Restaurant: Spago [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
Location: 176 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (310) 385-0880
Date: November 12, 2018
Cuisine: New American
Rating: Still great
Spago is always fun but it’s especially good when it’s a Sage Society arranged Veuve Clicquot dinner. I love great Champagne and this sort of dinner is a fun way to learn more about different houses.
Spago has been an LA institution for over 30 years!
Tonight Veuve Clicquot has taken over the private dinner area.
We have this lovely long table.
And they take it seriously, as does this guy who has way more gear than even I do!
Lots of “displays.”
Tonight’s special menu.
Tonight is partially about introducing a new NV blend cuvee:
NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Extra Brut Extra Old. 93 points. At least 6 years old, only reserve wines, dosage 3 gr. a champagne with a great character, very classic, also in its bitters, firm, but not severe and a long aftertaste.
Caviar Blini with creme fraiche.
Cheese (and maybe foie) Gougeres.
Spicy Tuna Tartare, Sesame-Miso Tuille Cone. I’ve had it a million times but it’s still great. The counter play between the crunchy-sweet cone and the soft-spicy interior.
Crab and uni and flowers in a crispy/chewy sesame ball.
Jewish pizza. Smoked salmon with creme fraiche and ikura (salmon roe). I love this too. I even make it at home.
Various folk from Veuve get up to talk.
This is Dominique Demarville, the wine maker! He told us all about each cuvee and a lot about the history of the house — really fascinating.
Wild Hamachi. Beet Ponzu, ginger oil, sea grass. Great fish quality. Very bright strong vibrant flavors. Super delicious.
2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame. VM 93. Vivid gold. Heady aromas of orange, white peach and smoky minerals, with a note of buttered toast adding depth. Densely packed citrus and pit fruit flavors show chewy texture and a bright mineral quality that adds vivacity. Rich but lively and precise, finishing very long, with notes of candied fig and toasty lees.
2006 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame. JG 94+. The final blending of the 2006 La Grande Dame was completed prior to Dominique Demarville joining the team at Veuve Clicquot, so we will have to wait for the release of the 2008 version to see his impact on this bottling. The 2006 Grande Dame is a blend of fifty-three percent pinot noir and forty-seven percent chardonnay and was finished with a dosage of eight grams per liter. The wine is excellent, wafting from the glass in a complex blend of apple, pear, wheat toast, fine minerality, a touch of smokiness and a nice note of caraway seed in the upper register. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, deep and complex, with elegant mousse, fine focus and grip and a very long, vibrant and zesty finish. This is drinking beautifully, but has the balance to age long and gracefully as well. High class juice.
2008 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame. 92 points. Tasting, brief note. A new age for Grande Dame – 92% Pinot Noir. Berries really come through with some toasted almond and toasted rye bread. Rounded textures, very good length.
Spago always has great bread.
Main Diver Scallops. Matsutake Mushrooms, Sea Grass, Yuzu Emulsion.
The non shellfish version.
2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé La Grande Dame. VM 94. Vivid orange-pink. Seductively perfumed aromas of ripe red berries, Asian spices, rose and smoky minerals. Densely packed and palate-staining, offering vibrant red and dark berry flavors, along with floral pastille and buttered toast qualities. The strikingly long finish repeats the red fruit and mineral notes and lingers with serious tenacity.
The Madame Clicquot invented the technique of mixing red pinot noir into Champagne to make rose and so these (like many rose Champagnes) use that technique as opposed to leaving the pinot on the skins.
2006 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé La Grande Dame. JG 95. For both the vintage-dated and the Grande Dame Rosé bottlings, Veuve Clicquot uses their parcel of Clos Colin in the village of Bouzy for the still red wine that is used to add color to the final blend. The ’06 Grande Dame Rosé is comprised entirely of chardonnay and pinot noir, with thirty-three percent of the blend the former and sixty-seven percent of the blend the latter (with fourteen percent still pinot noir). The dosage is eight grams per liter and the wine is outstanding, offering up a pure and complex bouquet of tangerine, desiccated cherries, chalky minerality, orange peel and plenty of smokiness. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and complex, with a superb core, lovely focus and grip, elegant mousse and a very long, zesty and wide open finish. This is drinking beautifully right now, but will age very gracefully as well.
2008 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé La Grande Dame. CW 95-97. This is perhaps the best young Rose Champagne I can remember. Very fresh, frozen-berry nose, and on the palage this shows rich citrus and red fruits, and the characteristic ’08 electricity and density, dialed up to 11. Notwithstanding the massive concentration of raw material, this is pretty drinkable due to the excellent balance, saline freshness, and beautiful fruit. A real wow wine. Expensive but, dare I say, worth it.
The giant double mag of 1990 rose!
1990 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé La Grande Dame. VM 92. Salmon-orange with a pale rim. Deep, smoky aromas of strawberry, pear cider, cinnamon, earth and maple syrup. Very rich in the mouth, but also shows excellent verve for a wine with such volume; superripe flavors of strawberry, rose petal, iron and earth. In texture and size, this comes across more like a red wine than a rose Champagne. Spicy finish is long and gripping.
Marcho Farm’s Veal Loin. Chanterelle Mushrooms, Pancetta, Creme Sauce. Not usually a veal fan, but I know Wolfgang is, being Austrian — still this was fabulous.
Pasta for my wife who doesn’t eat veal.
1989 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Vintage Cave Privée. VM 92. Almonds, pastry and brioche are some of the notes that open up in 1989 Brut Cave Privée. The warm, resonant style is hugely appealing. Hints of toast and spice add complexity in a Champagne of pure texture and breadth. This is another terrific showing from Veuve Clicquot.
1982 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Vintage Cave Privée. 95 points. Wonderful expressions of toast and bread. Slight oxidation, dark hay color, lasting taste on the palate, went down smoothly. Drink.
House Made Seaweed Tamale. Main Lobster, Aonori Beurre Blanc. I wonder if this was developed at Rogue as it reminded me of the stuff from our visit to Wolfgang’s kitchen lab. Really great.
My wife got another pasta (gnocchi) where they emulated meat with mushrooms. I ate a few and quite excellent.
1979 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Vintage Rosé Cave Privée. 96 points. Delicately floral start with strawberry with ripe apple on nose and palate. Lots of power and textures start-to-finish with an incredibly persistent, long finish. Wow.
Chef’s Selection of Artisanal Cheese. Bandaged Bismark from Raw Sheep Milk. 3 Year Aged Gouda Beemster from Pasteurized Cow Milk. Saint Gil d’Albio from Pasteurized Goat Milk.
This was a great night and lots of fun. Set wine dinner meals are tough on restaurants, particularly with restrictive wine themes like “all champagne” but Spago did a fabulous job. I think they are actually one of the best at this kind of dinner. Liz Lee of Sage Society always arranges an impeccable affair. Plus our service was impeccable and our wines amazing — I left with a new appreciation for Veuve Clicquot!
The old Veuves like the giant 90, 82, 79 etc were just crazy good.
For more LA dining reviews click here.