I have always loved Dominus and, as I had 12 vintages sitting in my cellar, I decided that it would make an interesting vertical tasting. Towards that end I arranged to host such a tasting at Vintage Vino Wine Bar on Tuesday, March 29, and invited a few of my friends to participate. Invitees were welcomed into the establishment with flutes of Duval Leroy champagne.
I have followed Dominus Estate and its wines over the years and was aware of the decade-specific differences in styles : the 1980s had more tannic structure and acid; the wines of the 1990s had riper fruit and lower acid; and Merlot was eliminated from the blend beginning in 2002.
In setting up the tasting I decided to go with four flights of three wines each. The youngest wines were placed in the first flight as they would be one-dimensional in style and fairly tight (I feel that Dominus needs a minimum of 10 -15 years to start showing its true character). The second flight would contain the wines of the 1980s and the third flight would contain the 1990s wines. Steve A., one of my friends, brought along a bottle of 1987 and I stuck that into Flight 2. I decanted the first flight 6 1/2 hours before the tasting and the third and fourth flights 1.5 hours later.
My notes from the tasting are provided below.
2005 Still fairly tight. Some coffee, blackcurrants, and a slight hint of vanilla. All of the wines in this flight would have benefited from a 24-hour decant. When you visit Dominus Estate, they serve one bottle that has been decanted for 24 hours and another is poured right out of the bottle. When I visited the winery, we tasted a 1996 that was decanted 24 hours previously and it tasted a lot better than the freshly opened bottle. 94 points
2006 Black fruits, spicebox, earth. Nice finish on the palate but still some hard tannins on the back end. This should round out beautifully over time. 95 points
2007 Wow. Nose of sweet ripe red fruits and licorice. Richer and denser on the palate than both the 2005 and the 2006. I feel that this could even top the legendary 1994. My favorite and the groups wine of the flight (WOTF). 97 points
Again, I think that all of these wines would have shown better if we could have provided more decant time.
1983 Sweet red fruits, cedar, dried herb, some mushroom. On the palate, nice weight. Not too astringent. Probably the best 1983 California wine that I have tried and still going strong. 92 points
1984 Nose of ripe red fruit, more earthy than the others in the flight. Sweet fruit, coffee, tobacco and earth in the mouth.This was my fifth bottle opened out of a wood 6 pk in 9 months. Groups WOTF 94 pts
1985 Classic Bordeaux. Nose of black fruits, cedar, touch of coffee and mint. Sweet black fruits and a nice elegant finish on the palate. I have always liked the 1985 vintage in California. My favorite of the flight by a hair. 94+ points
1986 (Thank you Steve for bringing this ) This wine has always reminded me of an older-style Bordeaux. This had nice black fruits, cedar, mint and some of us got a little curry in the nose. The wine really showed well tonight. 94 points
1987 Decent amount of red fruits and cedar. A touch of mushroom but I could feel the acid. The finish seemed more astringent than the other vintages. My least favorite of the flight. 90 points
1992 Beautiful nose of cassis fruits, cedar, earth, and coffee. Nicely balanced with good fruit structure. This was our group's WOTF. 95 points
1996 Exhibits a nose of black fruits, earth, mint, and black olive. On the palate, rich fruit, coffee, spice box. This wine seemed richer than the 1992 and is beautifully balanced. My favorite of the flight. 96 points
1990 Red and black fruits, cedar, and tobacco. It seemed more rustic in style and not as rich and opulent as it was a few years ago when I had last tried it. This wine was easily outclassed in this flight. 94 points
1991 This has always been my favorite Dominus vintage. I have consumed more than a dozen bottles over the years and still have four 6pks left. I have put this wine in first Growth flights and it is never picked out as a California wine and is always one of the favorite wines in the flight. Tonight, massive sweet jammy fruits, spice box, and leather. A mix between a Pomerol and a Paulliac. The finish kept building throughout the night. Always one of the greatest California wines ever made. This was also the first Dominus that was made without any Merlot in the blend. 98 points
1994 Wow! I have not tried the 1994 in quite sometime. It always seemed to have a riper fruit and lower acidity feel to it compared to the 1991; and seemed more California-like. But tonight this wine has really blossomed into something very special. Yes it was richer and more opulent than the 1991. Huge ripe black fruits, spice, earth and truffle with amazing texture and a super long finish. This was the groups' WOTN. 99 points
The wines showed really well and a good time was had by all. The one thing that everyone noticed throughout the tasting was how Bordeaux-like the wines appeared.