Location: 624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. (310) 362-6115
Date: October 4, 2019
Cuisine: Modern Bistro French
Rating: Nice (loud) space, tasty hip food, great service
This Sage Society dinner is like a return an old favorite as in the “old days” (a few years ago) they did most of their dinners here at Republique. Tonight is a special custom dinner featuring the wines of Champagne house Billecart-Salmon and a custom Walter Manzke menu designed by Walter and Sage Society chief Liz Lee. Additionally, Antoine Roland-Billecart is in the house to guide us through the epic wine tasting!
Still doing great even after 5 or so years.
We are, of course, in the private room. Way better than downstairs at this very loud but very good restaurant.
The somm for the evening gives some introductions…
The name speaks for itself.
Our starter wine was NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Réserve. JG 92. This particular bottle of Brut Réserve had been in my cellar since 2008, and it has aged beautifully and was drinking very well when opened this past spring. The excellent nose wafts from the glass in a mélange of apple, peach, warm bread, a touch of ginger, a lovely base of soil and plenty of upper register smokiness. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bdoied, complex and still rock solid at the core, with fine mousse, bright acids and lovely length and grip on the wide open, complex and classy finish. This particular release of Brut Réserve had been particularly steely out of the blocks, which is why I tucked some away to see how it evolved with bottle age. Yet again, a pretty strong argument for treating non-vintage Brut bottlings like other fine wines and cellar them for some time before starting to drink them! (Drink between 2014-2025).
Our special menu tonight.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Extra Brut. JG 92+. Billecart-Salmon has been producing their Millésime bottlings as Extra Brut since the 2000 vintage. The 2006, which is comprised of a blend of seventy-five percent pinot noir and twenty-five percent chardonnay was twenty percent barrel fermented in this vintage, and received a very modest dosage of three grams per liter. The wine is very fine, offering up a bright and classy bouquet of baked peaches and apples, pain grillé, almonds, a touch of citrus peel, lovely minerality and a nice dollop of fresh-baked bread in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and rock solid at the core, with refined mousse, bright acids and fine length and grip on the wide open and classy finish. Fine juice, and like a lot of 2006s, it is already drinking very well indeed. (Drink between 2014-2035)
2007 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Extra Brut. 91 points. Fine bubbles, light yellow, this is pretty good, ultra elegant & finesse.
2008 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Extra Brut.
agavin: to my taste, the extra brut is a little “too brut”.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Réserve. JG 92. This particular bottle of Brut Réserve had been in my cellar since 2008, and it has aged beautifully and was drinking very well when opened this past spring. The excellent nose wafts from the glass in a mélange of apple, peach, warm bread, a touch of ginger, a lovely base of soil and plenty of upper register smokiness. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bdoied, complex and still rock solid at the core, with fine mousse, bright acids and lovely length and grip on the wide open, complex and classy finish. This particular release of Brut Réserve had been particularly steely out of the blocks, which is why I tucked some away to see how it evolved with bottle age. Yet again, a pretty strong argument for treating non-vintage Brut bottlings like other fine wines and cellar them for some time before starting to drink them! (Drink between 2014-2025)
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Sous Bois. VM 92. Bright yellow. Pungent orchard fruit and lemon curd scents are complemented by suggestions of vanilla, anise and smoky minerals. Toasty and silky in texture, offering juicy pear and tangerine flavors plus a deeper suggestion of candied fig on the back half. Closes sappy, focused and long, with repeating smokiness and strong mineral cut.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Sous Bois (disgorged 2014). I loved this one.
Mushroom Tarte Flambe. Delicious. Crispy cracker like base covered in flame broiled cheese and mushrooms. Like an oversized passing hors d’oeuvre.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru. 92 points. Very good. Nice nose showing citrus and good richness, with some vanilla and a touch of pastry cream. On the palate, lovely acidity, fine mousse, more citrus and some chalk. Clean finish.
2007 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Louis Brut Blanc de Blancs. 94 points. Light straw, refined bubbles. Crisp, with lemon and lemon curd, some creaminess paired with a nice chalkiness. (Would be easy to drink all day).
2006 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Louis Brut Blanc de Blancs. 93 points. Incredible balance on this bubbly. Sweeter mature and ripe yellow fruit, creme brulee, nuttiness, yet also a lemon tart and herbal character. Quite impressed. Medium sized bubbles on the mouthfeel. This is a solid champers, rather youthful with a very long and large history ahead.
1999 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Louis Brut Blanc de Blancs. 97 points.
Spot Prawns (with roe). Perfectly cooked and juicy. Only problem was that I impaled the sensitive area under my tongue with a crispy leg and had to extract it from my flesh with my fingers! Still worth it!
Margarita’s Baguette and Normandy Butter. The reason many of us go to Republique, this is some serious temptation to the low carb diet!
2006 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. 93 points. Pinot Noir dominant flavors and aromas, as the house style dictates, but also showing a linear Chardonnay brightness. Very good now.
2002 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 94. The 2002 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart comes across as rich, powerful and opulent. This latest release of the 2002 was disgorged in July 2015 and finished with a Chardonnay-based liqueur whereas the previous release, disgorged in May 2014, was finished with a Pinot Noir-based liqueur. This is a distinctly vinous, almost shockingly raw, visceral Champagne from Billecart-Salmon. There is no shortage of volume or intensity, that is for sure. Stylistically, this year’s release inhabits a whole other world relative to last year’s release. Dosage is 4 grams per liter. (Drink between 2018-2042)
1999 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 93. Bright yellow-gold. An exotically perfumed bouquet evokes fresh pear, iodine, white flowers and toasted brioche, with gingery spice and mineral notes adding vibrancy. Rich and weighty but quite lithe and focused, offering sappy orchard and citrus fruit flavors and a chalky mineral nuance on the back half. Closes on a smoky note, with excellent focus and lingering floral character. L422345 16273.
Filleted with a cauliflower mash. This is a “simple” fish prep but in Walter’s very capable hands is scrumptious.
2002 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Les Clos Saint-Hilaire. 96 points. Great.
1999 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Les Clos Saint-Hilaire. VM 96. Billecart’s 1999 Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is exotic and beguiling. Constantly changing in the glass, the 1999 offers exquisite aromatics, silky and a real sense of underlying phenolic structure. Crushed rose petals, licorice, smoke, game and tobacco add nuance as the wine opens up. With time in the glass, the personality of these Pinot vines becomes more and more expressive. The 1999 was bottled with no dosage, but that would be impossible to ascertain in a blind tasting. (Drink between 2016-2024)
Pork Belly Caviar. This dish apparently won on some kind of cooking show that Walter was on. It was rich, rich beyond belief. A cube of fatty steamed pork bellow, butter, some kind of puree, more butter, and caviar. Woah! Delicious too but I had to sit quietly for a few minutes to let my arteries recover.
1996 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. BH 95. An absolutely sensational nose that is floral, spicy, yeasty and citrusy with exceptionally subtle hints of red berries that can also be found on the wonderfully fresh and still beautifully youthful flavors that are crisp, precise and layered. If there is a nit, the finish is perhaps not quite as long as one might hope for but as this ages and “relaxes”, the length will come. A potentially great wine and all it needs is a bit more time in bottle.
1998 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 94. The 1998 Cuveé Nicolas François Billecart (60% Pinot, 40% Chardonnay) is another beautiful wine. The aromas are especially captivating and highly suggestive of Pinot, but the Chardonnay seems to take center stage on the palate, where the fruit is highly expressive. Like the Bland de Blancs, the wine saw 50% malolactic fermentation and only 5% of the wine was aged in oak as the estate was in its early days of using oak and wisely chose a moderate approach. (Drink between 2013-2018)
1990 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Grande Cuvée. VM 95. Pale amber color. Extraordinary, ineffable nose of baked bread, oatmeal, toast, game, quinine, roasted nuts and ginger ale. Full-bodied, thick and utterly seamless, with superb, integrated acidity giving it great verve. Conveys a sensation of palate-gripping extract. Extremely long, slowly expanding finish throws off notes of pepper, ginger and nutmeg. Every time I returned to this wonderful Champagne I liked it more. (Robert Chadderdon Selections, New York, NY)
agavin: this might have been my WOTN. Amazing bottle.
White Truffle Risotto. Simple and perfect. Stunning creamy risotto with real fresh in season white truffles.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Pale orange. High-pitched red berry, orange zest and jasmine aromas, with suave mineral and smoky lees notes adding complexity. Spicy and precise on the palate, showing very good punch to its strawberry and bitter cherry flavors. Opens up smoothly with air and picks up a bitter rhubarb quality that lingers onto the long, tightly focused finish. This bottling showed more brawny character than many past renditions of this cuvée, but with no lack of vivacity.
2006 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon. VM 94+. The 2006 Rosé Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon is powerful, intense and also classically austere in its make up. Crushed flowers, mint, red berries and cranberries are all finely sketched. The 2006 finishes with striking mineral-driven precision, and while it doesn’t have the opulence or exuberance of the 2002, it is still a very pretty and appealing Champagne. The Elisabeth Salmon is 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, with about 8% still Pinot Noir. Dosage is 6 grams per liter. (Drink between 2018-2031)
2007 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon. 92 points. Pink, slightly orange. Delicate bubbles. Hints of rose petal, and a touch of strawberry. Medium body, well balanced.
Chicken. That over simplifies the matter. There are mushrooms and reduction here. Delicious bird.
Cheese. The one course that was a let down. Actually rather lame — but we can forgive them after 7 perfect courses above.
And the wine lineup.
Another amazing Sage Society dinner. Many of Sage’s wine maker dinners, all those that Liz puts together herself, are like this one, pulling out all the stops. This was a LOT of food — even for me — and the dishes were all custom for the wine and spectacular. And there was so much great champagne, really showing off both the house style and the very varied objectives of each cuvee. Quite educational too.
Too bad Erick handed me his cold that night (via the loaf of bread we shared) because I was sick the whole next week :-).