Opus One vs. Dominus - 11/10/10

There was a group of 10 of us that got together last night at Hank’s house to see what’s up with these two wineries - great night Hank/Barb! I threw the '91 Dominus into the tasting after drinking my last '94 Dominus a couple of years ago. Other than these two wines, I haven’t had a chance to sample any more recent vintages of Opus One/Dominus except for the '97 Opus from 1/2 bottles 3-4 years ago. I remember back then that the '97 Opus was quite stylish and stacked… I don’t generally buy either of these wines except for older proven vintages, and I’d love to hear others thoughts on the more recent vintages of both of these wines.

Anyway, there were eight wines poured blind. Everyone knew the vintages being poured and that three of the flights would be poured together - same vintage. The fourth flight would be '98 Dominus and '05 Opus One together since they were odd-ball bottles provided for the tasting. For each flight, it was up to us to pick 1) which vintage were we tasting, 2) which one was Opus vs. Dominus, and 3) which was our favorite for scoring. A fun and informational tasting. In general, I thought the softer and more open wines were the more merlot dominated (generally…) Dominus bottlings vs. the more cabernet heavy Opus wines. I was wrong for a couple of the flights … Here are my notes with the corresponding identification of the wine after everything was poured and tasted.

Flight 1:

  1. Hints of soy and smoke - dark plum fruit. Closed and tight - not very pleasurable. Least favorite of flight - 85pt wine for me. 1998 Dominus
  2. Sweeter fruit with just a bit of VA that integrated/blew off. Sweeter oak flavors with big cassis and tannins - stacked. This has to be the different vintage flight - 91pt wine for me… It was, 2005 Opus One
    Flight 2:
  3. Smoke, cassis, hints of red licorice, blue fruit, pencil shavings - present tannins+ - not harsh and somewhat creamy. Seems more on the Cabernet side of the equation and it was - 92+pt wine for me. Will it it soften more with time - maybe… 1997 Opus One
  4. Sweeter fruit, game, black stone fruits, soft cherry. Present tannins but are more softer in the mouth than the other wine. This has to be the Dominus and it was - 93pt wine for me. 1997 Dominus
    Flight 3:
  5. Red cherry fruit, red cassis, smoke, sweet tobacco, more meaty in texture - olives and earth. Tighter in the mouth when compared the other wine - medium+ finish with time to improve IMHO. A 93+pt wine for me and I thought it as an Opus One wine - it was not. 1991 Dominus
  6. Blue fruit, uplifted and more open personality in the glass for me. A bit of smoke, pencil shavings, and creamy personality in the mouth. I think this is the Dominus and it was not - 94pt wine for me. 1991 Opus One
    Flight 4:
  7. Smoke and black cassis, plum fruit, nice hints of cedar and pencil. Seemed young and stacked - hints of purple and blue flowers on the nose. Complex and appealing wine - I think it is an Opus One wine and I was wrong. A 94+pt wine. 1994 Dominus
  8. Sweeter fruits, hints of tobacco and spiced cassis, open for business on the nose. Meat juices and medium+ finish. A wonderful wine that seemed a bit more open when compared to the other wine. I thought it was a Dominus wine and I was wrong - A 95+pt wine for me. 1994 Opus One

For me, I like the '91 and '94 Opus One wines more for current consumption - they are drinking well right now. I’m thinking that Dominus wines need more time in bottle from these vintages – they did seem younger with more future potential? The groups top three wines of the tasting - 1) 1994 Opus One, 2) 1994 Dominus, 3) 1991 Opus One and 1991 Dominus - close call. Anyway, thanks for reading and CHEERS

Thanks for the very interesting tasting notes. Early on in my wine drinking endeavours, '94 Opus was my first trophy wine, quickly followed by a '94 Dominus.

Nice notes Jon. It was a fun and very educational evening for me. I had to really readjust my palate, after having spent a week in Burgundy.
In general, I was surprised at how much I liked the wines compared to several other tastings of older Cali cabs we have had over the past couple of years. I think both of these producers, make wines more " Bordeaux" like, and is probably why I prefer them. At any rate, here are my comments.

05 Opus
Deep purple. Nose dominated by oak. Sweet, approachable. Initially I thought a bit of VA, but seemed to subside. Will this develop into a 91 or 94…I doubt it. 90

98 Dominus
Some browning on the rim. Initially, a very muted, restrained nose, but with airing, it started to open. Middle weight palate. Lacked the energy of other Opus and Dominus wines of the evening. It did seem to start improving with time. Perhaps this will improve with further aging. 90

97 Opus
Lead pencil, dark fruits in nose. Nice balance with tannins integrating nicely. Sweet finish. More angular than the 97 Dominus which I preferred in this flight. 92

97 Dominus
Dark. Very balanced with soft, round tannins. Silk and velvet mouthfeel. Quite nice. 93

91 Dominus
Dark with a tinge of amber on the edge. Rich, velvet on the palate. A lot of depth to this wine. Long finish. 94

91 Opus
Dark. Nose of cassis, tobacco, leather. Bordeaux like. Very nice balance and mouthfeel. Softer than the 91 Dominus which I preferred in this flight. Ready to drink. 93

94 Dominus
Similar to notes when last tasted 1 1/2 years ago. Dark with slight browning of rim. Notes of lead pencil and currants on nose. BIg rich middle palate that is very balanced with long finish. This wine still has a lot of life left. 95

94 Opus
I was very surprised by the showing of this wine, as it edged out the 94 Dominus by a hair. Big lead pencil and tobacco notes on nose. Intense, rich , complex palate with some soft tannins still present. I don’t think there is any hurry to drink up. WOTN for me. 95+

Thanks again and look forward to our next tasting extravaganza with will be Burgundy, of course. [cheers.gif]

94 Opus is a killer wine

great tasting guys

Thanks for the notes, what would you guys recommend for air time on the '94 Opus? I have one bottle left, might just drink it up with Xmas or New Years dinner.

A bit of TWI (Typing While Intoxicated)? [wink.gif]

Seriously, nice notes from a nice tasting. In the past I have poo poo’ed Opus One, but after tasting older vintage blind a few times, I have to say many have aged quite well and show some real class.

Just shows you can’t trust blind tasting.

I’m joking.

Uh oh…you’re right…sorry about that. I edited correct note…Thanks.

Very interesting. Thanks!

I’m kind of surprised at how similar they sound. I’d expect the Dominus bottles to be more taughtly wound and restrained. I haven’t had an Opus One in years, but I always thought of them as fairly lush. Am I right that they were very similar structurally?

give it about an hour and it should be good to go