Dominus Estate Napa Valley California Wine Cabernet Sauvignon

Everything about Dominus Estate, Napa Valley California Cabernet Sauvignon wine producer profile, wine tasting notes, wine and food pairing tips, best vintages, history of the property, information on their wine making techniques, terroir and soil. You can also read about the Grapes used for California wine and learn about the extensive History of Napa Valley, California Wines

Dominus History, Overview

The vineyards of Dominus Estate have connections to the original history of the Napa Valley as they date back to the mid 1850’s, or even earlier, when it was first cultivated. At the time, it was known as the Napanook vineyard. The beginning of the modern era for the estate starts when the vineyard was purchased by John Daniels. John Daniels remains one of the true pioneers in Napa Valley for his efforts during the 1940’s, due to his time at the famous Inglenook estate.

The next chapter in the tale of Dominus Estate begins in the late 1960’s. Christian Moueix who is better known for his work in Pomerol with family owned properties like, Petrus, Chateau Trotanoy and Chateau La Fleur Petrus fell in love with California when he was a graduate student at UC Davis, studying oenology in 1968 and 1969. At the time, to learn more about viticulture practices in the Golden State, Christian Moueix worked at Beaulieu Vineyards in 1968 during the harvest. Fortunately, 1968 turned out to be perhaps the best vintage of the decade in California!

By the time 1982 rolled around, Christian Moueix formed a partnership with Robin Lail and Marcia Smith, the daughters of the well-known and respected John Daniels. Robin Lail and Marcia Smith inherited the vineyards from their father that were to become Dominus Estate. The new trio’s debut vintage took place the following year in 1983. In the formative years for Dominus, Jean Claude Berrouet, the winemaker for Petrus and for most of the Moueix family owned and managed estates in Bordeaux was involved in the production of Dominus.

Christian Moueix

Christian Moueix, with the aid of the architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron created the now famous and architecturally stunning Dominus winery from that allowed the structure to become part of the vineyard environment. The initial vintages are quite tannic, rustic and bright. That turned around with the trio of 1990, 1991 and 1992 vintages of Dominus. Twelve years after the partnership with the Lail family started, Christian Moueix became the sole owner of the Dominus Estate in 1995.

Dominus Vineyards, Wines, Winemaking

The 124 acre property Dominus Estate vineyard consists of 3 unique soil types; gravel based volcanic soil, clay and loam on a rolling terroir. That blend of terroir is a large part of gives the wines of Dominus Estate their unique, elegant, refined style. The Dominus Estate vineyards are planted with a vineyard blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot.  On average the vines range from 15-25 years of age. 

Many of the practices employed at the Moueix properties in Bordeaux are in use at Dominus Estate as well. The vines are crop-thinned once or twice a year, depending on the weather during the growing season. Green harvesting and canopy management is similar to what takes in their Bordeaux properties as well. The clusters receive the same care to see they are separated to allow more aeration. Before harvesting starts, the vines are deleafed as well.

Dominus Estate spends close to 18 months in 50% new French oak barrels, which is also close to what takes place at the Moueix wines in Pomerol. Starting in 1996, Dominus Estate introduced a second wine, Napanook, which takes its name from the vineyards original name. Dominus Estate releases close to 7,000 cases per year, while the production of Napanook is closer to 4,000 cases. With the 2009 vintage, Dominus began producing a third wine, Carpe Diem which is meant for early drinking.

Dominus is one of the best Napa wines to use in a blind tasting against Bordeaux wines. It’s fresh style, balance and lack of over ripeness make this one a unique style of wine from the valley. Based on recent tastings of the 1991 and 1994 vintages, Dominus Estate has one of the best track records for aging as well.

Serving and Decanting Dominus with Wine, Food, Pairing Tips

Dominus wines are best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Young vintages of their red wine can be decanted for 1-3 hours, depending on the character of the vintage. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment.

The red wine of Dominus is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, ribs, hamburgers, barbecue, roasted, braised, grilled dishes and stews. Dominus is also good with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, salmon, mushrooms and pasta.

Starting with the 2012 vintage, Christian Moueix introduced a new wine, Ulysses. Ulysses comes from vines planted in Oakville, not too far from Dominus. In fact, the vineyards for Ulysses are located just north of the famous Napanook vineyards used by Dominus.

Dominus Wine Tasting Notes

21 Vintages 257,491 Views Sort by Vintage-Rating

2013 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 100

Chocolate, mint, tobacco, and brooding dark berries create the perfume. Dense, full bodied, incredibly rich, yet the wine is so silky and elegant, it is impossible to stop drinking it. The biggest problem with this wine is that it’s not going to last. Well, to be more precise, once you open and start drinking it, this is so deceptively easy to drink, the bottle will be emptied much too soon. The wine was made from a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc. 100 Points

12,097 Views   Tasted
2013 Dominus Napanook Red  (Napa Valley) 94

The chocolate covered, black cherry nose gets things off to a good start. The silky textured, medium bodied, fresh, pure, dark fruits are such a turn on. Forward and already delicious, drink this while you’re letting its big brother age for a few years. This was made from a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It’s hard to believe this is a second wine. 94 Points

5,122 Views   Tasted
2012 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 98

Showing even better than the last time this was tasted, the layers of sweet, perfectly ripe, lush opulent fruits, dark chocolate, spice and licorice coat your palate and linger, long after the wine has gone where it needed to be. 98 Points

8,705 Views   Tasted

What's not too like? Inky in color, with a black and blue fruit profile, made even better by the notes of espresso, flowers and blackberry liqueur. On the palate the wine is thick, rich, supple, opulent and also elegant. This is a really great style of wine. The wine is produced from a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. 97 Points

9,450 Views   Tasted
2011 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 90

Display less depth from bottle than it did in the barrel, the wine is fresh, focused on more of the red berry side of the style range, with a distinctive herb and green olive slant in the finish. 90 Points

5,918 Views   Tasted

From a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Medium/full bodied, with sweet, earthy, ripe black cherry, cassis and cocoa, there is a bit of dryness and hint of olive and herbs in the finish. 90-92 Pts

9,214 Views   Tasted
2010 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 94

Structured, powerful, tanninc and crisp, there is a lot of earth, cassis, blackberry and earth in the character. This is a more, classic, structured style of Cabernet Sauvignon that will demand time in the cellar before popping a cork. Due to the weather conditions, the Cabernet Franc grapes were not included in the blend which ended up as being 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. This explains why the wine lacks the same level of lushness found in 2009. 94 Points

7,586 Views   Tasted
2010 Dominus Napanook Red  (Napa Valley) 90

Forward in style, black cherry, earth, chocoalte and fresh herbs dominate the character. This is a nice style of California Cabernet Sauvignon that can be enjoyed the day you bring it home and pop a cork. The wine was produced from a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot. 90 Points

4,959 Views   Tasted

The 2010 was produced from mostly Cabernet Sauvignon along with a dollop of Petit Verdot creating a sweet, fresh, chocolate, black raspberry, soft textured expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that will be better with a few years of bottle age. 90 Points

4,727 Views   Tasted
2009 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 96

This is really fabulous from start to finish. The nose and its complex array of fruits, licorice and earthy scents is right there. But the layers of silky, polished, lush, sweet, ripe fruits on your palate makes sure you finish your glass and ask for more. 96 Points

6,349 Views   Tasted

There is a beautiful sense of symmetry and purity in this blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. The wine will be aged in 40% new, French oak for 18 months. truffles, licorice, blackberry, fresh herbs and wet forest floor notes are in abundance. The wine ends with a long, sweet, polished, silky, expansive finish. 96 Points

9,246 Views   Tasted

The wine required coaxing to get it to open, but whenit did, licorice, tobacco, earth, cassis, blackberry jam and fresh her notes came to life. Thick, rich and palate coating, opulent, lush texutres and a long, silky finish made this a treat to taste. 96 Points

8,693 Views   Tasted
2009 Dominus Napanook Red  (Napa Valley) 91

This forward styled wine offers scents of blackberry, earth and tobacco, with medium/full body and a soft, open, black cherry and cocoa finish. The wine was produced from a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc, and aged in 20% new oak for 18 months. 91 Points

4,756 Views   Tasted

Medium bodied, fresh, bright, spicy virbrant, red and black fruits with a soft finish. This will drink well on release. 90 Points

4,982 Views   Tasted
2008 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 96

Just a beautiful wine here. Multifaceted and multilayered, the wine is full-bodied, rich, concentrated, and ripe. Situated perfectly on the corner of ripe and balanced, the wine is showing just beautifully with all of its layers of sweet, lush, ripe, polished red and black fruits, cocoa, licorice, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco, and herbs on the nose and palate. The harmonious finish lingers, which is a good thing because this is so good, you never want it to end. 96 Points

3,572 Views   Tasted

From a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, this polished, ripe, refined expression of California wine is filled with fresh blackberry, cassis, chocolate, licorice, smoke, truffle and earthy scents. Rich, powerful and concentrated, yet not over the top in style, this is utterly charming. 96 Points

11,098 Views   Tasted
2007 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 96

This beautiful, powerful, sensuous Cabernet Sauvignon wine was produced from a blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon along with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Pungent scents of boysenberry, blackberry jam, coffee bean, licorice, tobacco leaf, earth and spice, lead to a concentrated, supple, rich and harmonious wine that can be enjoyed in its youth for its fruit forward quality, or aged to maturity. This is a strong vintage for Dominus. 96 Points

15,638 Views   Tasted
2006 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 95

Blending 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, this delicious wine opens with an enticing perfume packed with chocolate, coffee bean, blackberries and truffle. On the palate, the wine is soft, silky, plush and structured to age. With so much ripe, juicy fruit, you can drink this now, or give it another 5 years. The wine was aged in 40% new, French oak for 16 months. 95 Points

6,406 Views   Tasted
2005 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 96

Just a fabulous wine in every sense of the word. Still young, the wine is deeply colored. The aromatics show some maturity as the sweet, black fruits are complicated by the earth, tobacco, dark cherry, licorice and thyme scents. Full bodied, rich, round and fleshy, the wine is fresh, sensuous and displays a good purity of fruit in the finish. I just love the style of this wine. 96 Points

6,507 Views   Tasted
2004 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 93

Perfect with grilled Flannery burger blends, the wine is soft, fat, round and lush, with lots of chocolate covered blackberries, earth, sweet jam and black cherry notes. This is drinking in a very good place at 10 years of age. 93 Points

4,324 Views   Tasted
2002 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 95

Ripe, round and luscious, with layers of deep, dark red and black fruits, opulent textures, and waves of ripe, juicy, sweet fruits in the finish that continue through to the back end. If I was being picky, a touch of heat intrudes in all the sweet, fruits and licorice that linger in the finish. This is really showing well. Perhaps 30 minutes of decanting works here, but as it is about to hit 20 years of age, the wine is developed and ready to go. 95 Points

3,455 Views   Tasted

Wine like this make me think I need to be drinking more California Cabernet Sauvignon. Still deep in color, with rich, ripe, plush textures and an opulent nature, the wine is filled with chocolate, blackberry, licorice, coffee bean, earth, black cherry and tobacco notes. At 10 years of age, this is just now starting to hit its stride. 95 Points

6,242 Views   Tasted
2001 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 94

With an earthy, tobacco leaf, spicy blackberry and forest floor bouquet, the wine is open, accessible, refined and plush. There is a touch of dust in the tannins and a nice sense of purity in the sweet, round, cassis and black cherry finish. 94 Points

6,673 Views   Tasted
1997 Dominus Estate  (Napa Valley) 94

In the right place to display its truffle, cigar box, cassis and earthy, mineral driven profile. On the palate, there is an intensity of flavor, concentration and supple textures, finishing a blast of sweet ripe fruit and dark chocolate that really lingers. 94 Points

4,463 Views   Tasted

A complex perfume packed with tobacco, celery, gravel, cherry pipe smoke, cassis, black cherry and spice leads to a rich, powerful, elegant and supple textured wine. The finish is rich, round and lush. This is drinking beautifully today. 94 Points

5,797 Views   Tasted

From a blend of 86.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 4.5% Merlot, this fully mature vintage of Dominus offers tobacco, cassis, black cherry, earth, smoke and anise. Medium/full bodied and lacking the levels of concentration and depth found in the better previous vintages. The texture is soft, plush and round, ending in a sweet, juicy sensation of blackberry, black cherry and spice. 93 Points

6,332 Views   Tasted
1996 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard  (Napa Valley) 94

Fully mature, elegant, soft, and refined, the fruits are soft, silky, and polished, leaving you with ample red fruits, freshness, and earthy nuances in the finish. This is a wine of refinement, not power. No decanting warranted, just pull that cork and enjoy. 94 Points

2,955 Views   Tasted

Woodsy, earthy and filled with fresh cassis and ripe blackberries, the wine is silky, polished refined and elegant, ending with dark chocolate coated cherries and spice. There is no reason to hold this any longer. 94 Points

3,917 Views   Tasted

Very classy and stylish, a perfect ringer in a Bordeaux tasting, 1996 Dominus is filled with truffle, tobacco, blackberries, cedar wood and forest floor aromas. This subtle, Cabernet Sauvignon is drinking perfectly today. 93 Points

5,897 Views   Tasted
1995 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard  (Napa Valley) 92

Fully mature, this Left Bank Bordeaux inspired blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot produced a wine with tobacco, smoke, earth and sweet cherry scents. Soft in texture, with no hard edges, the wine ends with a refined, spicy, black cherry, cocoa and cassis filled finish. This is probably starting to enter the downhill side of the aging curve. There is no hurry to drink it, but there is no reason to age it further. 92 Points

5,099 Views   Tasted
1994 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard  (Napa Valley) 97

Truffle, floral, licorice and baked cherry pie and Asian spice create the compelling aromatics. Silky, sexy, soft and polished, the fruit is clean, pure and persistent. Fully mature, this wine delivers a lot of pleasure. This was from a pristine bottled bought on release and stored in a cold cellar. 97 Points

6,075 Views   Tasted

Few modern Napa Cabernet Sauvignon wines are truly better with age. Most do not add complexities, they just lose their exuberance. That is not the case with Dominus Estate. I remember buying this on release for $35. Those were the good old days. From a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot, the wine pops with its floral, truffle, black cherry, tobacco, earth and licorice scented perfume. Rich, supple textured and long, this is drinking perfectly today. I'm not sure it's going to improve, but if you have a bottle or two, this is showing great today. 97 Points

9,722 Views   Tasted

The spicy, mushroom, smoke, tobacco, cassis and earthy nose, reminded me of a good Pauillac. Concentrated and full bodied with ample depth, this elegantly styled wine ends with a long mouth filled with ripe cassis 95 Points

9,012 Views   Tasted
1992 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard  (Napa Valley) 93

Fully mature, elegant, soft, refined style of California Cabernet, with an earthy, spice filled, sweet cherry, tobacco and cassis sensation in its core. There is no reasons to age this wine any longer. Pop and pour or 20- minutes of decanting is more than ample. 93 Points

4,054 Views   Tasted
1991 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard  (Napa Valley) 96

Fully mature, this is a treat from the moment it hits your glass. Silky, lush, polished and fresh, the wine is concentrated, complex and long. The cedar, tobacco leaf, red fruit, spice, earth, forest floor and cigar box notes on the nose carry through on the mid-palate and finish. No decanting needed. Just pop, pour and enjoy. At 30 years of age, this is at its apogee. 96 Points

4,596 Views   Tasted

A beautiful example of mature, classically styled, California Cabernet Sauvignon. The texture is lush, the tannins are smooth, the fruits are ripe, sweet and fresh, the perfume offers a delectable mix of leaf, dark cherry, blackberry and earthy notes with just the right amount of tobacco. This is at full peak maturity. All it needed was a pop and pour. 96 Points

4,004 Views   Tasted

Just showing great, with its sweet, ripe, cherry profile, with the added complexities of tobacco, cigar box and truffle. Soft, lush, full bodied, rich and long, this is still a winner, days before its 26th birthday. 97 Points

4,015 Views   Tasted

Tobacco, truffle, black cherry liqueur, spice, licorice and earth, full bodied and packed with layers of rich, ripe, sweet, plum and chocolate, there are no hard edges to this wine. It’s drinking at peak today. 98 Points

7,365 Views   Tasted

Tobacco, earth, blackberry, smoke, truffle, spice, cassis and smoke aromas caught your attention. Fully mature, yet still fresh and full of life, this classy wine ends with a long, earthy, spicy cassis, chocolate and plum filled finish. This powerful, concentrated, complex California wine could easily pass for a Bordeaux in a blind tasting. 96 Points

8,469 Views   Tasted