The 2008 Dominus is the best wine I’ve had from this Napa Valley estate in some time. This Cabernet blend has been one of the most difficult wines for me over the years. Occasionally it’s brilliant. But other times, I’m perplexed and not as impressed as I am by this new release.
The 2008 is, to my taste, the most complete and exciting vintage for Dominus in recent years. It, like many Dominus bottlings, is tailored much like Bordeaux in terms of structure and range of flavors, hardly surprising since the owner, Christian Moueix, is one of Bordeaux’s greatest winemakers. Given his résumé, he is as high-profile a winemaker as exists, and one of the most thoughtful, with an amazing background in winemaking. (Also, he’s due to receive Wine Spectator’s 2011 Distinguished Service Award at the upcoming New York Wine Experience.)
The ’08 Dominus is remarkably complex, showing loamy earth, vivid dried currant and berry, with anise and mineral sprinkled in. The previous few vintages have certainly been good, and in a sense, very consistent. But the ’08 strikes me as a purer expression of Cabernet and its fellow Bordeaux varieties.
It’s interesting, too, that as more 2008 Napa Cabernets are released this summer, there’s plenty of discussion among vintners about how the past three years compare and about what lies ahead.
For me, 2007 is the strongest year, but 2008 is close behind. What I’ve noticed is that vintage quality often depends on the producer. Some wineries made better 2008s, some better 2007s and occasionally some excelled with 2006. The latter vintage is the most tannic and variable of the trio.
Vintners are increasingly excited about 2009 and even 2010. Those were far more challenging years viticulturally, and I’d be happy if the 2009 Cabernets ended up being anything close to the 2009 Pinots.
What makes modern winemaking different from the past is farming and grape selection. Grapes don’t come off the vine unless they’re good quality and they fit in somewhere in a winery’s program, especially for the best cuvées. That’s the surest way winemakers can minimize the margin of error and effectively make exceptional wines on a more consistent basis, even in tough years.
As for Dominus, it appears as if all the stars were aligned in 2008.