What a foggy morning in Los Angeles today, not so much from the weather but from a slightly exaggerated evening last night. I had dinner at Sona (which is recent guest blogger David Myers' restaurant) with L.A.’s Big Bob Golbahar of Twenty Twenty Wine Merchants, who brought no less than six wines to try. And only three of us were at the table.
"I was trying to think of a theme to the evening," he said, after he rearranged a romantic dinner with his wife. He came up with the idea of drinking Wines of the Year that I might have rated in the beginning. He brought: 1985 Lynch-Bages, 1994 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port, 1998 Ornellaia, 1999 E. Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2001 Rieussec and 2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova.
I hadn’t, in fact, rated two of the wines, the Guigal and the Lynch-Bages, in the beginning, but that didn’t stop us from trying them all as well as some 1995 Jean-Marc Boillot Puligny-Montrachet Champ-Canet and 2002 Sine Qua Non Whispering E. The latter was classic quality and reminded me of a top-class Corton-Charlemagne with its layers of honey, apple and floral character. It is a brick house of a white wine. The Boillot was also classic, 95 points (non-blind--as is the case for all scores I gave wines at this dinner), and showed wonderful freshness with apple, honey, mineral and cream character. It had great length.
Which of the Wines of the Year were the best? The 2001 Rieussec was the atomic bomb, and Sona matched the powerful, refined sweet wine with a fabulous dish of kelp-cured foie gras (done sautéed as well as in a pâté) accompanied with date purée, Asian pear-kelp salad and pineapple guava sorbet. The wine is 100 points through and through. So was the dish.
The Casanova was an even better bottle than I had on Monday at a new Italian restaurant that will remain nameless due to opening jitters. The wine last night was fuller, richer and more generous. I think that decanting an hour before we drank it really helped. It was layered and seamless with wonderful fruit and mineral character. What a wine. I also loved the Ornellaia, 97 points last night. It showed such class and complexity, with currant, cedar, berry and light cream aromas and flavors. It went on and on. Wonderful now, but it has a long life ahead of it. The 1994 Taylor was in half-bottle and was a delicious Vintage Port, with lots of currant, blackberry and cherry on the nose and palate. It was still a little disjointed though on the palate. Not ready yet. Give it another five years. 98 points.
Wish I could say the same for the 1999 E. Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a very good wine but not going anywhere. I suggest drinking it immediately. The 1985 Lynch-Bages is holding on, but there was some debate at our table. My California wine-loving friend and movie director James Orr said that it was dead. He just didn’t like the herbal character in the wine, which I thought was more currant bush and lead pencil in aroma and flavor. Typical claret, old boy! I gave the wine 88 points. I have had better bottles.
I have to say a few words about Sona. The place is a jewel. I am not sure Los Angeles knows how talented David Myers is. I don’t even think David does, after reading his blogs. I would much rather eat at his restaurant than any restaurant of Pierre Gagnaire, whom he apparently idolizes. Myers' food is hypercreative yet precise. All the super, and sometimes exotic, ingredients work together, compared to chefs like Gagnaire who play gastronomic tug-of-war with each plate. Plus, Sona’s wine list, a Grand Award winner, is superb, and sommelier Mark Mendoza provides great wine service.
My favorite dish of the night was the small pieces of roasted Maine lobster over a stinging nettle risotto with tiny pieces of succulent pork belly and hedgehog mushrooms. My mouth is watering as I write this. The Brunello was to die for with the dish. In fact, if you go to Sona, eat anything with pork belly.
We rolled out of the restaurant on a vinous and gastronomic high and rallied at Bin 8945, the hipster wine bar in West Hollywood, for a cigar and to finish off the Taylor. Wine bars may be on their way back in fashion here if they follow Bin 8945 owner David Haskell’s vision. Stay tuned ...
Erin Bakonyvari — Imaichi, Japan — February 9, 2007 7:52pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — February 9, 2007 7:55pm ET
James Suckling — — February 9, 2007 7:58pm ET
Bob Golbahar — Los Angeles — February 10, 2007 5:59pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — February 10, 2007 8:13pm ET
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