Being Jeremy Holmes -- A serious night of Leroy, Leflaive, Dujac, et al.

I’m not a baller. I don’t drink as well as Holmes, Shin or Weinberg. And I rarely do formal wine dinners. But last week I had the chance to enjoy some upper-echelon wines at Melisse, the only two-star Michelin restaurant in the greater L.A. region. This was a once-in-a-blue-moon splurge, but definitely worth it.

Greg, my college roommate and Burgundy enabler, was in from London for his daughter’s 21st birthday. That was excuse enough to gather three couples and enjoy some exquisite bottles in a relaxed, very wine-friendly setting. He bailed some of his wines out of storage here, and I brought the rest. More notes about Melisse below, but let’s get right into the notes:

NV Egly-Ouriet, Brut Tradition, Grand Cru
It’s been hot in L.A. recently, and this bottle was such a welcome start to the night. The somm recommended this wine highly and had it opened hours earlier to let it flower. Medium weight, effervescent, mixing pear and subtle nut flavors. Smitten with its ginger notes, I almost ordered another bottle until I realized how much more wine was still to come. I wisely took the foot off the pedal. Great grower champagne though …

Domaine Leflaive, Bienvenues Batard Montrachet, 2000
Not a bad choice for our one still white wine of the night! Somm reminded us that Leflaive is the restaurant’s No. 1 culprit for prem-ox, but we thankfully escaped the scourge this time. Beautiful light creamy yellow in the glass, glinting and reflecting in the low light. Textbook matchstick nose (which one astute novice taster described as “like tires doing a burnout in a drag race, but like in a good way”). Not a blockbuster BBM. Serious but very charming – lemon chiffon cake pillowed atop a mineral bedrock. More grated ginger, wisteria, meyer lemon and chalk. Long. A superb pairing with the sweetest Santa Barbara spot prawns you’ll ever eat.

Leroy, Chapelle Chambertin, 1969
I wish David Strange had been sitting next to me to adequately describe the lascivious nature of the wine. Sexy is too trite and obvious. Sous bois deluxe on the nose, and just radiating pheromones. Musk, animale, (insert Mouton joke descriptor here), you-name-it … but wrapped around a soft core of earth, rose petals, and gentle spice. Fresh, alive, resolved, elegant, long and haunting. Greg surmised that this might be the only bottle of this wine in Southern California, and if so, we were extremely fortunate to be enjoying it. (Not sure if this is a Domaine or Maison wine). One of the 10 best Burgs I’ve ever had. My obvious WOTN.

Bertheau, Bonnes Mares, 1986
I’m a Bertheau nut, but frankly I was a bit tentative about my offering stacked against Greg’s Leroy. Well the Little Engine That Could more than held its own. Bottle age and good provenance have transformed archetypal Bonnes Mare sturdiness/sterness into easy grace. The most red-fruited wine of the night, the wine slowly emerged from its shell after a long slow ox throughout the day. Delicate and fully mature, with an airy mouthfeel. Harmonious interplay of balanced acidity, ripe strawberry/loam notes, and the dying gasps of fine tannins. Greg declared the highly perfumed Bertheau the nose of the night, and I can’t disagree. It also proved an unlikely pairing hit with Melisse’s signature dish – lobster Bolognese.
Dujac, Charmes Chambertin, 1993
The Dujac, paired with beef cheeks, made for an interesting contrast to the more ethereal Bertheau. Much more “masculine” and deep seated. It’s obviously a younger wine, but a sense of structure and weight come to the fore. When some of the less experienced tasters at the table sniffed the wine, they immediately sensed the stems. Trademark combo of dark Dujac fruit and clove/sandalwood at the fore. Touch of menthol and espresso. Polished, glossy mouthfeel plays off the stemmy structure. I’d wait 5 years and I bet this decays a bit, in a positive fashion. Most people’s wine of the night, but lacked just a smidge of supercalifragalistic magic for me.

Mugnier, Chambolle Musigny, Amoureuses, 1999
Greg insisted I bring the Mugnier, despite my protestations that it was too young. Reading recent CT notes had allayed my fears, but I was proven right. Dark and brooding for an Amoureuses, the wine never came out of its shell. The nose tantalizes with dark cherries and floral flecks, but the palate is tight and only mildly giving. Tonight the chiseled limestone dominates the lacy Chambolle fruit. This is a Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon wine, all sinew and potential energy. It’s caged-in right now but ready to pounce. Visit again in the next 10 years.

About Melisse: I have been here several times in its various incarnations over the years. They’ve now settled on a tasting menu format, where you can pick the number of plates and add various supplements, e.g. truffle shavings over pasta, white asparagus flown in from the Netherlands and never having seen the light of day (the veal of vegetables!). The service is outstanding. The food is direct and unfussy – delicious, if lacking a bit of boldness or excitement. The decor is subdued, a neutral palette of white, grays, blacks and taupes. The hushed crowd is a mix of special-occasion couples, well-heeled foodie families, and a few high rollers with age-inappropriate dates (escorts?). As L.A. becomes more of an informal, pan-global food epicenter, it will be interesting to see how this bastion of traditional French-influenced dining evolves. As it is now, you get what you pay for – but it is quite pricy (easily $200 per just for food if you bite on the supplements).

Not much of a wine vibe – at least on the Friday night we were there. And that’s a shame because the service is outstanding, led by Matt Luczy, the wine director. He and I emailed several times in advance of the dinner and he helped me refine our selections and pacing. I had dropped off the wines a few days in advance. He wasn’t able to join us for service, but he emailed a few hours before dinner and let me know how the wines were doing and what the plan of attack was on decanting, instructions given to staff. Really top-notch service. His team didn’t miss a beat with stemware, pacing, etc.

These are the types of night when all your geeky obsessing and careful curation pay off. I’m glad our friends and spouses got to see first-hand what the Burgundy fuss is all about. We were fortunate that all the wines showed well. As we aren’t getting any younger, Greg and I resolved to drink more of the good stuff when we can!
melisse wine dinner.jpg

Providence, Spago, Urasawa also have 2 stars from the last guide (2009?) along with Melisse.

69 leroy Chapelle is a killer wine

Melisse’s somm is a young bundle of energy, much fun.

Leflaive’s premox started after Morey left, about 07, I believe. Only other issue was a bunch of cooked 96 grand crus.

Domaine Leroy started in 1988 w purchase of the C. Noellat estate.

93 Dujacs rock, though there is occasionally some bretty CdlR.

I think I have a b of that Chapelle kicking around–maybe 66 or that 69.

Great notes. But Jeremy would have finished with cleansing ales! Really a special night.

Love Melisse. Might even return to SM one day to dine there again.

Sadly, I remember when Leflaive was consistently safe from premox, along with Coche and Raveneau.
I started intermittently experiencing pox’d Leflaives with the 2002’s, then some problematic 2004’s that were terminally reduced, and aafter that the deluge. Like many, frustratingly intermittent…a glorious bottle of 2007 followed by a hideous one. Ah, but when they are on. But not worth the upchqrge if they can’t be trusted. Sic transit gloria.

matt - is this one of your insiders club dinner? :wink:

my first burg splurge was 00 leflaive bbm. love that wine.

hope you are well.


Such a wonderful selection of wines. Beautiful!

Well written. Thanks for letting us experience the wines through your prose.

+1. Thanks.

Hi Alan , in my experience , Leflaives premox problems started in 2001 and became very problematic in 2002 . I had premoxed Pucelles , Batard and Chevalier in 2002 . In 2005 , even the Montrachet was premoxed .
In 2010 , it was still a problem …( having tasted a premoxed Chevalier ! )

Great post for what sounds like a great evening. Appreciate the evocative descriptions - no need to supplement with Strange’s colorful turns of phrase.

Ed: I knew you were going to nail me on that! Kettle calling the pot black, huh? :neutral_face: I can see how the BBM could easily become a gateway Burg drug…

Alan: Not to worry, we had cleansing ales both before and after. Jeremy would have approved.

Charlie: You are correct. I should’ve said only two star in Santa Monica ! :wink:

Thanks others for kind comments.

I’ve been to Melisse for many special occasions and some not so special but just for a great night of food and wine. A couple weeks ago we had a great night there with some fine wines. Matt is doing a great job is is VERY enthusiastic.

'69 Leroy wines can be incredible. The Chambertin several years ago is still memorable.
The 2000 vintage for Leflaive is also a great vintage although I haven’t had the BBM.

Jeremy would gladly join you in a dinner with those wines!

Great wines and write-up Matthew.

Best Regards

Isn’t this simply a fancy-pants way of saying “lobster pasta”?

Bravo, Matthew, I enjoyed your post from top to bottom. Your descriptions of the wines are superb and you otherwise channeled Jeremy well; however, I believe that the cleansing ales must be “punched in” while listening to Mark Knoffler or the like.

Matthew, I’ve finally signed up to this board! Agree with you on the Leroy, def the WOTN, but it was your Bertheau that has stuck with me! Fabulous and a real eye-opener. I’m sorry I “insisted” on the Mugnier m’lady, it was indeed infanticide. I wouldn’t try again before Camille’s 30th! One final note: I was disappointed with the Leflaive. It was perfectly correct as you noted, but given how great the 2000 Chevalier is I expected more energy and precision. We’ll try again on another bottle hopefully soon!