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Dominus Estate, Yountville, California, was established in 1983 by Christian Moueix. Situated on the famed Napanook vineyard, it was, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the source of fruit for some of the finest Napa Valley wines. In fact, the vineyard’s history can be traced back to Napa Valley’s beginnings, when in 1838 George Yount, for whom the town of Yountville was named, first planted grapevines there. Today, this historic vineyard produces three wines: Dominus, its flagship, Napanook, and Othello.
A vivid expression of its unique site, Dominus is a profound and powerful wine, exemplifying purity. With articulated fruit and polished tannins, the wine has elegance, complexity, great length and improves with age.
AG 98: The 2019 Dominus is shockingly primary. A wine of tremendous density and power, the 2019 is also a wine for readers who can be patient, as it won't be ready to drink for another 10-15 years! Dark fruit, leather, tobacco, incense, dried herbs and scorched earth lend striking complexity. The 2019 is a huge wine that needs time to come into its own. This is impressive, to say the least.
WA 98: The 2019 Dominus is blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc, aged in 40% new French oak. Impressively dark-hued in the glass, it yields scents of cherries and cassis on the nose—or is it black cherries and redcurrants? Subtle notes of mocha, pencil shavings and almost Graves-like earthiness wind through the concentrated, medium to full-bodied palate, giving it a sense of savory gravitas, while the finish is silky and long, leaving a lingering residue of soft tannins and mouthwatering freshness.
JS 98: Lots of crushed stone, lead pencil and licorice aromas that are extremely aromatic and bright. Black cherries, cloves and purple fruit, too. Full body and a round and ripe center-palate with a juicy interior. It opens at the end with a savory and juicy finish. Layered and beautiful. Drinkable now, but better in three or four years.
WA 99+: Very deep garnet-purple colored, the 2018 Dominus slowly emerges from the glass with profound notes of blackcurrant cordial, ripe black plums, boysenberries and Black Forest cake with hints of violets, star anise, cracked black pepper, raspberry leaves and pencil lead, plus a touch of garrigue. Medium to full-bodied, the palate delivers impactful black fruit layers, creating a beguiling sense of richness that is beautifully countered by invigorating freshness and great poise, framed by super ripe, plush tannins and beautiful tension, finishing on a lingering fragrant earth note and, finally, lots of mineral sparks. For all that it is at the moment, one cannot help but feel that this 2018 is holding something back. Give it a good five years in bottle, at least, and then get set for what I suspect will be a mind-blowing transformation over the next 30 years+.
JS 100: This is incredible on the nose, offering hot stones, blackcurrants, iodine and wet earth. Full-bodied with a tight center palate, then it opens with a tannin structure that is weightless and spreads across the palate. Totally integrated on the palate. This is a magic-carpet wine. Really incredible. One of the reference points for the vintage. Drinkable now and please try a bottle, but it’s one for the cellar.
WA 97+: There was about 50% of a normal crop this year for the 2017 Dominus, due to strict selection. Grapes were harvested from September 21 to October 3 and the wine was bottled in June 2019. This year the blend is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, aged in 40% new French oak barrels. Very deep purple-black in color, it sashays nonchalantly out of the glass with graceful notions of potpourri, forest floor, crushed rocks, Ceylon tea and licorice with a core of black currant cordial, chocolate-covered cherries, mulberries and preserved plums plus a waft of garrigue. Full-bodied, the palate has a beautifully impactful, wonderfully quiet intensity of black and blue fruits with loads of floral and spicy sparks, framed by firm yet plush tannins, finishing with long-lasting earthy notes. 2,800 cases were made.
JS 97: Very intense aromas of fruit, yet complex subtlety. Blue fruit, licorice and blackberries with flowers and perfumes. Full-bodied, round and chewy with black tea, currants and hints of leather and incense. Coffee undertones. Extremely long and exciting. Available April 2020. Drink in 2022.
AG 97: The 2016 Dominus is a dark, somber wine. I don't quite see the explosive energy of the 2013 or 2010, not the seductiveness of the 2012, but the 2016 has a distinct charm that is all its own. Quite frankly, I can't remember a young Dominus with this combination of fruit density, freshness and polished tannins. A huge center of fruit emerge with time in the glass in a big, large-scaled Dominus that should provide readers with a long drinking window of pure pleasure once some of the baby fat wears off.
WA 100: A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot and 8% Cabernet Franc aged in 40% new oak, the 2016 Proprietary Red Wine is deep purple-black in color and quite reticent at this youthful stage to begin, offering up subtle notions of potpourri, Indian spices, cigar box and iron ore over a core of crushed blackberries and black cherries with intermittent wafts of black and red currants, new leather and smoked meats. The palate is medium to full-bodied with a densely packed mid-palate and oodles of freshness framed by very ripe, finely grained tannins and laced with compelling earthy accents. It offers incredible vibrancy with tons of black and red fruit sparkle in the mid-palate leading to a provocative mineral element on the very long finish. If I could give more than 100 for this one, I would. To be released in May 2019.
JS 98: The opulence of fresh flowers and dark fruit is so impressive. There’s so much going on, from flowers to currants. The palate is full and powerful, but what impresses most are the ripe tannins and the amazing poise at the finish. Tightens down at the end. A blend of 84 per cent cabernet sauvignon, eight per cent petit verdot and eight per cent cabernet franc. Drink in 2021.
AG 96: The 2014 Dominus is endowed with tons of depth, power and muscle. Black cherry, plum, smoke, menthol, licorice, chocolate, dried herbs and dark spices are all pushed forward. Deep, pliant and exquisitely layered, the 2014 possesses tons of concentration and mid-palate depth. Like so many wines in this vintage, the 2014 comes across as a hybrid of 2013 and 2012. I very much like the energy and focus in this wine. This is a fabulous wine in every way. With time in the glass, the flavors gain in brightness and focus. There is certainly much to look forward to.
WA 97: The 2014s, where the production of Napanook was only 2,200 cases and Dominus slightly more than the 2015 at 4,000 cases, was another early harvest, although somewhat later than 2015. The 2014 Dominus, which is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot really struts its stuff. Moueix’s belief in dry farming seems to be paying off with stronger and stronger vintages, each successive year, and the 2014 is a sexy, opulent, layered, multidimensional wine with notes of red and blackcurrant, cedar wood, tobacco leaf , spice box and licorice. The color is a dense plum/ruby/purple, much like the Napanook. This is a beauty that is already drinking gorgeously – as most 2014s are – and will continue to evolve for 25 or so years.
JS 98: Loads of dark tobacco aromas with blackcurrants and black olives. Boysenberries, too. Full to medium body, ultra-fine tannins and lots of flavors of smoke, dried roasted chillis, black truffles, mushrooms and fruit. Bright acidity on the finish. Sexy and subtle austerity. Alluring. Very approachable now but better in 2021.
AG 98+: The 2012 Dominus is a real head-turner. Flashy, voluptuous and intense, but with tons of underlying concentration, the 2012 is simply magnificent. A towering, vertical Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Dominus is one of the most concentrated wines of the vintage, yet it also maintains considerable freshness, the signature of a late-ripening vintage with no heat spikes. Sweet red cherry, raspberry and floral notes add lift on the perfumed, expressive finish.
WA 98+: The exuberance and drama in the stunning nose of the dense plum-colored 2012 Dominus offers up notes of Asian spice, ripe, black currants, kirsch, tobacco leaf and Christmas fruitcake. It is full-bodied and opulent, with no hard edges, a seamless integration of acidity, wood and tannin and a density and richness that are built to go on for 25-30 years.
JS 98: Fabulous purity and clarity of fruit. Black currants, blackberries and violets. Full body, big soft tannins and a chocolate, hazelnut and dark fruit character. Some hot stones too. Ripe, velvety and fruity finish. Better in 2020 but delicious to drink now. Wonderful Dominus.