Restaurant: Babita Mexicuisine
Location: 1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776. (626) 288-7265
Date: May 17, 2014
Cuisine: Modern Mexican
Rating: A rare find
Chef Roberto and his wife Elba run this unique gem in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s family owned, upscale, tiny, chef driven and elaborate. And it’s Mexican food! Los Angeles has no shortage of Mexican restaurants, both of the classic and modernized formats, but we don’t have a lot (if any others?) that strive for an upscale ingredient focused style.
1994 Williams Selyem Chardonnay Allen Vineyard. Our bottle was totally oxidized.
2001 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc De L’Orée. Parker 93-95. The great American patriot and wine connoisseur Thomas Jefferson called Hermitage “the single greatest white wine of France.” Slightly lower-keyed, but still prodigious, the 2001 Ermitage Cuvee de l’Oree does not possess the muscle, volume, or weight of the 2000, but it is a beautifully etched, elegant, intensely mineral wine offering hints of white flowers, citrus oils, and earth in its dense, full-bodied, chewy personality. Like its older sibling, it will be delicious in its first 3-4 years of life, then close down, to re-emerge 10-12 years later. It will last for three decades or more.
agavin: Ours was nice, with that strange semi-oxidized taste older Hermitage blanc usually has.
Chips and salsa. Classic, but very very good.
2006 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Roussanne Vieilles Vignes. Parker 98. The limited cuvee of 100% old vine Roussanne (50% vinified in barrel and 50% in tank), the 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc Vieilles Vignes is an extraordinary wine. Since the debut vintage in 1986, I have been unable to figure out how to predict this cuvee’s aging potential, but I tend to agree with most sommeliers who feel this wine needs to be drunk in its first 4-6 years of life, then not touched again until age 12-15. It is so amazing, I usually drink it as quickly as I can get my hands on a few bottles. The sensational 2006 possesses a wonderful honeysuckle note interwoven with marmalade, tropical fruit, peaches, and buttery pastry characteristics, and zesty acidity despite a thick, full-bodied, rich texture. It is difficult to find a better white Chateauneuf du Pape than Beaucastel. Much like their reds, their whites are made in a style that is atypical for the appellation. It is put through full malolactic, and one-third is barrel fermented, then blended with the two-thirds that is aged in tank. Extraordinarily rich and honeyed, it is ideal for drinking with intensely flavored culinary dishes.
agavin: No oxidation here, but a pure intense weighty white that paired very well with the food.
Spicy fresh guacamole, yellow chile stuffed with ceviche of salmon with strawberry sauce and brine poached large shrimp-cocktail with habanero sauce. Some real heat in this dish, particularly from the guacamole and shrimp sauce. Each element was delicious and different.
From my cellar: 1978 Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial. Parker 93. The 1978 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial spent 18 years in barrel and 10 years in bottle prior to release. It still has a deep cherry red color along with an aromatic array of underbrush, brier, tobacco, incense, and blackberry. It has slightly sweeter fruit and livelier acidity than the 1994. This lengthy effort is at its peak now where it should remain for another 20 years.
agavin: Very nice, arguably my favorite red of the night. Started a bit funky, but that quickly blew off. Way more fruit than one would expect for a 78 but Ygay lasts forever.
Duo of soups. Crema de jalapeno (right) and cuitlacoche (left) soup garnished with oaxacan chapulin and mezcal. There is actually a cricket in this dish, floating on the left of that toast. Both soup were wonderful, by themselves, and together.
2005 Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Rioja Finca El Bosque. IWC 94. Ruby-red. Spicy red fruits and minerals on the nose, with a suave floral element adding complexity. More restrained than the 2004, showing a more elegant personality but no less intrigue. Sweet strawberry and raspberry flavors combine flavor impact with stylishness. Finishes with lightly chewy tannic grip and fresh mineral lift. There’s a deft quality here that’s really compelling.
2004 Torbreck Descendant. Parker 98. The 2004 Descendant, an old oak-aged blend of 92% Shiraz and 8% Viognier from a 12-year old vineyard, offers up notes of blackberries, ink, sweet truffles, and acacia flowers. There are 1,000 cases of this full-bodied, intense, rich blockbuster. It will drink well for 10-15 years.
agavin: can we say extracted? (but very good). Eucalyptus notes.
2004 Nit de Nin Nit de Nin. Parker 98. Only three barrels are made of Nit de Nin, made by Ester Nin, the vineyard manager for Clos Erasmus. The 2004 is 60% Garnacha, 30% Carinena, and 10% Syrah aged for 18 months in French oak. Purple/black, the wine has a fragrant perfume of mineral, truffle, creme de cassis, kirsch, and blueberry. Super-rich and layered on the palate, this opulent wine has exceptional depth and impeccable balance as well as a 60-second finish. Drink it over the next 10-12 years.
agavin: very nice.
1996 L’ Ermita (Alvaro Palacios). Parker 95-96. The 1996 L’Ermita appears to be another blockbuster effort from Alvaro Palacios. The color is a saturated purple. The expressive nose boasts aromas of pain grille, roasted coffee, chocolate-covered, jammy cherry candy, minerals, and new oak. Full-bodied, dense, and thick, with an unctuous texture, lower acidity, and higher alcohol than the 1995 and 1994, this is a meaty, chewy, masculine wine with a flamboyant personality, in addition to a monster finish. It is super-intense, but exceptionally well-balanced, especially in view of its proportions. Anticipated maturity: 2003-2020.
2004 Mas Doix Doix Costers de Vinyes Velles. Parker 98. The 2004 Costers de Vinas Viejas is 50% Carinena, 48% Garnacha, and 2% Merlot aged for 16 months in new French oak. Deep purple, the aromas are other-worldly with truffle, tar, graphite, kirsch, and wild blueberry among the array of scents leaping from the glass. Flamboyant and opulent, the wine has remarkable richness and depth of flavor leading to a 60-second finish. Drink this hedonistic effort over the next 10-12 years.
agavin: these priorats may be young and gigantic, but they are surprisingly drinkable (being so young).
2004 Sean Thackrey Orion Rossi Vineyard. 91 points. Beautiful, clear, deep, bright cherry color, very difficult to place the varietal blend based on this color, almost reminiscent of barbera or gamay. Similarly beguiling nose and palate of exotic spice, Penfolds-like eucalyptus and intense oak, blueberries, Rhone fruit and kirsch. Minimal acidity, pleasant tannins building late, and a kick of volatility and heat from the alcohol. A really interesting, cerebral wine that led to much opining around the table on this wine’s true quality, and much speculation on the unknown grape blend. This is not a wine I would enjoy drinking every day, but in an era when most California cult wines taste predictably similar, this seems more like what a cult wine should be, idiosyncratic and fascinating.
This was just an amazing evening and quite different. I’m not sure what I expected (of a “fancy” Mexican in the SGV) but I was certainly blown away. Babita is just a unique gem of a place.