Restaurant: Saddle Peak Lodge [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
Location: 419 Cold Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302 (818) 222-3888
Date: January 21, 2016
Cuisine: Modern American
Rating: Great ambiance and terrific game oriented food.
Ever year, both in the summer and winter, we Hedonists return to Saddle Peak Lodge. It’s pretty much the perfect venue for both a winter or summer food and wine blast, with gorgeous lodge patio, game driven food, and awesome wine service. For those of you who don’t know, Hedonist events have amazing wines (each diner brings at least one bottle).
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 private room (this photo is actually from the year prior, but it doesn’t look much different).
The regular menu tonight, although we had some off menu specials.
2005 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 94. Bright yellow. Vibrant pear and melon aromas are complicated by suggestions of ginger, brioche and smoky minerals. Dry, smoky and precise, offering intense orchard and pit fruit flavors that gain weight with aeration. A dusty mineral quality adds focus and lift to the long, penetrating, floral finish. There’s a Burgundian thing going on here that’s quite intriguing.
Roasted Vegetable Soup. It tasted a bit like Eastern Shore Crab soup (tomato based for sure).
Bonus from my cellar: 2005 Morey-Blanc Corton-Charlemagne. BH 91-94. More evident wood with hints of spice and vanilla frames the green fruit and spiced apple aromas and a trace of it can also be found on the full-bore, rich and intense big-bodied flavors blessed with excellent concentration and muscle, all wrapped in a minerally, delicious and serious finish of superb length.
2008 Domaine Michelot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. VM 92. Deep yellow. Initially reticent stony, saline and smoky aromas gave way to butter and stone fruits with extended aeration. Complex and mineral-driven on the palate, with a dusty gingery spice quality and an impression of firm acidity. Broad, rich and dense wine with a long, tactile finish, but very young and in need of cellaring. In fact, this improved markedly with 48 hours in the recorked bottle.
Chef’s daily selection of market oysters.
Caesar salad, garlic croutons, Parmigiano-Reggiano. With anchovies, which rule.
Roasted Pink Lady apple salad, endives, St. Agur blue cheese, pecans.
This begins the first of our three red flights. The theme tonight was “Rhone Style”, and in this case, actual Rhone.
1989 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 97. The 1989 is inkier/purple in color than the 1990, with an extraordinarily sweet, rich personality offering up notes of smoke, melted licorice, black cherries, Asian spices, and cassis. Full-bodied and concentrated, it is one of the most powerful as well as highly extracted Beaucastels I have ever tasted. It requires another 3-4 years to reach its plateau of maturity, where it should remain for at least two decades.
agavin: nice, in great shape for this wine.
1990 Les Cailloux (Lucien et Andre Brunel) Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Centenaire. Parker 100. One of the greatest vintages for Andre Brunel, aside from his extraordinary succession of vintages from 1998-2001 is 1990. The perfect Cuvee Centenaire is still dense ruby/purple-colored with a sumptuous nose of white flowers, raspberry and cherry liqueur, smoke, and mineral scents. The gorgeous aromatics are followed by an unctuously-textured, pure wine that combines the best of Chateauneuf du Pape with the floral, earthy complexity of a great grand cru red Burgundy. This is a riveting tour de force in winemaking. Don’t miss it.
agavin: Great. Tasted very mature, almost a little Burgundian, but great. Another contender for WOTN.
1995 Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne. Parker 95-97. The brawny, black/purple-colored 1995 Cote Rotie La Landonne reveals the animal, sauvage side of the Syrah grape. Licorice, prune, iron, and vitamin-like aromas compete with copious quantities of black fruits and smoke in this complex, structured, muscular, massive Cote Rotie. It will require 5-6 years of cellaring, and should keep for 30+ years.
From my cellar: 2000 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin. Parker 98. The 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape Hommage À Jacques Perrin (60% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 10% Counoise, and 10% Syrah) was singing! Open, upfront, sexy and seamless, with awesome notes of saddle leather, Provencal herbs, barnyard, spice and licorice-soaked black cherry and sweet cassis, it hit the palate with full-bodied richness, no hard edges, and an unctuous, heavenly texture. Reminding me of the 1990, yet perhaps just slightly less intense, this is a profound effort that will drink nicely for another two decades or more.
agavin: a delicious, even slightly bretty, anise-starred monster. Many people’s WOTN.
Foie gras with toast, berries etc. Really nice tonight with a generous slab of the good stuff.
Or sauternes to go with the foie: 1997 De Suduiraut. Parker 88-90. The 1997 Suduiraut reveals surprisingly crisp acidity for its weight, as well as excellent richness. An intense, weighty, moderately sweet feel in the mouth, with copious quantities of buttery, honeyed fruit, impressive power, and a corpulent style, characterize this well-delineated wine. It should develop more complexity, and may merit an outstanding score after bottling. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2022.
And back to our regularly scheduled program of heart reds, this time the Grange flight!
1980 Penfolds Grange. Parker 94+. The least impressive, but still a very great wine, is the dark garnet-hued 1980. Still a young wine at age 29, it exhibits massive earthy, meaty, bacon fat notes intermixed with notions of scorched earth, blackberries, currants, pepper, and spice. Full and rich with slightly rustic tannins, it has a good 20 years of life ahead of it.
agavin: still lots of fruit and life. After about 30 minutes, most people’s favorite of the flight. Tons of eucalyptus.
1981 Penfolds Grange. Parker 97. The 1981 stood out as slightly superior. Winemaker John Duval always felt this was a tannic style of Grange, but the wine has shed its tannins, and this is one of the few vintages where the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon was above 10%. Sweet notes of creme de cassis, cedarwood, charcoal, and barbecue spices are followed by a full-bodied, opulent wine displaying heady amounts of alcohol, glycerin, and density in its full-bodied, skyscraper-like texture. I was drinking this wine with great pleasure in the mid-nineties, yet here it is nearly 15 years later, and the wine does not appear to have budged much from its evolutionary state. This is a testament to how remarkably well these wines hold up, and age at such a glacial pace.
agavin: young. Everyone’s favorite at the start, but the 1980 seemed to get better with time.
1990 Penfolds Grange. Parker 96. Deep garnet-brick colored, the 1990 Penfolds Grange has an evolved, earthy character of damp loam, black truffles and tar with an underlying core of figs, dried mulberries, salami and aniseed. There’s a good amount of savory flesh supported by a crisp acid line and medium to firm level chewy tannins, finishing long with some smoked meat coming through. Drink this one now to 2020+.
agavin: younger and more massive. Lots of great fruit.
Goose. Our special goose and berry and potato course. The goose was a bit over-cooked.
And onto the Chris Ringland flight!
1997 Chris Ringland (formerly Three Rivers) Randall’s Hill Vineyard Shiraz. Parker 96. Deep garnet colored, 1997 Randall’s Hill Shiraz offers notes of warm mulberries, figs, sandalwood, cinnamon stick, cloves, underbrush, tree bark and black truffles. Decadently full bodied, rich and dense, it has just enough refreshing acidity and a medium to high level of velvety tannins to support. The finish is long and layered of baking spices and dried fruits. Drinking beautifully now, it should continue at this plateau for another 6 to 8 years+.
Look at the cool case and sign that came with it.
1999 Chris Ringland (formerly Three Rivers) Shiraz. Parker 98. The Chris Ringland (formerly known as Three Rivers Shiraz), is aged 42 months in 100% new French oak, and is rarely racked until bottling, represents an extraordinary expression of Barossa Shiraz. The intense 1999, released in 2004, demonstrates that this vintage is somewhat underrated after all the hype over 1998. From a vineyard planted in 1910, its inky/purple color is accompanied by aromas of lavender, lard, smoke, licorice, blackberries, cassis, espresso roast, chocolate, and pepper. Full-bodied, slightly less voluminous than the perfect 1998, with an unctuous texture, sweet tannin, and a 70+ second finish, this magnificent, still young Shiraz should be accessible in 3-5 years, and last for two decades.
2000 Chris Ringland (formerly Three Rivers) Shiraz. Parker 97. This is a re-review of the 2000 Shiraz since I significantly underrated it previously. It is clearly the Barossa wine of the vintage, and has put on considerable weight since it was bottled. This stunning cuvee, which used to be known as the Three Rivers Shiraz, was aged 33 months in new French 300 liter hogsheads. A beautiful bouquet of crushed rocks, white flowers, blueberries, blackberries, incense, and subtle pain grille is followed by a rich, full-bodied red revealing supple tannin as well as tremendous texture and richness, and more depth and intensity than it did last year. By Chris Ringland’s standards, it is quite approachable, and should age beautifully for 10-15 years.
2001 Chris Ringland (formerly Three Rivers) Shiraz. Parker 100! The monumental 2001 Shiraz, from a 91-year old vineyard, spent 43 months in new French 300-liter hogsheads. The result is a compelling wine of great richness, flavor breadth, and length. An inky/blue/purple color is accompanied by extraordinary scents of flowers, blackberries, blueberries, and cassis as well as hints of espresso roast, truffles, roasted meats, and incense. This sexy, beautifully balanced, loaded Shiraz should keep for three decades or more.
agavin: sadly, our bottle was mildly corked.
Because there was so much food, we shared 3 of these “game quartet” plates for 12 people.
Amaroo Farms Emu Strip, apple-wood bacon, broccoli rabe, corn fricassee.
Braised buffalo short rib. Pommes puree, bloomsdale spinach, globe carrots.
Elk tenderloin, brandied cherries, vanilla-butternut squash, baby portabella, cipollini.
Rack of Venison. Pine nuts, glaze.
Sauteed wild shimeji mushrooms.
Four cheese mac & cheese gratin.
Buttermilk biscuits, honey butter. Oh yes! Voted a 10 by the group.
Truffled french fries, parmigiano.
A dessert madeira we didn’t open.
Banana huckleberry croissant bread pudding with white chocolate ice cream.
Trio of house-made sorbets. mango, coconut, blackberry.
This was a total blow out event. The food was impeccable and the service warm. We had so much wine we left them a little overwhelmed, but that’s par for the course. Plus we had a really great mix of people and some of the most awesome wines. Tonight was particularly killer in the wine department as you have seen.
A note on the wines. The flighting really helped, and even helped me enjoy the New World’s better because they drink much better amongst their own kind.
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