One of the first wines I tasted as an employee of HDH was a bottle of 2009 Dominus. As a Northern California native and a graduate of the University of California, Davis, I was already familiar (and enamored) with an array of Golden State wines, most of which were made by Californian or American winemakers (Turley, Ridge, Montelena, etc.) Dominus, however, presented me with the opportunity to see what a renowned French proprietor and French winemaking team could do with pristine Napa Valley terroir. And while the 2009 is still quite young, I wasn’t disappointed. The ’09 Dominus possessed all of the opulence and richness I’d come to expect and love from Californian wines, but with an underlying elegance that was decidedly old world.
Proprietor Christian Moueix, famous for his work at Château Pétrus, founded Dominus with the goal of challenging his own French assumptions about Californian wine. Moueix initially saw the potential of winemaking in the Napa valley while attending school at UC Davis in the 1960s (one of the only great French wine proprietors to do so). Though he returned to France to manage his family’s vineyards (including Pétrus) after graduating, Christian kept an eye on California, and ultimately purchased the famous Napanook estate in 1982.
As one of the first vineyards planted in the Napa Valley, Dominus’s Napanook vineyard (made famous in the mid 1900′s by John Daniel’s Inglenook) is a historical landmark with an ideal soil and climate for growing Bordelaise varietals. Moueix and his all-star French winemaking team (including famous Bordeaux oenologist Jean-Claude Berrouet, and French winemaker Boris Champy) demonstrate the utmost respect for this special terroir. Viticulture practices at Dominus are based on painstaking attention to detail. The estate practices dry farming—relying on natural sources of water rather than artificially irrigating the vines—which creates fruit that is deeply connected to its terroir. These grapes are then hand-harvested with small French shears in order to avoid bruising, and transformed into wine using practices that emphasize purity, balance and restraint. The resulting wines epitomize complexity, balance and elegance, integrating Napa terroir with Bordelaise style.
Christian Moueix is heralded throughout the winemaking world for his relentless quest for perfection in each step of his estates’ endeavors, from the grapes in the vineyards to the wine in the glass. These values are evident throughout the Dominus estate. Dominus offers those enamored with the Merlot-based wines of Pétrus a chance to see Moueix’s work with other Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignoin, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot) at a much more approachable price point. Moreover, the wines of Dominus give drinkers the chance to experience an ideal marriage of old world tradition and practices with the complexity of Napa Valley soil and fruit. For those looking for an introduction to the estate, I’d recommend the 2009 or 2007 Dominus, which are both stellar wines at almost half the price of the 2010. Review a full list of our retail inventory of Dominus here.