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99 Parker Points: Dominus is a large vineyard, and they have the ability to make a strict selection. The 2002 Dominus gets my nod as the greatest example of this cuvee since the 1991 and 1994. There are 4,500 cases of this 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Merlot blend fashioned from minuscule yields ranging from 1.8 to 2.8 tons of fruit per acre. Christian Moueix told me that the phenolic material was higher analytically in 2002, as were the acids, which surprised everyone. The deep, saturated purple-colored 2002 boasts an extraordinary perfume of roasted coffee intermixed with black currants, cherries, cocoa, cedar, cigar smoke, and new saddle leather. A classic, full-bodied palate possesses great structure, tremendous depth, loads of tannin, and a multilayered, concentrated yet elegant finish. It is difficult to predict when this beauty will plateau in terms of maturity. My best guess is it needs 3-5 years of bottle age, and should last for 25 years.
One of the interesting things at Dominus is that when I do my tastings they open and decant the same wines the day before, and the wines with extended aeration always reveal more complexity and sweeter tannin than the just opened bottles, a characteristic purchasers should take into consideration. Decanting several hours in advance is recommended. Kudos to the brilliant Christian Moueix for these achievements ... the most distinctive and individualist Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines of Napa Valley.
Dominus is created by French winemaker Christian Moueix, who crafted the wines of Chateau Petrus (a bottle of which recently sold at auction as one of the most expensive wines ever sold). The Dominus estate owns the historic Napanook Vineyard that was the base of so many of the historic Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignons of the 1950s and 1960s. It is considered one of the finest reds of Napa Valley.
Christian Moueix’s approach to creating wines of stature and longevity in Napa’s fertile and warm climate wasn’t always as popular as it is today. It started with his search for the perfect piece of land where he could realize his dream of creating a Napa Valley Cabernet to rival the First Growths of Bordeaux. This didn’t happen overnight, in fact the entire vineyard that feeds Dominus was reorganized and replanted over the last three decades to take better advantage of the varieties, expositions and spacing that would best express this esteemed terroir. The introduction of Tod Mostero as vineyard manager and winemaker was another big step in the right direction.
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.
Christian Moueix chose the name ‘Dominus’ (‘lord of the estate’ in Latin) to underscore his longstanding commitment to the land. Rooted in values of quality, stewardship, tradition and innovation, the Dominus Estate team shares a vision of producing distinctive wines that are expressive of this singular terroir.
The vineyard is entirely dry-farmed, allowing the vines to draw deeply on the land’s unique geology. The viticulture and winemaking are undertaken meticulously, with the objective of producing wines that are pure, balanced and complex. Minimal intervention and restraint throughout the process of grape berry selection, fermentation and aging preserve the character of the fruit. The resulting wines, with a tremendous potential for aging, convey the very personality of this historic vineyard.
Known for its complexity and balance, Dominus demonstrates the potential of a wine produced on exceptional terroir. Structured, seamless and perfectly integrated, Dominus is an elegant wine that improves with age.
In 1997, a winery designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron was completed. Due to strict enforcement of Napa county regulations, it is closed to the public.
To celebrate the 30th vintage of Dominus Estate, the 2013 label dons a special portrait of Christian Moueix by South African artist William Kentridge. The 2013 Dominus recalls the ‘portrait series’ of the earliest vintages (1983-1990), when noted artists depicted Christian Moueix on the labels.
In 2021, Dominus Estate received its CCOF ("California Certified Organic Farmers") certification for organic farming practices.
VIneyards: 42 hectares (103 acres)
Soil: Gravelly and clay loam
Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot
- Certified organic farming practices
- Dry-farming (no irrigation)
- Soil tillage (French plow)
- Vine growth management adapted to the climatic conditions
- Manual harvest ; sunny side of the vines picked a few days before the shady side.
- Manual and optical sorting
- Gentle pump-overs and extraction
- 18 months in French oak barrels (40% new)
Dominus Estate continues the tradition of producing a wine that expresses the characteristics of the Napanook Vineyard terroir. With small yields in 2002, fruit flavors were particularly intense.
The 2002 vintage exhibits a profoundness of color – a dark red that is nearly purple. The nose is immediate yet subtle, complex yet refined. It starts with an aroma of leather, continues with an essence of roasted almonds and finishes with a lingering reminiscence of blackberry. This wine is harmonious and balanced; tannins are integrated with flavors of caramel, cacao, cinnamon and warm chutney. The finish is expressive, feminine, aromatic and enduring.
The 2002 blend is comprised of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot.
2002 is a charming wine that will mature in the style of other great Dominus vintages. We recommend decanting the wine prior to serving, to allow it to develop its full potential. This is especially important when serving young Dominus wines.
Vintage Summary:Rainfall in November and December was well above average at 9 inches and 15 inches respectively. The remainder of the winter and spring was rather dry, followed by an average rainfall in May. The winter and spring saw unsettled temperatures; a cool May and warm June affected the bloom, naturally reducing the crop size early in the growing season. Temperatures in July were average, followed by a slightly cooler August and normal September. It was a beautiful summer, without excesses. The season ended with morning fog which assured the last of the grapes to mature gently.
BEGINNING DATE OF HARVEST: September 9
FINAL DATE OF HARVEST: October 16
PERCENTAGE OF NEW BARRELS: 40%
BOTTLING DATE: August 2004
9-LITER CASES PRODUCED: 5000
RELEASE DATE: September 2005