The Enophillies, a Philadelphia-based wine tasting group, decided to revisit one of the more controversial wines from California, Dominus. All of the older wines were opened a la Audouze, FWIW. Here are my notes, such as they are.
1-1983. (Almost all of the wines had varying degrees of garnet red color, so I will not mention color further in these notes.) Perfume-y sweet nose-reminding more than one taster of the 94 Insignia. Amazingly rich sweet mouthfeel. An eye opener and got 1 vote for wine of the night! 94 (Parker rated this 90) This was the first vintage made at Dominus, but not the first released-the 84 was released first. (Why?) Clearly the best of any 83 Cal wine I?ve ever had!
2-1986. Started odd, cabbage/herbal. But this opened over the course of the meal and clearly took home ?the most actively evolving in the glass? award of the evening. As it opened, it got some of the characteristics of the 83. The opening nose was followed by the opening flavors of anise, dried herbs, red fruits. Very nice. 92 (RP 92)
3-1988. Odd cabbage nose (This was NOT St Patties? Day!) that was followed by the odd mouth. Started nowhere and ended there. 75. (RP 91)
4-Mystery Wine #1.
Muted nose of red fruits and herbs. Some initially felt this was corked, and I eventually agreed. Mouth had red/black fruits with some herbs. But with a night?s airing, the TCA became more and more apparent. NR Too bad. The wine was the 1989 Ch Le Gay Pomerol. RP has said that Dominus reminds him of a Pomerol, and even with the TCA, I can see his point.
5-1989. Dried herbs, tobacco in the nose. Medium rich mouthfeel, but a touch thinner than some previous wines. Seemingly an older style that needs drinking now. 88 (RP 92)
6-1990. Rich nose, touch herbs. Mouth was BIG, rich, still with herbs hanging around. Very good, and this seems to be the turning point from the more herbal 80s to the bigger/richer 90s. 93. (RP 95)
7-1991. Rich, sweet nose that reminded of the 83. Big mouthfeel that had that sweetness that the top tier Cal Cabs tend to have. Not a hint of the herbal qualities of the earlier vintages. I?ve been mildly disappointed in the 91 many times before, but not this time! Delish. 96. (RP98) WOTN for the group
8-1992. Very shy nose that never really opened up over the evening. The nose alone had me questioning a very mild TCA problem-or one of the most closed wines I?ve run into. The mouth also was a brooding morass that only started to open hours after being poured. It seemed good, I guess. 90? (RP 95)
9-Mystery Wine #2.
Shy, ?milky? nose that opened slowly over the evening. Rich, full mouthfeel. This was revealed as a 1991 Dominus. This bottle clearly showed what I find so frustrating about Dominus, and especially their 91s in my experience. Bottle variation at least. 91 (RP98) This was a good wine, but not nearly as great as the first bottle, and this second bottle is more in line with my previous experiences, very good, but not great.
10-1994. Rich, sweet nose that I swear just on smell alone I would call this a 94 Cal Cab. Taste was more mixed, with some tannins/peppery hotness on the end. Sweet fruits also in the mouth. 94. (RP99) 2 votes for WOTN.
11-1995. Shy initially on the nose, opens with air. A scaled down version of the 94 in both nose and taste. Less mouthfilling. Nothing out of place, but given the vintage, I expect more. 91. (RP93)
12-1996. Medium richness in the nose that continued to open with time. Sweetness underneath. Mouth had a hint of the dried oregano/herbs along with the rich red fruits and some sweeter tannins on the end. Both nose and mouth opened with time. 92+ (RP92) Some said this was probably undervalued on the market and was the relative buy of the 90s.
13-1997. The 97 seems to be a distinct stylistic change from the previous-new winemaker?? Nose had more of the chocolate/coffee nose. Younger mouth with again some torrefaction notes/coffee/chocolate. Much less obvious red fruits. Less my style. 91(+?) (RP94)
14-1998. Espresso in the nose. (Who put Starbuck?s in my coffee? They are opening everywhere!) Torrefaction mouth, much less appealing. Perhaps with some age? 88 (RP88)
15-2000. Reread 98s note. Put here. 88 (RP88)
1-I have not been a big fan of Dominus-IMO has never lived up to the hype. Here it did on occasion, but overall fell slightly short. (But to be honest, it was better than anticipated.)
2-Bottle variation plays a big role in varying tasting notes, IMO.
3-Would I buy more? No, but I can understand those who would-at least in the 90s style.