Dominus Vertical

Last October I kicked off the first in a series of tastings featuring twelve top wines from the ‘86 Bordeaux vintage.  Last evening, Tammy and I attended the second installment in this series featuring a Dominus Vertical. Let’s see, we had just about every vintage of Dominus from ‘83 through and including the ‘94.

The second part of this post covers my individual tasting notes on all of the wines that were served. So, if you like Dominus, read on! What’s so special about this whole series of tastings is that we each take turns offering our best wines to our friends. The Host and the hostess are responsible for contributing all of the wines as well as the cuisine. As guests, we were treated to some excellent gourmet fare together with some truly world class wines. In this case, the wines of Christian Moueix and Dominus. Having recently sampled the profound ‘94 Dominus earlier in the week, I was anxious to get my nose as well as my palate into this vertical!

As the official scribe, I was charged with the enviable task of not only drinking these fine wines, but recording this unique and memorable event. The tasting was hosted by my "bud" Steve and his lovely wife, Rhonda Levy at there impressive new home (also know as Casa de Looie) located here in the hills of northern New Jersey. Dinner consisted of Beef Wellington accompanied by twice-baked potato, glazed carrots, a Cauliflower and Broccoli medley and salad. For dessert, one of the guests prepared a wonderful Cream Brulee. Another guest prepared a terrific Coconut Coffee Tart. Both were served with a ‘85 Rieussec Sauternes. More on that later. For starters we opened with a fabulous truffle pate de foie gras accompanied by a nice selection of three cheeses. Steve then started to pour the first flight of wines. The wines were all opened well in advance of dinner and served in "house standard" twenty two ounce Riedel Vinum’s. Steve opened a total of nine bottles of Dominus just for seven of us. This was not only "way cool", but also very generous of our host.

All the wines were served unblind in flights of two or three. We started with the ‘83 and concluded with the ‘94 vintage. Given the amount of wine that was on hand, we were able to return to and re-taste all the wines over a period several hours. To my notes:

'83 DOMINUS. Medium neck fill showing a medium fullish color. Considering the age of this wine, I expected the ‘83 to be close to maturity. It was not. This example was somewhat backward and ungenerous offering up a medium texture with lean dry tannins. It did show a restrained palate and nose suggesting earth, licorice and black pepper. Still frightfully tannic. Makes me wonder if the fruit will outlive the tannins?

'84 DOMINUS: Low neck fill showing a medium fullish color and a lovely orange/brick colored rim. An expansive bouquet of toasty oak and ripe currant fruits are just superb. In the mouth, the wine is savory and supple showing rich, ripe, cassis and black cherry fruit flavors. The wine is medium concentrated with soft, supple tannins and a certain candied sweetness to it’s taste. By itself, the ‘84 Dominus would be a very good wine. However, in the context of some of the other vintages, it was somewhat of a lightweight. Score it "88".

'85 DOMINUS: Given the vintage, I had expected much more from the ‘85 and came away from this experience a little disappointed. Low neck fill showing an overall medium ruby color. In texture and profile the ‘85 most resembles the ‘84 Dominus. The bouquet is fragrant and offers up penetrating aromas of ripe plums, roasted currants, cassis, cocoa, exotic spices, leather and underlying seductive sweet oak. The initial and mid-palate impressions revealed dry currant flavors, spice and black-cherry fruit. It shows excellent balance and concentration with a medium to medium-full texture. In twenty minutes the wine began to open up and show even better with additional breathing. Drink it today or fifteen years from now. Score it "90".

'86 DOMINUS: With the possible exception of the ‘89, this was my favorite vintage of Dominus from the eighties! Low neck fill showing an overall medium ruby color. The ‘86 Dominus does not possess the depth of fruit or color found in the ‘90, ‘91 ‘92 and ‘94 vintages. However, the wine showed remarkably well offering up a very complex (Bordeaux Like) bouquet and palate impression. Served blind, it could easily pass for a great Bordeaux such as Las Cases. The bouquet offers up a restrained mix of red and black fruits, spice and cedar. Not as fragrant as some of the other wines, however, the palate impression more than made up for that. In the mouth, the wine showed a layered texture that was just outstanding! My initial and mid-palate impressions revealed an outstandingly rich, yet PERFECTLY BALANCED mouth-feel. It is this impeccable balance that separates this wine from its predecessors! The palate impression mirrored the nose with an exceptional mix of rich, super-ripe, sweet fruit, tar and soft dry tannins. Drink it today or ten years from now. Score it "93".

'89 DOMINUS: High neck fill showing a youthful medium fullish color. Like the ‘86, the aromatic impression of the ‘89 is completely dormant. In the mouth, the wine also has a definite "dumbness" to it. It is backward, ungenerous, but so very, very concentrated. The texture here being a bit more angular than well balanced. This is a wine for the year 2005 and beyond. The wine does offers up a medium full to full bodied texture with a layered complexity suggesting dense black fruits and spice. The tannins are somewhat masked by the layer upon layer of concentrated ripe fruit. Hold for five to ten years. Score it "91".

'90 DOMINUS: High neck fill showing an overall deep ruby color. This is a very fragrant wine showing an outstanding perfumed quality. Let’s see there was a stunning, earthy "Gout de Terroir" component to go along with a wonderful concoction of sweet "black berry" like fruit, minerals and a black pepper component. On the palate, the wine offers up gobs of very ripe, fleshy, sweet fruit and underlying oak with a decadently rich, jammy texture that must be experienced to be believed! Drink it today or ten to fifteen years down the road! Score it "97/98"

'91 DOMINUS: Medium-high neck fill. My second observation was the stunning depth of color. Very dark, dense, almost syrup-like shades of black and purple were readily perceptible. Over the course of dinner the bouquet evolved from good to great to profound! The bouquet offers up a gorgeous mix of (highly extracted) super ripe black fruits, plums, cocoa, exotic spices, sweet oak, and earthy fragrances. In the mouth, the wine is literally oozing with rich, ripe, jammy currant flavors and that hallmark Dominus mouth-feel. Layer upon layer of dense fruit masks the mountain of tannins. Words like syrup jelly and port like best describe this wines texture. Simply put, it’s texture and depth of fruit make the ‘91 Dominus unmistakably recognizable! Score it "98/99".

'92 DOMINUS: High neck fill showing a deep, dark ruby color. One whiff and I was convinced that the ‘92 possessed the best nose of the evening. Not so, the ‘90 and ‘91 were just beginning to show their stuff! The ‘92 Dominus started out well, but in twenty minutes, the wine began to close down for the remainder of the evening. Specifically, the tannins were fullish and were also significantly more angular then the last time I sampled it. There is, however, in addition to the tannins, plenty of power, concentrated fruit, extract and grip for the long haul. Hold for five to ten years. Score it "93".

'94 DOMINUS: High neck fill showing an overall saturated black and purple color. This was again my second experience with the ‘94 in less than a week. Lots of oak, cassis and dense black fruit aromas. Much more evolved aromatically than previous examples. In the mouth, the wine a shows a stunning freshness that was just outstanding. It is also super concentrated with a opulent, fleshy, jammy quality that is reminiscent of the great ‘91. Drink it today or twenty years from now. Score it "97/98".

It’s a tough call, but I think my favorites of the evening were the ‘91 Dominus followed ever so closely by the ‘90, ‘94, ‘92, ‘86 and ‘89. There you have it!