LA’s Campanile Rhone style

I have declared (or as we used to say in shrink-talk “I own”) my pretentiously snobby preference for SF dining with it’s vastly superior wine lists and the wonderful way that wait staff manage to be “laid back” (dood) while at the same time attentive to a fault. This does not mean LA does not have restaurants worth the $$ and the time (recently Brentwood Grill gave fine dine). First you must purge the idea that “fine dining” can be found in the ubiquitous steak houses where the fat in the Cut is exceeded by the fat in the check. I mentioned Lou in an earlier entry which is more about wine than food. Then there is Campanile.
angela_lansbury2.jpgHere is a great LA dining establishment with a decades-long track record to justify the reputation. michael-caine-3.jpg
The wine list is what can be expected from a fine LA restaurant with a top-notch sommelier. The wine list is comprehensive covering m-a-n-y regions. And it has value wines. Most importantly, you can get the sensibility in the selections. In a word, quality comes first. Jay Perrin is the man; think the love child of Michael Caine and Angela Lansbury. Charming, wine smart to a fault, engaging and peripatetic. Our waiter was even tempered with Ichabod Crane’s looks and Hannibal Lecter’s savois faire. He was also charming. It’s LA. Everyone is in the business in some way.
The restaurant was two-thirds full on Saturday night peak hours. Writers’ strike hanging heavy over deal makers’ hunting grounds. We drank one supreme Rhone followed by a very nice California Rhone-style wine. Like Campanile, both are well-established “brands” receiving widening consideration from wine drinkers in LA. Here is what we drank.

rostaing-lala98.jpg1998 Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne (>U20, way over):
Our hosts’ first encounter with this wine. To put it on a scale more readily grasped I described it as Mouton of the Rhone. Status always comes first in LA. And the wine held up flavor-wise. Truthfully, I finished my two glasses before the wine opened. It was that stupefyingly good. I cannot even describe the flavors. The weight was medium bodied, the nose aromatic (spice? earth? what???). The color was not very brick-ish. If you must read about this wine (I think you should) then you may want to read below what Geoff Kelley had to say about this wine which he tasted in April 2009 as part of a group of six epic Northern Rhone premium wines. Thank goodness I have a couple more bottles left. If a ton of dough suddenly fell in my lap and I could buy any wine it would be La Landonne. Not a top end burgundy, red or white. La Landonne.

1998  Rostaing Cote Rotie la Landonne   16 ½  ()

Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  Sy 100%;  usually 75% de-stemmed;  18 – 24 months in two barrel sizes,  10% new;  not filtered;  Parker,  2001:  93 Sadly, there are only 7,700 bottles of the 1998 Cote Rotie La Landonne. This spectacular offering boasts a deep purple color in addition to a dense nose that the French would call a confiture of black fruits, particularly plums, blackberries, and black currants. Superb aromatics jump from the glass of this young, unevolved 1998. On the palate, it is deep and dense, with a multi-layered texture, and terrific purity and concentration. It possesses a sweet, concentrated mid-palate, well-integrated tannin, and a long finish. This wine needs a few years of cellaring, but it is thrilling to taste at present. It will drink well young, but will last for 15-20 years.  L-L 2005:  *** Pine / spice bouquet, violets. Mineral, dry-toned, assertive flavour, has a brittle black fruit side. Drinks younger than its age. Clear elegant wine – reflects the Burgundian finesse of its cask days. Fruit is plum / cherry style. Can soften more. 2010 – 14; imported by Glengarry,  Auckland. ]
Ruby and some velvet,  in the middle for colour.  This was ‘the Australian’ in the bunch,  the bouquet showing clear suggestions of baking and slight oxidation,  1960s style,  taking the florals and subtlety out of the wine.  Palate has firm plummy quite rich fruit,  but also some old oak flavours as well as threshold oxidation.  It is shorter and drier on the fruit than most Aussie shiraz,  but a step in that direction.  At a peak,  but no hurry.  GK 04/09

esprit04_bottle.jpg2004 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel $65 on the list: We guzzled the Rostaing so fast a second wine was called for. My criteria for selecting off the wine list were quickly met: the wine will be decent; the price does not exceed 100% markup; if it is a blend, it is not silly (e.g., zin with syrah). loug1.jpgTablas Creek is my favorite domestic winery in terms of excellence in winemaking across the board. I may favor other wineries for certain products but TC is the current Lou Gehrig of wineries. The Esprit red is their top Rhone blend, their supreme “mark”. The wine was probably released around $40. It did not disappoint. Still young with high toned fruit, acid, soft if firm tannins. Lovely nose. Did very well with the entrees (two sliced prime ribs – 10 oz, lamb chops and a reasonably sized New York steak).
Take heed Mastros! Campanile is to LA dining what TC is to California Rhone houses. Best in breed, sensible all round, engaging, smart. Most importantly, sleep that night was undisturbed. In a few words Rhone blows away Bordeaux, and Campanile blows away Mastros.
Whatever happened to Oasis?

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