Featured Producer & Wine (s) on Rick's WineSite Journal

Producer: Dominus Estate
Location: 2570 Napanook Road
Yountville, CA 94599
Appellation: Napa Valley
Featured Wine (s):

Dominus Napa Valley Red Wine,
Napanook Napa Valley Red Wine. 

Proprietor: Christian Moueix
Marketing: Edouard Moueix


Edouard Moueix at left.
Dominus Estate 1983 Dominus Estate 1984 Dominus Estate 1985 Dominus Estate 1986 Dominus Estate 1987
Dominus Estate 1988 Dominus Estate 1989 Dominus Estate 1990    
     Dominus Estate Napa Valley 2003 label Dominus Estate Proprietary Red Wine 2005 Magnum label  
Dominus Estate 1983 Dominus Estate 1984 Dominus Estate 1985 Dominus Estate 1987  
Dominus Estate 1988 Dominus Estate 1989  
Dominus Estate Napa Valley 2003 label    
Journal entries: Date, Wine, Vintage, Rating, Price, Comments
October 30, 2008 - Dominus Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - RP 96 RM 95 From Magnum. Robert Parker review: The 2005 Dominus (a cuvee of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest equal parts Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) has come of age, and is one of the strongest efforts they’ve made. It is possibly the best Dominus since the 2001, and perhaps even the 1997 or 1991. A beautiful, sweet nose of roasted coffee interwoven with kirsch, black currant, cedar, and spice box emerges from this deep ruby/purple-colored wine. The wine has fabulous intensity, a layered,  opulent, full-bodied mouthfeel, well-integrated acidity, and a stunningly long finish. The layering of this wine as it builds incrementally on the palate is something to behold. An outstanding, sexy, ageworthy Dominus, it will benefit from 2-3 years of cellaring, and last for at least 25 or 30 years. When I am tasting at Dominus, they always present a wine opened the day before and decanted, and one just opened, and the extended aeration version always seems to be the better example of the wine, so plenty of decanting seems to be in order.; I was pleasantly surprised this wine was so approachable so young, and so delightful upon opening. BYOB didnt allow long decanting/ breathing time yet it was open, fruit filled, firm, long, and yes it did evolve over the evening to reveal layers of dark fruit and subtle hints of other exotic nuances.
Tasted BYOB at the Tower Club in McLean w/ L, the K's and the C's.
July 28, 2008 - Dominus Estate Napa Valley 2003 - Full bodied, firm, eucalyptus, cedar, black fruit, black cherry, leather, anise and smoke, with polished tannin finish. Tasted w/ Ambassador SMM & KD at Capitol Grill in DC.
Dec 8, 2005 - An evening and Dominus Vertical Tasting with Edouard Moueix at Binny's Lakeview Catacombs tasting room.

Tasting Notes -

The Dominus 1996 resulted from a perfect year revealing eucalyptus, mint, cedar, cassis, and soft tannins - much like a soft 1991. Nicely balanced fruit, structure, and acidity. RM rating 92

The Dominus 1997 will need long a time and is not yet approachable, hence is not being tasted tonight.

The Dominus 1998 vintage has over extraction that compensates for less richness in the fruit - ready to drink early - lighter, lackinq roundness and structure of the bigger vintages. It is characterized more as  'pretty', more earthy, slightly minty. It reveals less of the intense deep rich purple color and possesses an almost slight brownish edge. RM rating 88.

The Dominus 1999  is more like the 1997 & the 2002 - fuller, more dense, still tight. It is more suited to the 'American style or palate.. More fruit & naturally extracted.  Dry winter & spring - tiny berries - ratio of juice to skin - more 50:50 vs normal 1/3 - 2/3. The 99 is firm, a bit smoky with a hint of mocha! RM rating 91

The Dominus 2000 possesses more currant fruit and is slightly more polished than others. The 2000 uneven winter thru harvest ... like the 98 but more structure & fruit - slightly earthy, slight subtle cedar & eucalyptus. .. very soft long tannins. After an even year - had high heat in last week resulting in a loss of 40% of juice in two days.

The Dominus 2001 is tighter, firm, a bit lighter, has a smoky currant ala 91 & 94. It is round and even with big soft even tannins - The 2001 is characteristic of the 91 & 94 vintages - malolactic acid - ala French for milk - 'soft' acid. RM rating 93.

The Dominus 2002 vintage is forward fruit - full rich and dense currant and plum, polished and smooth! RM rating 93

Other Dominus tastings:
Feb 22, 2003 - 1999 Dominus typically resembled a young Bordeaux needing much more time to reveal its fruit. See pictures of the evening and more comments on my FORUM.
Sept 21, 2002 - Chicago Napa Wine Night - 02 - Dominus Estate 1986 RM 91 WS 88 RMP 93 ($70 in '88) Four blockbusters that delivered! The Dunn opened with a punch of earthy mineral currant cherry with tightly wound tannins. Consensus favorite. The fruit unfolded even more thruout the night ending with the biggest finish. Red Rock Terrace was the next consensus favorite  with full body, rigid backbone, mineral, herb, cherry and hint of licorice.  Gravelly Meadow was slightly more subtle with a touch more fruit. These two traded places thru-out the night. Dominus took three hours to open but when it did, it exploded with floral fruit.
~1992 - Dominus Estate Napa Valley 1988 - WS87 $45, Dec 15, 1992 WS review, " Earthy, gamy aromas and flavors dominate this medium-weight, silky-textured wine that hints at leather and tobacco on the finish. Has character, but needs time for the currant flavor to emerge. Drink from 1996." Dominus Estate Napa Valley 1986 - WS88 $44, Dec 15, 1996 WS review, "Starts out earthy and leathery, in a rugged style, but works its way into more complex mineral, currant and cedar flavors and finishes with a cedary, earthy note and a good dose of currant flavor. Ready now.--1986 California Cabernet horizontal. (JL)"  These are bordeaux style wines from Christian Moueix of Chateau Petrus fame that need to be treated like a bordeaux in terms of aging rather than the Napa style wines that provide instant or earlier gratification. I tasted this wine from my case several times over the years waiting for it to open and be approachable. It was finally ready in 2002 at our Chicago Napa Wine Night - 02.

Other notes about the history and heritage of Dominus, a family wine business since 1937 - 3rd generation based in St Emilion, Bordeaux - held as many as 21  vineyards, currently have 11 including the famed Petrus, Chateau Magdelaine, and Trontanroy. Also distribute internationally about 60-70 labels - all from the right bank of Bordeaux. The company has 169 employees.

Christian attended UC Davis in 1968-69 and joined the business in 1970. He was introduced to Robert Daniels the owner of the Napanook Vineyard in Napa by Robert Mondavi. The property was one of the oldest in Napa Valley dating back to George Yount who commanded the fort built in Youtville named for him. He planted the  vineyard for troops on the Napanook site that was bordered by 4 large oaks on the corners, that stand to this day. John Daniels bought from the site from Inglenook who eventually sold out to Coppola.The Fort was there to defend against Chief Caymus, the famous indian chief in the Napa Valley.

Robert Mondavi was famous for promoting Napa to the rest of the world and wanted to gain the respect of the world's best producers. He recruited Baron Phillip Rothschild of Mouton Rothschild to join him in his Opus One venture. He recruited Christian Moueix of the famed Chateau Petrus to take up in Napa Valley and introduced him to the Napanook property.

While the first vintaqe of Dominus was in 1983, they consider the 1991 to be the first 'true' vintaqe. Moueix emphasizes that it takes years to learn the vineyard and the terroir and that it will take at least twenty more years to start to understand this one as well. He continuously emphasizes that they are farmers not winemakers! He implies that the vines are from some special possibly famous lineage perhaps from outside the US.

Dominus is a 50:50 joint venture until Moueix bought out Robin Lail and her sister in 1996 to take sole control of the 124 acre property. Much of the fruit was sold under contracts and in bulk while the best is kept for the prime blend and brand. Different blocks produces different fruit for the Napanook blend. The property is known for classic fruit that is characteristic of the Mayacamas Moutain range - forest smells, minty chocolate, intense fruit, a hint of eucalyptus - reflections of the terrior of the Mayacaymas. Strive for balance! Fruit structure acidity.

There was no Dominus for the 1993 vintage, just like there was no 1991 Bordeaux wines produced, as in 2002. "It only takes one bad vintage to undermine a brand and reputation that took a lifetime to build''.

Bordeaux, there is more water hence they plant  vines closer to compete for the nutrients. They prune - leaving 1 shoot to carry fruit the next year and 1 'return' (shoot) for next year! In Napa - leave 4 shoots  - richer soil & more sun - allows for and can support more fruit per vine. The Napa vineyard contains some 'dead' soils - volcanic rock- clay . Dominus sells off what grows on the clay ground.

Wine expression of fruit - should NOT reflect oak or vanilla! French wines less structure.

Dominus wines need to be decanted to provide oxygen - give it 6 hours. Most Dominus will express themselves after a couple hours.

In Bordeaux they have 60 people in vineyards for 60 days manicurinq the vines.

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