Dominus takes a contrary approach to most Napa Valley Bordeaux blends. First off, Christian Moueix (also of Petrus) never discloses the cepage on the bottle. He also decries overripeness and extract levels in most of Napa, claiming that because of its overly sunny climate, it is extremely difficult to make good wine in Napa. He picks a lot earlier than most (often starting in September), is a fanatical believer in dry farming (having never irrigated at Dominus) and comments that dry farmed vines find ‘equilibrium’ better than irrigated ones and so do not need to be picked as late. He hates black fruit flavours and particularly seeks not to make his wines fruit bombs or even completely driven by primary fruit, instead preferring elegance and proper secondary flavours.
The vineyard itself is the historic Napanook vineyard, one of the first and best planted in the valley. It lies on a slope in the middle of the valley near Yountville. The soils are volcanic. Viticulture is precise and meticulous. The base is, as noted, dry farming and cover crops. Ploughs are used rather than sprays. Trellising is modified for various rows based on data collected for ideal ripening. Dominus also uses hand picking, hand cluster sorting and optical sorting. In the cellar, there is gentle pumping over (Moueix believes gravity systems can be overdone), with racking and aging in 100% French oak. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
2001 is a legendary vintage at Dominus, considered one of the very best. It was a vintage of long, slow ripening with a moderately warm summer and cool September.
The 2001 is incredibly impressive. But it is not a flashy wine. Its focus is on elegance, and it has a near perfect integration of all the components that make wine what it is: fruit, acid, tannin, sugar, alcohol. Indeed, it is the most elegant Napa wine I’ve ever had. If only more followed this style, perhaps Napa would be more exciting.
$225 at BCLDB