Bordeaux wine veteran Christian Moueix came to the U.S. in his twenties, studying enology at the University of California at Davis in the late 1960s. "I had a very good time," he laughed as the Wine Experience audience was treated to a photo of Moueix as a young man, wearing a cowboy hat at a rodeo in Arizona. "This is why my father called me back."
He returned to Bordeaux to work for the family négociant business, focusing on top Right Bank châteaus like Trotanoy, La Fleur-Pétrus and Hosanna in Pomerol, and Bélair-Monange in St.-Emilion. But he yearned for California, and a vineyard of his own.
In 1982, he became a partner in Napanook Vineyard in California's Napa Valley, which became the foundation for Dominus Estate the following year; in 1995, he bought out his partners to become the sole owner of Dominus. He brought some grapegrowing principles from Bordeaux. He wanted to make a Napa Cabernet without irrigation—to force the roots to grow deeper in search of moisture and, most important, to conserve water. "That's the first step of sustainability," he said.
True to the Bordeaux château tradition, Dominus wines have always been made from 100 percent estate-grown fruit. There was one principle of Bordeaux that Moueix did not stick with, however. "I was very Merlot-minded with my approach from Pomerol," he said, but in the end, he decided Napanook was too warm for the grape.
Now celebrating his 50th year in the wine business, Moueix brought his graceful and refined 2010 Dominus Estate (92 points, $179 on release), a 90% Cabernet Sauvignon blend with 5% each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The Merlot may not have worked out in California, but in Napa and on Bordeaux's Right Bank, Moueix has mastered his terroirs.