20 Years of Dominus – Part 1

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Cabernet Sauvignon, Dominus, Napa, Red Wine, USA

Last night, I had the enormous privilege to be invited to a once in a life-time kind of tasting right here in the heart of Austin. Local collector and wine maven Brian Owens and his friend Mark Paul (owner and chef of Wink Restaurant) hosted a 20 year Vertical of Dominus, starting with vintage 1983 and ending with vintage 2003 (no Dominus was made in 1993, so the math does make sense). Instead of writing one huge post, I decided to parcel this event into multiple posts. Partly because it’s easier for me that way, but mostly because that’s the only way to do this tasting justice and make it enjoyable for you, the reader, to follow along.

About the hosts and occasion:

I cannot stress enough that all the wine was donated by Brian Owens, and that the food, staff resources and venue were donated by Mark Paul of Wink Restaurant. All attendants (except for the media table that I sat on) had paid for a seat/table at the tasting, and all the proceeds were raised for the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas (http://www.winefoodfoundation.org).

About Dominus:

Dominus was founded and has been run by Frenchman Christian Moueix (the manager of JP Moueix wines, owning Petrus, Trotanoy, Magdelaine and many others) with his first vintage being 1983. The idea at the time was to create a wine in California that would rival the finest wines of Bordeaux. Consequently, much of the wine produced at this estate is in a more restrained, elegant, and finesse style that lends itself to consumption with food and good conversation. Over the years, Dominus has maintained a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, although Petit Verdot has been blended in, in small amounts since the early 90s. In some vintages like 1992, Cabernet Sauvignon only made for about 50% of the blend while in other vintages, Dominus has as much as 92% Cabernet Sauvignon in such recent vintages as 2004.

About the setup:

The tasting was the result of many years of Brian and Mark conceptualizing and creating ideas on how best to pull such a tasting off. All vintages were poured from oldest to youngest in each flight and were grouped as follows:

Flight 1: Teaser flight (1983, 1988, 1994, 1999)

Flight 2: 1980s Dominus (1984, 1985, 1986, 1987)

Flight 3: Early 1990s (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992)

Flight 4: Mid 1990s (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998)

Flight 5: Early 2000s (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)

Finish: 1991 Quinta do Noval Nacional

In order to have each wine show at its best, Brian and Mark enlisted the help of Devon Broglie of Whole Foods, who had previously earned the title 2006 Texas Best Sommelier. Devon opened, inspected, tasted, and made decanting decisions on all 20 wines. He also helped the staff properly pour the wines in the correct order and was involved in some of the ceremonial duties. All wines were double decanted by gently pouring the wine into a decanter, rinsing the bottle with filtered water, drying it, and pouring the wine back into its original bottle after it had had the proper decanting time.

Each flight was specifically paired with matching food to highlight the characteristics of unique groups of Dominus vintages. We were served one flight of wines per course (4 wines per course). At the conclusion of each course, glasses were emptied and the next flight was poured.

About the food:

The food was absolutely delicious. Rabbit rillette, duck confit, wild boar, lamb and antelope all were all prepared lovingly and creatively.

About the participants:

Participation at this event was split between three distinct groups. Those who had won a bid for a seat/table at auction, those who were members of the press (like yours truly), and those who are close friends of Brian’s who might not fit in one of the other two categories. Among the press dignitaries present (tongue firmly planted in cheek) were local bloggers like John GL of the Alcoholian, Anthonia Garcia of Wine is Divine, and Greg Randle of The Good Taste Report (click on any of the links to see their blogs). The most notable members of our press table was Rebecca Murphy, the founder of the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition and owner of Vintage Productions, LLC, along with a couple of local food and wine and lifestyle magazines.

The kick-off:

All participants assembled at Wink Restaurant (http://www.winkrestaurant.com) at 3:30pm and the festivities were kicked off at Wink Wine Bar by opening some palate cleansing, very enjoyable 1996 Vilmart Cuvee Creation.

To be continued:

The food and wines were amazing yesterday, and if you follow my posts over the next few days, I’m sure you will agree. Part 2 to follow soon. I will also post pictures and add pictures from other participants later, so feel free to stop by occasionally to check in.

A sante.

Steffen Pelz

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I am not a professional wine taster, nor do I have any professional training in the wine trade. I am a wine enthusiast who has spent countless hours tasting wines of many different styles. My palate is not aligned with a single wine critic, and I call all wines "as I taste them". My site is a source of tasting notes and wine recommendations as well as warnings without conflict of interest. You'll just have to figure out how your palate aligns with mine. My palate generally tends to veer towards Old-World wines that put a premium on terroir and lovely balance and finesse, rather than raw power...please keep that in mind as you read my notes.

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