Notes from LA (longish and boring)

One of my two wine resolutions is to write more tasting notes, to formalize my thoughts a bit. So below are a few notes from a recent trip to LA. All wines were drunk non-blind. As always, all notes are free or your money back!

Dinner at Mother Wolf

Jean Claude Bessin Valumr 2017: An absolutely brilliant bottle of Chablis - absolutely prototypical oyster shell and herbal notes with a dense and slightly unctuous palate finishing with power and length. Honestly, one of the best bottles of Chablis I’ve had in a long time. Valmur tends to be slightly broader than I typically prefer Chablis, but when married to this kind of structure and power, I’m quite happy.

Dinner at Kali
Roger Coulon Millesime 2012: A nice and pleasant champagne, but for some reason I’ve just never found Coulon to be my sweet spot. A bit too obvious in the apple and pear flavors for me and without the tension I’d hope for in a 2012. I think for people who really like Pinot dominant champagne without as much power, this could be absolutely great.

Daniel-Etienne Defaix Les Grenouilles 2009 and Daniel-Etienne Defaix Les Grenouilles 2010: These were very similar. As one of my dining companions noted, both had an “exotic” profile, which was especially pronounced in the 2009 (but was also present in the 2010) which became more pronounced with air. It reminded me of an almost elderberry note I sometimes get on Burlotto’s Monvigliero and Acclivi, which goes beyond herbal. The wines weren’t bad, but show signs of ripe and not especially typical Chablis. Speaking of which…

Raveneau Foret 2018: Lots of oak on the nose (not a surprise) and the the front palate has just no stuffing at all - it’s just missing. The wine goes straight into the back palate and finish. There’s some structure on the back end, but it feels mostly derived from oak and, indeed, with some time in the glass one of us remarked “it’s like drinking fancy oak!”. Raveneau obviously has that in spades, but I want wine framed in oak, not the oak. Toward the end of the night the finish developed some pleasant herbal Chablis notes, but this is a blowsy wine with a hole where the front palate should be.

I know it’s fashionable to say that focusing on vintages is overrated, but they do matter. This was an (entirely accidental) flight of 3 warm vintage Chablis and it really showed. We didn’t finish any of these 3 bottles.

Guffens-Heynen Pouilly-Fuisse Tris des Hauts de Vignes 2011: Now this is white Burgundy! Just a bit of age-proper oxidation, no reduction, yellow fruit density on the palate great structure on the back palate and long finish. I’ve called older versions of these wines high end 1er cru Meursault blind several times, and they really do drink like that, though the fruit isn’t really waxy (but who calls 20 year old Pouilly-Fuisse blind?). A fabulous wine that disappeared very fast.

Dujac Gruenchers 1999: The house of wine of the Padishah emperors. There’s not just spice on the nose and palate here, the wine is spicy. Spice on the palate, spice on the finish - spicy! - in what is clearly whole cluster rather than Meo type oak. It’s still quite big and dense - as is vintage appropriate, but the spice stands out. It’s a very good Dujac (the last real Jacques vintage?), though I’d never call this Chambolle blind.

Fourrier Gruenchers 2005: This is much darker on the nose and palate than typical Fourrier, which tends to be very red fruited. Like just about every bottle of 2005 Fourrier I’ve had in the last few years, there’s a sense of density here, but not in a great way - it feels like this wine is sitting on you. Like the 2015 Fourriers, this is a big boy and needs a lot of time before it shows its potential. There’s stuffing here, but it currently feels too muddled to fully appreciate.

Barthod Aux Beaux Bruns 2002: As someone told me, if the 2002 Barthod doesn’t make me a believer, perhaps it’s not for me. Well, this came pretty close. Very bright cherry on the nose and very dense sappy cherry on the palate. There’s not real iron, so we’re in Chambolle, but there’s an odd effect where despite the sappiness there’s still acidity trying to poke through the palate - it’s pretty, but still a touch rustic. A very pretty wine and some of the best of what I think of as the older style of Burgundy.

We finished up with a bottle of Rupert-Leroy at Tabula Rasa, which none of us enjoyed, but I don’t want to write a proper tasting note as I don’t recall the specific cuvee. It was extremely reductive and didn’t have enough fruit to balance the acidity.

Dinner at Anjak Thai

Jacques Lassaigne Le Cotet 2015: Starts out lean, but builds quickly with a fairly typical Lassaigne peach note. As always, lots of body and tension on the palate which comes out with a bit of air.

Ulysse Collin Le Maillons 2017 Base: This drinks more round and slightly more oxidative than the 2018 and could be confused (and I have) with solid vintages of Krug grand cuvee. With more air gets a bit rounder, but a really well made champagne. No VA notes that mar a lot of 2017 base wines (a recent 2017 Nowack was undrinkable). The 2016 and 2017 were a step for this cuvee. Speaking of…

Ulysse Collin Le Maillons 2018 Base: This is another step up and is now more typical of Collin’s other wines, with the note that Sarah Kirstchbaum identified as ginger (and I’m stealing). The 2018 Maillons has more tension, more precision and more spice notes than the broader 2017.

Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb #15 2019: Some lime jolly rancher notes on the nose, but the distinguishing feature of this wine is the viscosity - for a feinherb, this is dense! Very pleasant without being particularly complex, it’s very enjoyable.

Müller-Catoir Haardter Bürgergarten Riesling Spätlese 1989: Lovely wine, absolutely dominated by pineapple notes. The acidity is really well in line with the fruit, in a fantastic spot. Long finish and a great pairing with some of the food. I find that older spatlese can sometimes get somewhat one note, but that doesn’t hurt this wine, which adds intensity to its profile even if doesn’t have a kaleidoscope of flavors.

Dinner at undisclosed location (friend’s house):

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru (2017 base): Very obviously pinot, slightly oxidative and very big and round on the palate, but with great underlying acidity. This isn’t always my type of champagne, but what really stood out here was the complexity on both the nose and the palate - there’s a lot of fruit, and the wine really changed over the course of the evening in fruit profile, starting slightly leaner and developing into some really pretty waxier yellow fruit. This doesn’t have the tension or power of Egly’s millesime, but it’s a really well made wine a producer who really understands pinot noir.

Elvio Cogno Ravera Vigna Elena 2014: I’ve read a number of reviews of this wine as being great for the vintage, and I remain slightly confused by them after my third bottle. It’s solid lighter styled nebbiolo, but like much of the 2014 vintage it’s a lighter not especially complex wine. The nose is quite pretty and very typical for Barolo (again, on the lighter side - some rose petals - there’s no tar here), but the palate is thin and not complex wiht a short finish. I enjoyed prior vintages of this considerably more.


You should write notes more often. Very cogent and perceptive observations.

What did you think of the food? I think we tangled before on WB about NY v LA dining scene :wink:

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Great notes!!

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I really like the food in LA. Anjak is a lot of fun and the duck at Kali was great - a really great pairing for the red burgundy flight.

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No N. Rhone?!

Gotta give the people (you’re having dinner with) what they want :slight_smile:


So this is what you meant when you said you went to LA to relax?

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Glad you liked it. Next time try the duck at Charcoal … Josiah Citrin’s more casual place in Venice. Aged duck rubbed with five spice powder and other aromatics then cooked over wood. To die for!


my understanding is Raveneau uses no new oak.

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I agree! Kevin’s duck is good, Charcoal’s is better.

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Raveneau does use some new oak (though not a lot), but what is your comment apropos of Alan?

my surprise that all you tasted was oak. I’ve not had the 18 Foret but haven’t experienced the significant oak you did and it surprised me. I’ll never know since Raveneau pricing has exceeded my comfort level now.

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Raveneau uses a lot of oak by Chablis standards, I don’t think that’s a controversial statement. It’s really good fancy oak, but it’s there. In warmer vintages, it’s not a surprise it stands out. I didn’t say anything about new oak, which is why I didn’t really understand your comment. How oaky a wine taste isn’t necessarily determined by the percentage of new oak.

Raveneau did make that all new oak cuvee in 86 which I had once, which…man, that’s a fun but odd wine :slight_smile:

But what wine did you bring @Greg_K? /s

Nice notes and meals, thanks for sharing.

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my understanding is that old oak, oak used in several prior vintages, does not impart oak into the wine and is essentially neutral. I can’t distinguish old from new oak, just whether I sense/taste oak or not. Help me understand.

I brought all the bad wines, as always!

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I will let smarter people than me answer this question on a chemical level, but the “neutrality” of oak depends on a lot of factors, like toasting, wood choices, etc. You could try to get really neutral oak, but I don’t think that’s what Raveneau is going for. The wines have always been framed with oak.

To be clear, this is not a knock on Raveneau, which is my favorite producer in Chablis. But the Raveneau effect on the palate is (in my opinion, at least) partially driven by the oak usage. Otherwise Raveneau could use stainless steel like some Chablis producers.

Oak influence tends to be considered neutral by the 3rd fill. But it all depends on how long the barrels have been filled etc. If you’ve had wine in them continuously for over 24 months, I would consider that a neutral barrel after that. And the opposite, if you’ve only had them filled for 6 months out of each vintage, then they might last almost 4 vintages. It’s a sliding scale that kind of falls of a cliff after 2nd year.

As a general rule, American oak imparts heavier early, but integrates quicker than French oak.


Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St John once said that he didn’t consider a barrel “neutral” until it had 5 fills/uses.

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Laurent Charvin, when asked why he uses concrete rather than neutral oak, allegedly replied with something like, “Old wood is still wood.”