Location: Santa Monica
Date: September 30, 2022
Cuisine: Italian influenced gourmet home cooking
Dinner at the Borgese’s is a special house dinner in Santa Monica cooked by the stunning pro-level home chef Borgese couple. Tonight’s dinner is a “Double Team” as it’s not only at Rocco’s, but is a Billecart-Salmon winemaker dinner hosted by Liz Lee of Sage Society. This is actually the second Billecart dinner I’ve been to, the previous being at Republique some years back.
Billecart-Salmon is a highly respected Champagne house that was founded in 1818 in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, France, by Nicolas François Billecart and his wife Elisabeth Salmon. Over the course of two centuries, the family-owned and managed company has stayed true to its roots, maintaining its dedication to quality and tradition. Billecart-Salmon is famous for its refined and elegant style, characterized by its finesse, complexity, and consistency. The house has achieved worldwide acclaim for its remarkable Brut Rosé, but also produces a variety of other styles, including Brut Reserve, Brut Sous Bois, and various vintage and cuvée champagnes. Through its commitment to excellence, Billecart-Salmon has secured its reputation as one of the most prestigious brands in the Champagne region.
Tonight’s menu and wine list.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Réserve. JG 92. 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.
Fresh Oysters with Caviar.
Caviar on Toasted Brioche with Bordier Butter. You can really taste the great and distinctive butter.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Nature. 90 points. Rich for the style. Lemon tinges, biscuit, mild but not without intensity .
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs. JG 92+. The non-vintage Blanc de Blancs is not a large production item for Billecart-Salmon, and one does not cross paths with it regularly. The current release is all 2007 vintage and was aged nearly five years on the lees prior to disgorgement. Billecart produces their Blanc de Blancs bottlings from fruit sourced in only three villages in the Côte des Blancs- Chouilly, Mesnil-sur-Oger and Cramant. The new release offers up a deep and lovely aromatic blend of pear, apple, stony minerality, bread dough, a hint of the pastry cream to come with bottle age and orange zest. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and very elegant, with a lovely core of fruit, refined mousse and excellent length and grip on the well-balanced, youthful and classy finish. This is a very fine bottle of Blanc de Blancs that will only improve as it blossoms a bit more structurally with further bottle age. (Drink between 2013-2025)
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.
Hokaido Scallops with Caviar. Maybe could have used a bit of lemon/lime/yuzu juice.
2009 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Millésimé. VM 93. The 2009 Vintage is another stellar wine in this range from Billecart-Salmon. This is the first time the Vintage includes Meunier in the blend. That approach has worked out so well here. Resonant and generous, the 2009 is so expressive today. The low dosage of two grams per liter is expertly judged. The 2009 is rich, but not heavy, while offering all of the natural generosity of the year. (Originally published in May 2021) (Drink between 2022-2034)
2008 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Louis Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs. VM 95. The 2008 Brut Blanc de Blancs Louis Salmon (formerly the vintage Blanc de Blancs) and named after the maison’s first cellar master, is fabulous. Rich and ample, the 2008 is beautifully resonant in the glass. It offers up an enticing mélange of lemon confit, marzipan, dried flowers and spice. It’s a terrific 2008, especially for readers looking for a relatively affordable option to some of the super high-flyers in this celebrated vintage. The blend is 40% Chouilly, 33% Cramant, 20% Mesnil and 7% Avize, done 1/3rd in oak and 2/3rds in steel. Dosage is 7 grams per liter. Disgorged: October, 2020. (Drink between 2024-2038)
Grilled Spot Prawns with Caviar. Great dish. Chewed it up at the expense of my flesh like Daryl Hannah in Splash. With the caviar two kinds of eggs! Nice char flavor.
2007 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François. VM 97. The 2007 Brut Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart is positively stellar. Elegant, polished and sophisticated, the 2007 dazzles with effusive aromatics and gorgeous balance. It”s not an obvious wine, though, but rather a Champagne built for long, patient cellaring. The 2007 is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay taken from Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Ambonnay, Verzenay and Verzy for the Pinots and Chouilly, Avize, Cramant and Mesnil for the Chardonnays. In other words, as good as it gets for villages. The wine was done mostly in tank with about 15% of the lots vinified in oak. Dosage is 6 grams per liter. (Originally published in May 2021) (Drink between 2027-2047)
2002 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 96. The 2002 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart is outrageously beautiful. The ripeness of the Chardonnay is front and center in a Champagne that delivers the goods, big-time. An infusion of apricot, orange peel, crème brûlée, chamomile, hazelnut and honey give the 2002 its racy, exotic personality. I enjoy it most with bottle age, but the 2002 is undeniably beautiful right now. The 2002 is a stunning NFB. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, done partially in oak (20%). Dosage is 4 grams per liter. (Drink between 2020-2030)
1996 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 96. Fabulous nose combines lemon, orange zest, quinine and steely minerality with suggestions of toffee and brown spices. Wonderfully precise and vivid on the palate, delivering an impression of outstanding concentration and grip with a light touch. Extremely fine-grained Champagne with strong but integrated acidity. As young as this is, it’s harmonious from the outset. The building finish is pristine, chewy and extremely long. (Robert Chadderdon Selections, New York NY
Crab and Caviar Linguine. Very light and salty (and delicious) pasta.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. We started with a demi-bouteille of Billecart-Salmon Rosé: a safe option, but it does the job, even though I would say that a full bottle is better. (Drink between 2018-2025)
2008 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon. VM 97+. The 2008 Brut Rosé Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon explodes from the glass with a mesmerizing array of aromas, flavors and textures. Blood orange, cinnamon, mint and dried flowers. The 2008 is incredibly young, but it is also incredibly tempting. Patience will be rewarded. In the meantime, readers might enjoy adding a few bottles of the stellar 2007 to their cellars, as the nervy, taut 2008 needs time. The 2008 is 55% Pinot Noir (from Aÿ, Verzy, Verzenay and Mareuil) and 45% Chardonnay (from Chouilly, Avize and Cramant), with 9% still wine from Mareuil. It is the first vintage that includes a portion of wines (17%) done in barrel and the first vintage in which the magnums were aged on the cork rather than on crown seal. Dosage is 7 grams per liter. (Originally published in May 2021) (Drink between 2028-2043)
Branzino and Clams. Perfectly cooked juicy branzino and lovely clam flavor. The broth was fabulous (could have used some bread for it) and there was a distinct parsely flavor.
2006 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Les Clos Saint-Hilaire. VM 98. The 2006 Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is fabulous. In this radiant year, the Clos Saint-Hilaire has a touch more mid-palate sweetness and generosity, but that’s a good thing, as it balances some of the more austere leanings that can make young vintages hard to appreciate upon release. Apricot, lemon confit, ginger, graphite, spice and crushed rocks are strands in a gorgeous, captivating tapestry that dazzles right out of the gate. The precision here is just mind-blowing. Billecart’s 2006 Clos Saint-Hilaire is a very special Champagne, that much is very clear. (Drink between 2024-2036)
Fried Rosemary Quail. Perfect “fried chicken”. Super savory and delicious with a great crispy texture.
Cheeses (all Italian). The truffle one was particularly tangy and delicious.
Overall, this was an amazing dinner, and the Borgese’s just keep amping up the quality.
First of all, the Borgese hospitality was awesome, the house lovely, and the food absolutely incredible. One of the best “home cooked” meals I’ve had. Maybe ever if you restrict it to chefs cooking in their own home kitchen. Just amazing. Every dish was great. Rustic but extremely delicious style. Superb homemade pastas.
Service was handled by the youngest Borgese (teen daughter) and was better than most restaurant staff. Super friendly and you can tell they do this a lot.
Wines were, as you can, pretty darn impressive! Billecart is a fabulous champagne house with both great whites and reds. I buy a range of their wines all the time as they have both reasonable NVs and fabulous Tete de Cuvees — in both colors.
This meal has a different skew, being customized for Champagne, so there was more seafood and no big steaks — this is fine with me, I’ve had plenty of steaks. They did a wonderful job with the grilled prawns too. The quail is a classic of theirs but never grows old.