Restaurant: Saddle Peak Lodge [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]
Location: 419 Cold Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302 (818) 222-3888
Date: January 11, 2018
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.
They offer a tasting menu, but our party likes to order ala carte. I’d actually like to build our own custom tasting menu which we sort of half managed to do tonight.
The regular menu. They have confusingly moved a bunch of the sides into starters — even though they make no sense as starters.
The place was DEAD on this particular night. I didn’t see anyone else upstairs.
A freebee from my cellar. It’s a cheap “like rose champagne” from the Jura. Many of us actually liked it better next to the Billecart!
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.
2013 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru La Forest. VM 91-94. Bright, subdued aromas of pear drop and citrus fruit. Densely packed and saline in the mouth, offering terrific stony energy and depth along with a sexy impression of sucrosite . Still tight, austere and uncompromisingly dry for all its richness. More obviously soil-driven than the foregoing samples–really classic stony Chablis premier cru.
From my cellar: 1985 Nicolas Potel Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. BH 91. A very fresh yet mature nose of citrus, white flower and lightly toasted nut aromas combines with round and vibrant middle weight flavors that possess a seductive and rich mouth feel, all wrapped in a sappy and mouth coating finish. This is really a lovely effort with complexity and ample finishing punch and is a wine that will continue to hold well if not improve.
agavin: this bottle was more oxidized than the first I opened
2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chassagne-Montrachet Les Ancegnières. BH 89-91. Mild reduction doesn’t significantly diminish the appeal of the citrus and slightly exotic fruit and petrol aromas. The solidly intense and delineated middle weight plus flavors are supported by a well-integrated acid spine and refreshing citrus nuances on the lingering finish. This is a quality Chassagne villages and worth considering.
2009 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne. BH 93. A discreet touch of wood sets off aromas of dried rose petal, lemon grass and green apple that precede rich, full and obviously well-muscled big-bodied flavors that possess an intense minerality on the powerful, driving and palate staining finish that delivers simply terrific persistence. This imposing effort is most impressive and should offer up to a decade of potential improvement.
Potato leek soup. These soup amuses are kinda boring.
1999 Château d’Yquem. JG 93. I was very surprised to like the 1999 Yquem a bit better than I liked the 2001, as the vintage in general seems to be decidedly stronger in Sauternes in 2001. The 1999 Yquem offers up a complex and classic nose of toasted coconut, oranges, honey, butter, lovely soil tones, fresh apricot and a lovely framing of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, deep and quite crisp, with lovely focus and balance, excellent mid-palate depth and a very long, bright and poised finish. A lovely bottle of Yquem.
Seared Foie gras with brioche and apples. An excellent seared prep, special ordered.
And served with the perfect pairing of d’Yquem!
1994 R. López de Heredia Rioja Viña Tondonia.
Warm Octopus “Pouche-Grille”, Chermoula, Potato, Mache, Parsley, Lemon Vinaigrette. This was the weakest dish, overly warm and tough.
1999 Delas Frères Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette. VM 90+. Moderately saturated medium ruby. Roasted berries and leather on the rather shy nose. Juicy, firm and flinty on the palate; not nearly as full or explosive as the Cote-Rotie La Landonne but very nicely delineated and subtly aromatic in the mouth. Finishes very long, with fine but serious tannins.
Bandera Quail, Charred Onions, Fingerling Potato, Sage Soubise. This was tasty enough with a very strong char flavor.
1998 Le Petit Cheval. 89 points. Deep colour. And on the nose, deep fruit, seasoned with a little fresh garden mint and green peppercorn. This is fine. Integrating tannins on the palate which still provide a good structure, flavoured with a little coffee and mint. Delightfully structured wine, very approachable now, but will do some short term development I think.
Beef Tartare, wasabi, smoked avocado, crispy rice, herbs.
1997 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon. VM 94. Bright, dark red. Wild, sexy scents of raspberry, game, olive tapenade, pepper, cedar, mocha and mountain herbs are wonderfully perfumed and subtle. This firmly built, aromatic midweight Cabernet is not especially voluptuous or generous but has the energy and definition to continue to improve for years. Savory more than sweet but still with terrific dark fruit retention. This classic ageworthy wine (Old World comes to Spring Mountain?) still shows some reserve but is impeccably balanced. Finishes with perfectly buffered tannins and subtle rising length.
2002 Lail Vineyards J. Daniel Cuvée. 92 points. Not my type of wine. Big wine, might be more approachable in 5 – 10 years, but now it was way too big a wine for my taste. palate and nose dominated by cherries and chocolate, almost sweet. Wine was huge, good balance, tannins were resolved…just not my cup of tea.
Roasted Mushrooms, bone marrow, persilade, red wine, butter pastry. This was delicious. Like a mushroom pot pie.
Spaghetti Rustichella, white shrimp, uni butter, chili flake and garlic. Solid dish. Nice and buttery. Hint of spice.
Cast Iron Johnnycake, maple butter. Awesome!
Mac & Cheese, 4 cheeses, gouda, aged cheddar, reggiano, jack. Good, but a little dry.
1989 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. JG 93+. I have always been a fan of the 1989 Château Beaucastel, which I rank just behind the superb 1981 at this fine estate. The most recent bottle I tasted of this wine was still just a touch youthful, but offered up fine complexity on both the nose and palate and shows excellent promise. The bouquet is a blend of roasted fruitcake, cherries, new leather, venison, incipient notes of sous bois, woodsmoke and hot stones. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and rock solid at the core, with a bit of tannin still to resolve, fine focus and grip and a very long, classy and slightly chewy finish. I would be tempted to give this wine a few more years to really resolve, as it will be a superb wine and it would be most enjoyable to drink it at the same plateau that the 1981 has been enjoying for a good decade already.
From my cellar: 1990 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. JG 92+. The 1990 Château Beaucastel is a lovely wine and is just about ready for primetime drinking, but will continue to improve over the coming five or six years and then cruise along for decades from that point forward. The bouquet offers up a fine blend of dried raspberries and red currants, roasted game, incipient autumnal tones (fallen leaves) and a potpourri of spice tones in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and a touch leathery in personality, with a good core, melting tannins and fine length and grip on the complex finish. Having had the good fortune to drink several older vintages of Beaucastel at peak maturity, my gut instinct with the 1990 would be to let it rest in the cellar for just a few more years and allow the last layer of aromatic complexity to emerge here, though it must be said that the wine is really lovely on the palate right now.
2003 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 92. Dark red. Vibrant raspberry, blackberry, floral and spice aromas convey impressive purity and freshness. Supple and sweet, with deep red fruit flavors, hints of floral pastille and baking spices and gentle tannins. This wine has more grenache than usual for the property, which makes it one of the most graceful (despite the hot vintage) wines I’ve had from the Perrins. Clean and energetic on the finish, which echoes the red fruit and floral qualities. A touch of heat takes my score down a hair, but this is Chateauneuf, after all. I scored this wine 93 points on release.
Game Trio with Emu, Elk, and Bison.
Game Quadro adding in Water Buffalo.
Braised Bison Short Rib, smoked miso-potato puree, blistered asparagus, peppery jelly.
Water Buffalo Loin, dates, brown butter, brussels sprouts, grapes, juniper, blackberry.
Amaroo Farms Emu Strip, balsamic onions, potato, spinach, red wine jus.
Elk Tenderloin, bacon jam, cranberry, crispy yam strings.
Left over from the night before.
8oz Filet Mignon, mushroom, potato puree, pea greens, cider glazed carrots & turnips.
New Zealand Lamb Rack, smoked miso potatoes, blistered asparagus, pepper jam.
1971 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva. 92 points. Seb brought this and didn’t even know it was super sweet. It was great though!
Cappuccino Cream, hazelnut fudge & cocoa crumble.
Banana & huckleberry bread pudding, Tahitian Vanilla bean ice cream.
Valrhona Brownie, chocolate cremeux caramelized white chocolate, raspberry, bourbon barrel ice cream.
Sorbet. Coconut, blackberry, and I can’t remember. Nice texture but way too mild in flavor.
This night was typical of Saddlepeak in recent years. Food is good. Prices are a bit high. Service is super nice and they really try — but the format isn’t perfect for wine dinners. I’d rather do it in family style waves rather than a few huge courses.
Our wines were mixed tonight with many very good but a few flawed.
Click here for more LA restaurant reviews,
Or for Hedonist extravaganzas.