely in October. It has a light and slightly monotone bouquet with mulberry and blackberry scents, a touch of briary and floral scents. The aromatics are nothing to be ashamed of. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy red berry fruit, more Merlot than Cabernet Franc-driven, balanced if missing the complexity of most vintages from this esteemed Pomerol growth. Not bad, however it is not a long-term prospect and lacks the cerebral element that Lafleur often brings to the table. Tasted at the Christies’ Lafleur masterclass in London. (Drink between 2020-2032)
2011 Château Lafleur. VM 94. The 2011 Lafleur has an almost Left Bank-like bouquet, well-defined and poised, quite fresh with tobacco and cigar box scents emerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins with a fine bead of acidity. Quite fresh and lightly spiced with white pepper and tobacco emerging towards the finish. This is a deeply impressive Pomerol in context of the growing season. Tasted blind at the annual 10-Year-On tasting. (Drink between 2022-2045)
Ancho Braised Short Ribs. Ancho is a smoky pepper, and while this beef had lots of flavor it didn’t really have any heat. But it was a delicious shredable bit of braised beef with a delicate bed of polenta and a nice salty reduction. The tomatoes provided just enough sweet acidity to balance the richness of the dish.
2007 Château Lafleur. VM 92. The 2007 Lafleur has a straightforward bouquet with mulberry and strawberry pastilles, touches of scorched earth and game coming through courtesy of the Cabernet Franc. I admire the definition and poise on display here. The palate is medium-bodied with quite bold tannin and satisfying ripeness considering the growing season, a mixture of red and black fruit laced with black pepper, truffle and clove, that lead towards a solid, firm finish. Though this is an off vintage, this showing suggests it will benefit from another couple of years in bottle. Tasted at the Christies’ Lafleur masterclass in London. (Drink between 2020-2038)
2006 Château Lafleur. VM 93+. Good red-ruby. Pungent aromas of kirsch, violet, black olive, menthol and mint. Rich, sweet and suave, with a slightly medicinal cast to the seriously concentrated dark fruit flavors. This vibrant wine coats the entire mouth and builds impressively on the back half, where the big, broad tannins are nicely buffered by fruit. A splendid showing today.
1986 Château Lafleur. 94 points. Probably worth more points, but a perfect aged Pomerol for the duck course. Evolved and showed best after an hour and a half. Plum, bit of funk, hints of sweet spice and red fruits. Balanced and great length. Not “old world” Lafleur but solid.
1983 Château Lafleur. VM 96. The 1983 Lafleur is the vintage that alerted me to the pedigree of this Pomerol growth back in 2004, so I have a sentimental attachment to it. A recent encounter served blind in Hong Kong confirms that the Lafleur ranks alongside the 1983 Cheval Blanc as the best Right Bank of the vintage. It is quite precocious and generous on the nose with sorbet-like red fruit tinged with peppermint and truffle oil. It has lost a little cohesion in recent years but offers more secondary scents of leather and sage. The palate has wondrous balance and poise: hints of iron infusing the supple red fruit with a complex and detailed finish. Well-stored bottles will continue giving immense pleasure. Tasted at a private dinner in Bordeaux. (Drink between 2018-2035)
Venison Wellington. Quite dense and an excellent pairing with the peerless Lafleur. Probably my least favorite savory, but excellent nonetheless.
NV Niepoort Porto 20 Year Old Tawny.